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Power Ranking Poll Week 21: Just Another 40 Degree Day

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The Raptors have reached a rather unwanted stasis.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Pardon the extreme language of the clip below, but it’s applicable to the current Raptors situation. I know leaning on clips from The Wire is perhaps a tired trope in 2017 (and I already buried the link in a post earlier today), but it’s my favourite show of all time, and it remains applicable in all sorts of ways. Also, it is still quite entertaining. Anyway, watch and see if you can spot the Raptors comp.

(Before we continue: shout out to Idris Elba and his climb up to Hollywood stardom. Props to Slim Charles for being Slim Charles to the end. And respect to those two doofuses, long may they reign.)

The Raptors are in the midst of a bunch of 40 degree days. They beat teams, but the wins are thing. They lose to teams, and the results feel crushing — even if there is a huge excuse sitting there, ready to be offered up. We’re a little like Stringer Bell in this scenario (oh boy, here comes the stretch), we’re still eager for progress, but mad that it can’t quite be had. There’s belief there, but also immense frustration. How many more 3-for-5 weeks, or ugly .500 ball are we going to have? Will this team ever be pushing 60 degrees, operating at full strength? Man, I don’t know.

Let’s head to the rankings and see what they can divine from the Raptors’ current predicament.

First up, the Avon Barksdale of the rankings game, ready to throw down at a moment’s notice and claim what’s his, it’s Marc Stein of ESPN:

9. Toronto Raptors

2016-17 record: 38-28

Previous ranking: 6

The Raptors are as aware as anyone that finishing third in the East would be so much more beneficial to their long-term playoff prospects than finishing fourth. That dream, though, might be slipping away, given that both Washington and Boston sit 3 1/2 games ahead of Toronto with only 16 games left on the schedule for the Raps to make up ground. The priority for Canada's team at this point, as it awaits the return of Kyle Lowry, has to be holding onto the No. 4 seed to ensure home-court advantage for its likely first-round showdown with Atlanta. Failure to hang on there would thus mean surrendering home-court advantage to the Hawks in Round 1 and having to face Cleveland one round earlier than last season. Not the sort of spring they were hoping for north of the border ... especially since the summer to follow figures to be so expensive and complicated thanks to the free agency that looms for both Lowry and newly acquired Serge Ibaka.

These are all hard-ass truths, my friends. The only thing that could offer some level of comfort is the idea of Boston or Washington somehow snaking the number one seed from Cleveland. Both are a mere two games back, but this would mean rooting for the Wiz or Celts, which was never part of the plan. Of course, to quote Avon, "You can't plan through no shit like this, man. It's life."

How about our Kenard, coming hard, wild Jeremy Woo at SI dot com:

12. Toronto Raptors (38–28)

Last Week: 8

Net Rating: +4.3

There are 16 games left for the Raptors, and they’ve struggled to stay afloat sans Kyle Lowry during a travel-heavy stretch to open March. From here, they’re basically jockeying with Atlanta for 4/5 home–court advantage. They’ll need one last push to get it done.

A second conservative take. Sad to see, but again, not untrue. The Raptors have to put up something like a 10-6, or 9-7 to fend off the Hawks. Doable, but man, it’s hard to swallow. And I still can’t believe what Kenard did either.

We move now to the Lestor Freamon (obviously) of our rankings review, Dr. John Schuhmann from the NBA mothership:

12. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 9)

Record: 38-28

Pace: 97.3 (23) OffRtg: 110.1 (4) DefRtg: 105.8 (17) NetRtg: +4.3 (5)

After a win in Washington that kept them in the mix for the 3 seed, the Raptors lost three of the last four games on their trip to put themselves in a fight for the 4 seed, just a game ahead of the Hawks, who they lost to (and lost the tie-breaker to) on Friday. The fourth quarter was the issue in Atlanta, but a night later, their second-quarter woes continued. They were the league's fifth-best second quarter team (plus-7.0 points per 100 possessions) before the All-Star break (with Kyle Lowry anchoring the second unit that started the period), but have been the worst second quarter team (minus-20.6 points per 100 possessions) since the break (with Lowry out) after getting outscored 27-15 in the second on Saturday.

Guys..... I miss Kyle Lowry. And, all the pieces matter.

Finally, our Jay Landsman is here: Matt Moore of CBS Sports.

13. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 10)

Can they survive until the playoffs? They've got a tough stretch vs. teams that aren't juggernauts, but are all playing for playoff position. It's stating the obvious, but they need Lowry back. The good news is that their defense is seven points better with P.J. Tucker on the court.

It is stating the obvious, and that's why it hurts so. I’ll give the final line over to the real Landsman and end with this: It’s a tough time out there.... don’t get captured.

Now, on to the poll.