The Raptors have to feel pretty pleased this week. They’ve won three games in a row, each time making stirring comebacks that involved their newest acquisitions Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. The team’s main stalwart, DeMar DeRozan, is playing great, with 76 points in the past two games. Even Cory Joseph has bounced back lately. (Hmm, what’s gotten into him?)
As expected, the Power Rankings this week reflect the positivity now surrounding the team. The Raptors made moves, improved, and now seem set on climbing back up the Eastern Conference standings. They’re currently tied for third with Washington, with two games coming up against the Wizards. If there was ever a time to make a push, now would be it. And of course, there’s absolutely no reason why it won’t happen. The Raptors are good!
But, to quote LeVar Burton, don’t take my word for it. Check the Rankings for the week and bask in the optimistic glow that now surrounds Toronto.
First up is our pal Marc Stein of ESPN. He’s put a nice spin on things.
5. Toronto Raptors
2016-17 record: 35-24
"All-in." In his visit with us on the NBA Insiders show Sunday night on ESPN Radio, DeMar DeRozan used those words to describe the Raps after their acquisitions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker this month. When Toronto beat Boston in its first game coming out of the All-Star break, Raps coach Dwane Casey had both of his new defensive specialists on the floor along with Cory Joseph in place of the ailing Kyle Lowry for the final 7:30 of the stirring win over the Celts. The small-ball alignment closed the game with a 25-12 run to show what the new Raps are capable of. As long as Toronto recovers sufficiently from its recent 5-11 stretch to finish third in the East and assure that it won't see Cleveland until the conference finals at the earliest, consider this second half a rousing success.
So exciting! The Raptors jumped up three spots and the comeback against the Celtics was amazing to watch. That the team can now go small and quick in its defensive alignment is so special. I’m abuzz, guys.
The young man over at Sports Illustrated, the one they call Jeremy Woo, has never steered us wrong in his declarations.
8. Toronto Raptors (35–24)
Last Week: 12
Net Rating: +5.0
The Raptors were winners at the trade deadline. Is this the year they push for a Finals berth? Toronto’s bigger and nastier with Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker on board, and once Kyle Lowry gets healthy, this is a roster that can hang with anyone in the conference. Their shot is realer than you might think.
Another huge jump! And look at that, the Raptors are declared winners at the trade deadline. What an honour. Their shot is indeed realer than you might think. And I can think of quite a bit! Hahahaha.
But lest we get carried away, let’s check in with the professorial Dr. John Schuhmann at NBA.com, a purveyor of cold hard facts.
9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 11)
Pace: 97.5 (22) OffRtg: 111.0 (4) DefRtg: 106.0 (17) NetRtg: +5.0 (5)
The Raptors didn't have Kyle Lowry (right wrist injury) last week, but they did have Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, who were a plus-16 in their 32 minutes together in wins (by a total of 16 points) over the Celtics and Blazers. Ibaka totaled 33 points in the two games, while Tucker had his hand in holding Isaiah Thomas to just four points in the fourth quarter on Friday. In fact, the Raptors took the lead for good on a sequence that began with Tucker smothering a Thomas drive. With the new guys and with only three games remaining against top-10 offenses (this week's home-and-home with the Wizards accounting for two of the three), the Raps have the opportunity to climb several spots in defensive efficiency.
As always, the doctor keeps us honest. Only a modest jump to the number nine spot, but he does look ahead in the schedule and the diagnosis is in: the Raptors have a relatively easy path the rest of the way. Isn’t that great news for such a newly stacked team?
And finally, we need to get word from our favourite ragamuffin, Matt Moore of CBS Sports. What say you Matt, you old rapscallion, you?
13. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 21)
Back from the dead, the Raptors look like a different animal with Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. It's a good thing, too, considering that they gave up ... almost nothing. They gave up almost nothing besides Terrence Ross for two major upgrades. When Masai Ujiri calls, throw your phone out the window if you're a GM.
Oh wow, a whole eight spots up the rankings! Guys, I think that may be an unprecedented turn of events. The Raptors really are riding an all-time high right now. Let’s just enjoy this great moment and never let anything bring us down again ever again.
What a morning. Well, time to check out this afternoon’s Raptors news...