If you look at the NBA standings right now the Raptors are in second place by the thinnest of margin — .722 to .700. They have one more win than the Cavaliers — 14 vs. 13 — but obviously in any tie situation, Cleveland has the lead, owing to their 2-0 record against the Raps this season.
All that being said, it is unsurprising to see the Raptors make a jump this week in the usual NBA Power Rankings. Demolishing teams, winning six in a row, setting historical precedents with your offense, and rising fast up the defensive rankings has a way of doing that. The Raptors are clicking in the ways we imagined heading into this season and let me just say: it has been wonderful to watch.
Now let’s get to this week’s summary.
To get us started, as per usual, we go to Marc Stein of ESPN, our fearless champion. Get up!
2. Toronto Raptors
2016-17 record: 14-6
Previous ranking: 5
You'll read similar sentiments in the Hawks comment, but this is worth saying twice: A 44-point thrashing of conference rival Atlanta, even with Paul Millsap (hip) sidelined, is a shock to the system to rival DeMar DeRozan's leading the league in scoring for that recent span of 19 days. The Raps, not surprisingly, now sport the East's most robust average nightly point margin, but that's also because the defense has tightened up considerably (94.1 PPG allowed during the six-game winning streak vs. 105.3 in Toronto's first 14 games).
It’s fair to mention the extraneous things that have gone right for the Raptors over the past little while. They’ve played some bad teams, key players have been missing from opponents’ rosters, etc. But that does not erase the fact that the Raptors are doing exactly what they should be doing, which is, namely, beating teams they should beat. And if they happen to do it by 44 points? Eh, bonus.
Perhaps Jeremy Woo of SI read my curt dismissal of his work last week (I doubt it) but, hoo boy, check him out here:
2. Toronto Raptors (14–6)
Last Week: 5
Net Rating: +10.2
Before you try and leave an angry message in the comment section and then realize it doesn’t exist on this website anymore: for the record, I don’t believe the Toronto Raptors are the second best team in the league. I don’t think they’re the best team in the East, but there’s no question they’re the hottest one right now. It’s nice to give teams credit when applicable, and so let’s take a moment to recognize a team that’s deep, cohesive, and more than just DeMar DeRozan. READ MORE.
I couldn’t even include the entire blurb so long was Woo’s analysis and enthusiasm. (More like WOOOO! amirite???) Read the entire thing at the included link and then, with the Canadian national anthem playing in the background, stand and salute such a remarkable tribute.
I don’t say this lightly: We made it.
To take us down from that immense high, let’s check in for our regularly scheduled appointment with Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA.com:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 6)
Pace: 97.5 (23) OffRtg: 113.8 (2) DefRtg: 103.6 (16) NetRtg:+10.2 (2)
The Raptors have won six straight games, with the league's No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense over that stretch. The last four games have been against the Sixers without Joel Embiid, the Grizzlies without Mike Conley, the Lakers without D'Angelo Russell, and the Hawks without Paul Millsap, but they're taking care of business. Patrick Patterson has always been a plus-minus star (after a bunch of Warriors and Clippers, he ranks second behind Kyle Lowry in raw plus-minus), but has been the league's most effective shooter (minimum 50 FGA) over the last 15 days.
Patrick Patterson is shooting a little bit better of late...https://t.co/bkRebyuGdL pic.twitter.com/DQKHxtyYHy— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) December 4, 2016
Clear-eyed and sober as always, Schuhmann mentions the same absences I brought up earlier, but comes to the same conclusion: the Raptors are handling their gotdamn business. The special shoutout to Patrick Patterson is well met and appreciated.
Finally, we check in with our favourite curmudgeon, Matt Moore of CBS Sports. What do you have for us Matty?
5. Raptors (Last Week: 5)
DeMar DeRozan has cooled down but the defense has stabilized. What I continue to love about them is their consistency. They're like that sandwich place that never lets you down.
Ah yes.... a sandwich place.
The poll: it beckons.