The Raptors are coming off games against the Hornets and Bulls to start the new year. They went 1-1. On the face of it, this is no big deal. They're all Eastern Conference teams, they all play each other three or four times a year. There is no particular animus between these rosters as related to Toronto. Yet, mention the Hornets and/or the Bulls to a Raptors fan and I'm willing to bet you'd get a strained reaction. They are not games to which the typical Raps looks forward.
With that in mind, I thought I'd do a little power rankings Inception this week. (I recommend you click that link, it helps.) Before we get into our summary of this week's power rankings, let's run down the top five teams that for whatever reason are a problem for the Raptors. That's right, it's rankings IN rankings. (Hint the Inception button link now!)
These ranks aren't based on any real stats (except wins and losses, I suppose), they flow more from feelings. You guys know what I mean. Here goes:
5) New Orleans Pelicans - Maybe it's the vague stench of the Hornets still lingering on this team, or the power of Anthony Davis (even in absentia), but I am afraid of the Pelicans.
4) Los Angeles Lakers - Even the circus show they've become puts a little fear in you. The number 81 will haunt us forever.
3) Miami Heat - With or without LeBron, a win over Miami is never, ever, guaranteed. This beyond all reason.
2) Chicago Bulls - Maybe this is just Jimmy Butler recency bias, but man, it feels like the Raps can just never quite get over the hump against Chicago.
1) Charlotte Hornets - Call them the Bobcats, if you want. Laugh at the Michael Jordan crying head meme. We are all in the thrall of the Hive. And it sucks.
Am I crazy? What are your rankings? Be sure to mention them in the comments. But now, let's get to the rankings summary for the week.
First up, as always, the big man Marc Stein of ESPN lets us know what's up:
You read it here first: I am personally inviting Marc Stein out for a restaurant tour of Toronto. I'll take him to all the best TO spots, on me. Get at me Steiny Mo!
Then, young whipper-snapper Jeremy Woo of SI.com weighs in:
7) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 6
RECORD: 21-14 (2-2)
Two losses to the Bulls involving second-half letdowns definitely hurt, but the Raptors are still top-five in offensive efficiency and allow the fourth-fewest points per game. Next up: five straight road games beginning with another quality measuring-stick matchup in Cleveland.
Focus on the positive. Focus on the positive. Focus on the positive.
And not to be outdone--never to be outdone--here's John Schuhmann of NBA.com:
7) Toronto (21-14)
Last week: 8
Pace: 95.9 (25) OffRtg: 104.2 (5) DefRtg: 100.9 (11) NetRtg: +3.4 (8)
The Raptors have several quality wins within the Eastern Conference, but lost two games to the Bulls last week and are now 0-7 against Chicago over the last two years. Their starting lineup (wither either Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo at center) hasn't been very good this season (minus-4.6 combined NetRtg), but bench play was more of a problem last week. Cory Joseph was a minus-29 over the two losses.
There is a problem there, even with Biyombo's Folk Heroics and the return of Jonas. Just something ineffable that will certainly rear its ugly head at the exact wrong time.
Finally, Matt Moore at CBS Sports, and fresh off expressing a new kind of love for Toronto, is here:
7) Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 8)
Toronto lost to the Bulls Sunday, giving up a comeback at home to Chicago after Jimmy Butler went for a Bulls record 40-point second half. On the one hand, that's what it takes to beat Toronto at home. On the other, the Raptors offense is so dependent on getting to the line, still, that it calls into doubt their ability to close games if they don't get those calls.
Meanwhile, Moore calls it for what it is. Boom. Right there. Happy 2016 everyone.
Now, let's go to the poll.