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Power Ranking Poll Week 5: Maybe it is all about wins and lessons

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The Raptors had their toughest week of the season so far, but you know what: it wasn’t all bad.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors going down in flames for a 1-3 week featuring a beat down by the Pelicans, the Dwane Casey Revenge Game, and a stupid tight OT loss to the Celtics, would be cause for concern if not for the fact: all the good teams had a terrible week!

The Bucks? They went 1-1 with a loss to the Grizzlies, and have been trading off Ws and Ls since beating the Raps at the end of October. The Celtics? 2-1, needed OT to beat Toronto, and then immediately got annihilated by the Jazz (sufferers themselves of a recent 50-point loss). The Sixers? 3-1, which is nice — but all were close victories (including an OT win over Charlotte), and the loss came to the dang Magic. And how about out West: the Nuggets went 1-2, the Blazers went 1-2, and the mighty Warriors went, whoa, 1-3 with, you guessed it, a three game losing streak.

Maybe everyone is dreaming of American Thanksgiving already? I don’t know. Given that perspective, the Raps’ 1-3 week still puts them up a whole game for first in the East, and, actually, across the NBA.

Now let’s see what the Power Rankings have to say, after teams everywhere fell flat on their collectively faces.

First up, the ESPN brain-trust has Kevin Arnovitz on deck to give us the lowdown:

1. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)

The Raptors took out their frustrations from their three-game losing streak — including an excruciating overtime loss at Boston on Friday — on a hapless Chicago team on Saturday. The numbers during the skid are downright weird. Toronto sported the third-least efficient defense over the streak, yet ranked second defensively in opponent shot quality. Victims of bad luck? Whatever the case, it’s a get-well tour for the Raps this week: road dates at Orlando and Atlanta, followed by home games versus Washington and Miami.

Hey, still number one! But also, Arnovitz hits on an interesting (and frustrating) stat here, given the Raptors’ defensive performance this week. At times it looked like Toronto was a terrible defensive team, and other times they looked positively fearsome. Can they maintain that consistent effort? Can they stop guys like Kyrie Irving from going off? And how will they game plan for Dwane Casey next time? So many questions, and look at the time. On to the next entry!

For Sports Illustrated, a lonely nation turns to Khadrice Rollins. Take it away, Khadrice:

2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)

Beating the Bulls by 39 points doesn’t mean Toronto’s three-game losing streak to start the week doesn’t matter, it just means they already moved past it. Not too many teams can shoot 54.5% against the Raptors like the Pelicans did. Not as many teams will be as jazzed up to be in Toronto as the Pistons were. And there’s only one Kyrie Irving. That’s one hell of a perfect storm to mess up a week, but nothing to fret over when you’ve handled business like this team has for the bulk of its games.

This is the perfect summary. The knock down from the top spot feels earned. Kudos all around, I have nothing to add here.

Maybe Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA dot com will keep with the reasonable tone here? Let’s find out:

4. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)

The Raptors’ three-game losing streak, in which Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry combined to shoot 3-for-26 from 3-point range (and which ended in Chicago on Saturday) was longer than any losing streak that they had last season. They’re banged up on the wings. Their bench unit — Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby with a center — has played just 32 total minutes, 11th man Norman Powell is out for an extended time with a shoulder injury and they rank 16th in aggregate bench NetRtg (after ranking first last season). But they still have the best record in the league, with what has been the league’s easiest schedule remaining easy for another week.

Whoa! This is quite the boomerang attack from Dr. John. He’s got the Raptors going from 4 to 1, and then back to 4 all in the space of three weeks. It’s been quite a journey. While what he documents above is fair, it feels distinctively unfair to put the Raptors behind teams like [checks paper] the Clippers? How many times are we going to play this game with L.A.?

Moving on! Let’s ring up our final entry with, as always, the lads at CBS Sports. Get on with it, Reid Forgrave:

2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)

For the first time all season, I gave serious thought to elevating a team above the Warriors in these power rankings, and if the Raptors hadn’t lost three in a row — to the New Orleans Pelicans, and then two close ones to the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics — I might have. But the way that Kyle Lowry got handled by elite defenders in two of those games should be at least a bit concerning for the Raptors as they think about how this team will fare in playoff time. Lowry shot 1-of-9 for four points against the Pelicans then 3-of-12 for 14 points against the Celtics. Point guard play is so key for this team. And while Lowry has been mostly magnificent this season — I recently wrote about how Lowry’s season has resembled MVP-era Steve Nash — Fred VanVleet has struggled. The Raptors were 10.5 points per 100 possessions better than opponents last season when VanVleet was on the floor; this season VanVleet has a net rating (- 0.6) that’s one of the worst on the team.

We shouldn’t put too much of the Raptors’ success or failure on Fred VanVleet, but it doesn’t feel good when he’s humming along at 100 percent. Toronto’s bench has been in flux since the season started and FVV has not been immune to that (both personally, with his own injury, and with the team, learning how to play with new lineups).

Forgrave is giving us something of a, uh, grave warning here though: the Raps, as per usual, need Lowry at his best against the best teams. We’ll watch to see how this develops.

Now, onto the poll.

Poll

Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 5 of the Power Rankings?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    No, they’re still in first and the Warriors are imploding, what gives?
    (51 votes)
  • 74%
    Yes, let’s see how the Raptors respond this week
    (257 votes)
  • 4%
    No, everyone on this team is secretly hurt — and so am I
    (14 votes)
  • 6%
    Yes, but for reasons I will never be able to properly articulate. How’s that?
    (23 votes)
345 votes total Vote Now