With a record of 20-13, the Toronto Raptors are once again celebrating New Years as a good team. After 19 seasons of not getting it done, this is the second year in a row that the Raptors turn the calendar at or above the 20-win mark.
While last year's supernova squad hit the mark just halfway through December, we all know those good times didn't roll on for much longer. This year's team, on the other hand, are not merely a flash across the horizon. They've been more consistently inconsistent through two months.
While the Raptors are definitely built better for a stretch run (in that they can actually win games on the defensive end), there's still been baffling games a-plenty over the first two months of the season. One of those was against the Charlotte Hornets on December 17, when Jeremy Lin scored 35(!!) to lead the Hornets to a 109-99 overtime win.
The rebirth of Linsanity will not happen tonight at Air Canada Centre -- Lin will miss this game (spoiling Asian Heritage Night for all) due to injury, as will Spencer Hawes, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Al Jefferson. Though rarely all at once, the Hornets have dealt with injuries like this all season, but have still managed to create a positive story for themselves. No longer a defensive team that struggles to score, the Raptors saw first-hand what offensive additions have done for this Charlotte team. They have one of the more balanced rosters in the Eastern Conference, but at 17-14, they sit outside the playoff picture for the time being.
For tonight, the Raptors hope it stays that way. Continuing a three-game home stand, Toronto will look to continue working back the rusty Jonas Valanciunas and struggling DeMarre Carroll. Along with the usuals being healthy, they'll have some fresh observers / unlikely participants in the 905 Boyz (Norman Powell, Delon Wright and Bruno Caboclo), who were called up earlier today.
With Washington in the rear view mirror and Chicago in town on Sunday, this is a sandwich game (a term I just invented) that would be really nice to have.
For a full preview, check out Daniel Reynolds' post from this morning. It's a good 'un. Now let's get to the comments.