Relatively speaking, this past week has been a bit of a slump for the Raptors. They went 1-2 and somehow managed to lose again to the damn Houston Rockets. But I don't want to write about the Raptors again. Instead, I want to spend some time sprinkling dirt on the graves of Toronto's latest archenemies: the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls. I know it's petty, but I don't care.
If you've looked at the Eastern Conference standings lately, you'll notice that both the Bulls (owners of an 4-0 record this season against the Raptors) and Wizards (owners of an even more painful 4-0 record in Toronto), are currently on the outside looking in. I wholly accept a couple of things here: 1) The Bulls and Wiz have 10 and 9 games left respectively, which gives them ample time to catch an uneven Pistons squad (or perhaps the Pacers); 2) There is no real rivalry between the Raptors and these two teams despite their recent history; 3) I repeat, this is hella petty.
For all the hand-wringing Toronto has done over the past few weeks about a possible Chicago matchup, we are approaching a situation where the broken-down and disheartened Bulls, without Tom Thibodeau or Joakim Noah to rouse them, may not even make the playoffs. Meanwhile Randy Wittman is wondering about the status of Kobe. (Does he not know he's going to be fired this summer?) I don't even know what we were so nervous about anymore.
Drink it in, guys. The pettiness, yes, but also the smell of success. Now let's get to the rankings.
First up, Marc Stein of ESPN is back to bring up the single biggest issue still hanging around out there:
To quote George Costanza: We're aware!
Following up over at Sports Illustrated, young Jeremy Woo has some things to say:
5) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 3
RECORD: 49-23 (1-2)
The Raptors hit a small speed bump, clinching a playoff berth nonetheless, and are entrenched enough in the No. 2 seed to pace out their final 10 games a bit. DeMarre Carroll, where art thou?
Yes, OK, we get it. DeMarre Carroll is still out. Let's not belabour the point. This was supposed to be a feel-good edition of the Power Rankings Poll!
What does cool-eyed John Schuhmann of NBA.com have for us? Good times, I hope:
5) Toronto Raptors (49-23)
Last week: 3
Pace: 95.4 (28) OffRtg: 107.1 (5) DefRtg: 102.6 (11) NetRtg: +4.5 (7)
The Raptors still don't have a starting lineup that has played well together. Though Norman Powell (28 points over the weekend) is finally starting to provide some offense, the latest lineup (which has been dealing with injuries) is a minus-7 in the eight games it has started. But their bench remains strong and one more win will give them a franchise record for victories for the third time in Dwane Casey's five seasons.
This is a master class of writing around the issue. No mention of Carroll, but Schuhmann gives us a solid feel for what ails (and aids) the Raptors. Bravo, good sir.
Now can we end this on a high note with Matt Moore and CBS Sports? Let's see:
4) Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
Toronto's a 2-seed with a lot to prove. Everyone is skeptical they can make it out of the first round, let alone challenge the Cavs. Toronto's a powerhouse flying under the radar. That can be a good thing ... or mean they're a paper tiger. Let's find out which.
I couldn't have said it better myself. We are all just waiting.
Let's get to the poll.