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The Rap-Up Road to 60: Picking winners from Mar. 12-18

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The Raptors just had another perfect 4-0 week and have now won eight games in a row. Will the good times keep rolling?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Since our usual picks man, Jay Rosales, is off this morning enjoying the sunny shores of [checks paper] Rochester, New York, I’m here to fill in with some future analysis and reckless Raptors predictions.

Since starting this Road to 60 feature, Jay’s had an impressive run. In the eight games he’s had to pick in the last two weeks, he’s gone 7-1 (only missing a close win against the Pistons last week — he had it as a close loss, go figure). In that time, the Raptors have gone 8-0 as part of a delightful eight game winning streak.

Coincidence? You know what, who’s to say? Let’s get to this week’s four games and decide if the Raptors can pump the streak up to 12 (or, saving that, we can at least keep making the right predictions).

Tuesday, March 13 @ Brooklyn Nets

I feel a strange antagonism towards the Brooklyn Nets. Well, OK, strange makes it sound unaccountable — there are definitely reasons. First, of course, is that insulting first round playoff loss they dealt the Raptors in 2014. What a waste. Second is their employ of DeMarre Carroll — the trade of whom netted Brooklyn an undeserved first round pick — and his career-high 13.5 points per game. And third, is Joe Harris almost breaking Kyle Lowry in half with his clumsy mid-air body check earlier this season. Remember Butt Watch 2018? Yeah, I do.

Anyway, the Nets still stink. They are 21-46, and have lost 13 of their last 15 games. They’ve got D’Angelo Russell back now, but he’s still playing like 21-year-old third player who doesn’t quite know how to run a team. The rest of the squad — I’m talking dudes like Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LaVert — will try hard to win, but just don’t have the talent to actually, you know, get the job done.

Prediction

The Raptors blow this dumb Nets team out, which gives Harris no chance to stupidly injury one of Toronto’s best guys. Final score of this debacle? 116-101 for the Raps.

Thursday, March 15 @ Indiana Pacers

Now here’s a good one. The Pacers are inexplicably now in third place in the Eastern Conference, with a half game lead on some guy named LeBron James. I think few people would have predicted such a turn of events for Indiana after they traded Paul George, but the universe works in mysterious ways.

Here’s the threat level of the Pacers: Victor Oladipo is legit, and putting up career-best numbers 23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds. 4.3 assists, and 2.2 steals, while shooting 48 percent from the floor (and 37 percent from three). That’s good. Couple him with the troublesome Myles Turner (13.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 38 percent from three), and the combination of Bojan Bogdanovic (still shook by Serge) and our old friend Cory Joseph, and you’ve got yourselves a team — plus, uh, Lance Stephenson.

Prediction

I was going to run this out as a loss. The Pacers are, as of this writing, 23-12 at home, and have won seven of their last ten. But good feelings and all that aren’t enough to slow this Raptors squad down. Let’s chalk up another close win for the Raptors: 106-103. Thank you for your time.

Friday, March 16 vs. Dallas Mavericks

Imagine you’re Dirk Nowitzki. You’ve laboured for almost two decades in Dallas, built an unimpeachable hall-of-fame resume, and now have to spend your twilight years playing with a gaggle of no-namers, while the franchise on which your face has been festooned turns out to be a real hive of scum and villainy. It’s heartbreaking, indeed.

I don’t want to spend anymore words on this one. The Raptors lost a dumb game to this team back in December, and it stands as one of the few disappointing losses to a sub-500 team all year. We know what happens next.

Prediction

Raptors smash’em 124-98. Sorry, Dirk.

Sunday, March 18 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Let’s be honest, this Thunder team is impossible to figure out. On the one hand, on paper, they’ve got some extremely big names that just shout out at you — Russell Westbrook! Paul George! Carmelo Anthony! On the other hand, in real life, they don’t always all click together.

Me personally, I think OKC’s biggest problem is this perception vs. reality divide. A player like Anthony, clearly believes it’s still 2010 as he sits out there at the elbow and shoots 40 percent from the field. And a guy like Westbrook is convinced, truly convinced, he is the only player who matters on either team — even as he jacks up shot after shot to no avail. (Toronto fans know to fear Paul George though, so I won’t speak ill of him.) In any case, right now the Thunder are 39-29, and can threaten any team just as easily as they can fold into nothingness. Does that make this game hard to predict?

Prediction

Nope! The Raptors got caught flat-footed around Christmas time on the road, and gave up a win to the just-then rolling Thunder. Now the shoe is on the other foot, Andre Roberson is injured, Patrick Patterson is still wishing he was at TIFF, and the Raptors are going to win 12 in a row for a new franchise record. Toronto 109, Thunder 101.

Road to 60 Outlook

Riding a 12-game win streak would mean the Raptors would only have to go 7-5 the rest of the way to snag their first ever 60-win season. Two sub-.500 teams, a pair of home games in the mix, and one strenuous looking road win over a mid-tier Eastern Conference opponent. It all seems so simple when we put it down here in words.

But what do you think about these predictions Raps fans?