It's the dawn of a new year and the Raptors are 20-13. Not bad, right? In the surprisingly feisty Eastern Conference, it's good for a tight third place. Kudos, guys. If the playoffs were to start today, they'd be taking on the [checks paper] Indiana Pacers. I mean, it could be worse--it could be the Wizards again.
Anyway, there are things to be optimistic about. After bouts of injury to two starters, the Raptors are back at 100 percent, relatively speaking. Jonas Valanciunas is still rounding himself into form after missing 17 games. Meanwhile, DeMarre Carroll has yet to completely integrate with his new teammates, and the 12 games he's missed haven't helped. Still, keeping it 100 counts for something, so we'll remain optimistic, as this paragraph originally suggested.
Now, the Raptors play 14 games in January. There's a five game road trip in there, which ends [Joey Tribbiani voice] IN LONDON. Then we get a huge run of home games. Let's review the schedule together.
1 - Charlotte - I must admit, these Hornets have me more worried than I usually am about the Hornets. And Gerald Henderson isn't even involved. Plus, a game on New Year's Day? Come on, schedulers.
3 - Chicago - How about now? Can the Raptors beat the Bulls this time?
4 - at Cleveland - Two wins in a row against Cleveland, on a back-to-back with Chicago? Feels unlikely.
6 - at Brooklyn - It's not even fun anymore to beat up on this sad franchise.
8 - at Washington - The last time the Raptors played the Wizards this many times in a short period of time...
9 - at Philadelphia - Trap game. Trap game. Trap game. Trap game.
14 - at Orlando - Well, technically. This game will actually be played in London, England and the result will depend on whichever team had less British pub food to eat.
18 - Brooklyn - Let's just go for the season sweep here.
20 - Boston - The Celtics are like that roving kid gang in Step Brothers. In theory, the Raps should beat them, but they always seem to be hanging around, ready to swarm.
22 - Miami - Maybe this is the year the Raptors finally have the Heat's number.
24 - LA Clippers - I do enjoy the idea of Clippers fans dreading the days when they have to face off against the Raptors.
26 - Washington - Jesus, enough with these guys already.
28 - New York Knicks - Ideally the refs notice when Carmelo steps out of bounds this time.
30 - Detroit Pistons - Who even are these guys? (Andre Drummond? Never heard of him.)
If we add this all up and make some gut check decisions, we come to a record of: 9-5
For the record, if we go back to my December review, I predicted the Raptors would go 9-6 and was proven correct. I'm not saying you should bet your life savings on this, but I'm not not saying it.
Now, what's your prediction?