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Power Ranking Poll Week 8: What happens when the Raptors falter?

Toronto has lost three of its last four, which feels monumental considering how most of the season has gone. What’s up in this week’s Power Rankings as a result?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The collective whiplash induced from Kyle Lowry’s season so far could inspire us all to summon some form of legal representation. Speaking for myself, I feel I already need to hire a lawyer to advocate on my behalf — how else to properly explain to a judge and jury of my peers what has happened to Toronto’s beloved leader? My brain is still rattling around in my cranium remembering those first few weeks of the season, when it looked like Lowry might never miss a shot, and the Raptors looked nigh invincible. It feels like only yesterday.

Since then however, Lowry has gone colder than ice cold, and Raptors fans (myself included!) have gone from supreme confidence — downright fat and sassy even — into abject misery. The team has lost three of four games, and if there was someway to sue for damages (emotional? psychological? sociological?), we would do that. As it stands though, all we can do is look at this week’s Power Rankings, read the tea leaves, and hope for the best — with Lowry, and with the Raptors.

So let’s see what they have to say about Toronto this week.

First up as allows is the boys at the big red machine, ESPN, and Kevin Arnovitz:

2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)

It was a dispiriting 1-3 week for the Raptors, who lost two games at home and posted an effective field-goal percentage of only 48.5. Kyle Lowry converted only four of his 28 field-goal attempts last week, though he averaged 8.7 assists over that span and still leads the team in Real Plus-Minus. Toronto now hits the road for a tough stretch of four games in six nights out west, a slate that includes the Clippers, Golden State, Portland and Denver.

I hate everything about this caption from K-Arn, even though it is 100 percent accurate. Gotdamn.

Perhaps Khadrice Rollins at Sports Illustrated can inject some levity into the proceedings. Let’s see:

1. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)

Despite the results this past week, I still firmly believe Nick Nurse knows what he’s doing. Especially when it comes to baffling Ben Simmons. Well, that might have more to do with Kawhi Leonard, but either way, the coach knows how to use his MVP candidate. The three close losses to the Nuggets, Nets and Bucks help make Toronto look much more beatable to the rest of the league than they appeared a week ago. But when you realize the Raptors didn’t lose the fourth quarter in any of those games (they lost overtime to the Nets 8-7 after winning the fourth quarter 19-18), it puts into perspective just how good you need to be to knock them off. Cause they will keep fighting for all 48 minutes.

Wow wow wow, the benefit of the doubt! Is that what that feels like? The Raptors were indeed quite difficult to defeat in all of their, uh, defeats — in fact, one could argue that the best team out there, the one that well and truly can beat the Toronto Raptors on any given night is indeed, the dang Raptors themselves! This circular logic is hurting my heart.

Cold-hearted analysis, that’s what we need. Dr. John Schuhmann, what have you got at NBA dot com?

3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)

Maybe Kyle Lowry will find his shot on the West coast, though he can’t break out of his shooting slump (8-for-42 over his last five games) if he doesn’t shoot. Worse than Lowry missing shots is Lowry passing them up, because his ability and willingness to shoot 3-pointers off the dribble (he was the best pull-up 3-point shooter over the last two seasons) opens other things up (for both himself and his teammates), and when he does pass up an open shot, the Raptors might not get a better one on the same possession. That was the case on multiple occasions as they lost close games to Brooklyn and Milwaukee over the weekend, and it’s not a coincidence that the last four games (four of the six games in which Lowry has attempted less than nine shots) have been the Raptors’ worst stretch of offense (102.2 points scored per 100 possessions) this season.

You know what, in reading this, I ain’t even mad. This is not a “I’m actually laughing” scenario, just a reasonable assessment of the facts at hand (as Schuhmann would have wanted). The plain fact is that while Lowry is still doing Lowry things out there on the basketball court — taking charges, making assists, playing his ass off — it doesn’t mean as much without that shot falling. The Raptors need him firing from 3 (and, ideally, hitting those shots) if they’re to have a real chance of being their best selves. (It’s amazing how little we’re talking about Kawhi Leonard this week, who, by the way, has been and continues to be awesome. Thanks.)

Finally, the finale, CBS Sports’ Reid Forgrave, take us away:

2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)

Apparently, I’m a jinx. The Raptors have lost three of their past four, including an oddball loss in Brooklyn, since I (perhaps belatedly) elevated them to the top spot last week. Kyle Lowry, so great to begin the season, has sputtered the past couple weeks; he hasn’t scored more than 10 points in any of his past five games, and was held scoreless in the Raptors’ loss to the Bucks on Sunday, going 0-for-5 from three. This team does still feel like the best-constructed team to have a shot against the Warriors in a 7-game series. Pascal Siakam has one of the top defensive field goal percentages in the league, and he’s contested more three-point shots than anyone in NBA. This team is scary good.

I was going to write a whole treatise here explaining how it was wildly myopic for Reid to assume he was in fact a jinx to the Raptors. I won’t do that. Instead, I will confirm it: Reid is indeed a jinx. Keep the Raptors in the number two spot, do not elevate them further (even belatedly), and allow Toronto to reclaim the top spot in our hearts only. That’s the ticket — and yes, this team is scary good. What a relief.

Now, onto the poll.

Poll

Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 8 of the Power Rankings?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    No, what’s a bad week to the new gods?
    (8 votes)
  • 79%
    Yes, Lowry needs to get right
    (159 votes)
  • 5%
    No, but this is starting to feel more like it!
    (11 votes)
  • 11%
    Yes, but with so much basketball left to play I truly can’t decide — basketball existentialism is not for me
    (23 votes)
201 votes total Vote Now