With the season in the final stretches and the Raps 3.5 games back of the Cavs, the far reaching dream of the 1-seed is most likely gone. But the team has one last tuneup against playoff competition in the Hornets and Hawks and a likely first round opponent in the Pacers this week.
They'll finish out the week with the Knicks on Sunday, which is a game I would expect to be full of ParaNorman Activity as Lowry and DeRozan should enjoy some rest at MSG.
With their home court advantage coming into play, maybe this is the week the Raps finally put a beating on the Hornets and ride that success to a 3-1 week.
April 5th vs. Hornets - Don't Get Stung
The Raps suffer through perpetual struggles against the Hornets, and their rise during the second half of the season to a legitimate Eastern Conference threat means the ACC crowd is in for a good one on Tuesday night. Mike Prada went on a fantastic deep dive of the overhaul Steve Clifford has worked on with the team's offence, which has gone from nearly worst to first in catch + shoot threes, an area which has given the Raps trouble this season. The closeouts are going to have to be aggressive, and the Raps will have to be sure to ice and fight over the top of every ball screen to stop the Hornets ball handlers from getting into the lane.
April 7th @ Hawks - ATL SHAWTY
Last Wednesday, the Raps beat the Hawks more handily than the final scored showed for their historic 50th win of the season. DeMar DeRozan thoroughly outplayed the stable of Hawks wings for a complete line of 26 points, five rebounds and six assists. It was also the beginning of Norman Powell's tear, so look for him to continue the strong showing. Let's hope a trip to the highlight factory produces more stuff like this:
April 8th vs. Pacers
Here's your first round preview folks. It's looking like the Raptors will be matched with Indiana in their quest to finally advance in the playoffs, and to do that they'll need to shut down Paul George of course, but also own the big man matchup. Myles Turner has been a fantastic rim protector, and either JV will need to be crisper on help and rotations, or Bismack Biyombo should be a getting a lot more run in the matchup.
April 10th @ Knicks
The Knicks are not good at basketball. The Raptors will most likely rest Lowry and DeRozan, so they too could not be good at basketball on Sunday. Here's a picture of Kurt Rambis courtesy of the New York Daily News to brighten the preview of this game up a little bit.
What are your picks for this week?