Sure, maybe the Raptors defense is crumbling in parts. The team still went 3-0 over the past week, DeMar DeRozan is a godhead, and the offense still works quite well thank you very much. Toronto is 5-1 over this seven game home stand so far, with only that bizarre collapse against one of the more bizarre teams in the league, the Houston Rockets. (I'm still disappointed about that one.)
Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you really like watching Raptors basketball), the team plays five games this week. How is that possible? Tonight kicks off the start of a quaint four games in five nights stretch, which as I'm sure you've heard, is damn hard work. All five games are against lively Eastern Conference opponents too -- some of whom are battling for playoff spots, some who are trying for friendly playoff positions, and other who just want to watch the world burn. Sounds lovely.
Since our usual Weekly Rap man Mitch Robson is presumably still luxuriating in that Ryerson OUA title win (go Rams!), I've stepped in to cover for him. Now, let's review the week and make some picks.
March 14th vs. Bulls - Just One Please
By now we've all worried enough about the damn Chicago Bulls. Yes, the Raptors had them on the ropes (sort of) last game, before Jimmy Butler exploded for 42 points against a one-legged DeMarre Carroll. But, due to injuries to Butler and others in Chicago, the Bulls are actually outside the playoff picture at the moment. As such, this is a huge game for the Raptors. Win and another nail is driven into the Bull's playoff hopes, lose and Toronto gets hit with the 0-4 season sweep, and gives Chi-town a leg back up into the playoff picture. You all know how I feel about this.
Good morning. I am physically aroused by the idea of the Bulls missing the playoffs.— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) March 5, 2016
March 15th vs. Bucks - Giannis Running Wild
Here's a little highlight package for Giannis Antetokounmpo's triple-double against the Nets last night:
I, uh, don't want to alarm anyone but... this kid is good.
March 17th vs. Pacers - A Playoff Preview?
The Raptors never used to play on Thursday and yet here we are, for the second week in a row, with a game on a Thursday night. Anyway, the Pacers have been lurking in seventh place in the East for awhile now. On the one hand, the Raptors just have more talent on their team. On the other, with Carroll (please come back) still out, one can expect Paul George to have some kind of field day. Plus, explosive forwards Myles Turner and Ian Mahinmi may prove to be a handful for our friends Luis Scola and Jonas Valanciunas. This Pacers team might be due.
March 18th vs. Celtics - Another Playoff Preview?
That goes double for the Celtics. Boston has all kinds of interesting talent, but outside of All-Star Isaiah Thomas, they remain a bit behind the Raptors in their talent ceiling. Boston's edge remains in its relentless perimeter defense -- good luck against Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder -- and of course, the chilling genius of coach Brad Stevens. Could this team be the Raptors second round playoff opponent?
March 20th vs. Magic - Buyer's Remorse
Since trading for Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings, the Magic have generally lost more games than they've won. They've gone 5-8 since the day of the trade. On top of that, Nikola Vucevic, skilled big man, is currently out with a sore groin. This means Dewayne Dedmon (great name, bad game) has been starting games for the Magic. Elfrid Payton has also missed a few games recently. Basically what I'm saying is, the Raptors should win.
Let's review: I got the Raptors going 3-2 this week, but I won't tell you which games they're winning and which they're losing. I do think they beat the Bulls tonight though. So there's that.
Anyway, who ya got? Make your picks in the comments.