Following a gutsy win at the "Moda Center" (it will always be the Rose Garden) in Portland on Thursday night, the Raptors return east for a date with the Pistons tonight. The team will then head to Minnesota for a game against Sam Mitchell and the Wolves before the NBA converges on Toronto for All-Star weekend.
The Raps held down their spot at second in the east this past week, just two games back of Cleveland for the top spot and currently holding a 4.5 game lead over the charging Celtics who moved into third in the conference this weekend.
In the last two games before the break the Raptors should go 2-0 against the Pistons who are grinding for the eight seed, and the T-Wolves who have fallen off from the promise they showed at the beginning of the season. Besides Karl-Anthony Towns of course.
February 8th @ Pistons - Real Kings of the Palace
For a more in depth preview of the game check out the piece by Michael Hoad, but one thing I'm going to be watching for in this game will be the play of Stanley Johnson. Finally inserted into the starting lineup after earning more playing time, Johnson has been playing like a man to match his body the past few weeks. His coming out party on TNT last Thursday against the Knicks was followed up by a double-double against the Pacers on Saturday, and how he plays DeMar DeRozan defensively tonight could be indicative of how much he has already developed on the season.
February 10th @ T-Wolves - Tame the Beasts
With the Raptors playing in Minnesota on Wednesday, you can guarantee that the entire broadcast angle TSN gives us on the Wolves will be about the development of Andrew Wiggins, or lack-thereof this year. While his scoring has increased, he's not doing anything else exceptionally well and terrifying the Maple Jordan truthers everywhere. Wiggins definitely shouldn't be looked upon to do it all this year, as the team clearly belongs to Karl-Anthony Towns. Next year with a new coaching staff and hopefully more development is when the critical analysis of Wiggins game can be looked upon with a greater interest.
With all the events coming to Toronto this weekend for the All-Star festivities, want to throw in a shameless plug for the #1 Ryerson Rams basketball team (which i cover and call games for) who will be playing the Toronto Varsity Blues at NBA Centre Court on Sunday afternoon. They play a Warriors type of basketball, forcing lots of turnovers and shooting lots of threes, and the quality of OUA basketball this year might be its best ever, so if you get a chance check out the game down at the Enercare centre.
Also it's going to be an absolute deep freeze, so bundle up.
Mildest Toronto winter I can remember ... and we go all Arctic for All-Star weekend: pic.twitter.com/32gFxPpuvK— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) February 8, 2016