Ah yes, there it is. The terror. For a few weeks, with the Raptors winning almost all of their games — in blowouts, or in the clutch, or in any other way you care to imagine — we had forgotten what it felt like. But now, with just a 2-2 week, the terror returns.
In truth, we should probably relax. The Raptors played four games this week, and four the week before, and four before that. Each of these weeks had back-to-back games, and some zig-zagging travel. Nothing to the west coast, mind you, but still, it takes a dang toll. That the Raptors split their games this week while going, uh, 11-3 for the month of March so far, is... cause for concern?
Maybe let’s put the terror aside for a moment. The Raptors are heading into the playoffs soon and they’ll be the number one seed. Can we just agree that this is a good team and that we don’t necessarily have to feel the terror during every waking moment of every waking day until the post-season starts? Yes, even after a 2-2 week. Maybe especially after a 2-2 week.
That’s what I’m going to do. Let’s see what the Power Rankings have to say.
Let’s turn it over first to ESPN, which, last we saw, was running on automated power.
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
It was a relatively disappointing week for the Raptors, who went 2-2, including the loss to short-handed Cleveland in which they scored 79 points in the first half. It was the most points scored in the first half of a loss by any team since the Nuggets in November 1990, five full years before the Raptors even existed. They simply couldn’t get stops: Toronto posted a defensive rating of 137.4 in the second half in a “show me something” game against the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs.
Signs of life! First, the Raptors stay strong at no. 2 which is a nice gesture. Second, we get a fun obscure-sounding fact. And third, there’s a dig in there about Toronto in reference to its relationship with Cleveland. Contentious! But more importantly: alive.
Let’s go to Sports Illustrated now with Rohan Nadkarni going all out:
5. Toronto Raptors (54–20)
Last Week: 3
The Raptors uncharacteristically dropped a couple games last week. I’m not going to penalize Toronto too much, though. This team has earned the right to slack a tiny bit down the stretch. The gap between the third-place Raptors and fourth-place Celtics in net rating is the same gap between Boston and the eighteenth-place Heat.
Rohan, I mean this with the greatest sincerity: thanks. (Even if you did drop the team down to no. 5 after what feels like their first bad week in months, but who is counting? I’m not mad about it, it’s just funny to me actually.)
Moving on, here comes Dr. John Schuhmann with some decisive analysis on NBA dot com.
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
Pace: 100.1 (13) OffRtg: 111.5 (3) DefRtg: 103.5 (5) NetRtg:+8.0 (3)
A close loss in Cleveland on the second night of a back-to-back isn’t too much of a worry in itself. The Raptors are going to be the No. 1 seed in the East and have home-court advantage through the first three rounds. But after allowing the Cavs to shoot 15-for-24 from 3-point range and allowing the Clippers to register 25 second chance points on Sunday, the Raptors have allowed 116 points per 100 possessions in 18 games against top-10 offenses. Only Cleveland (119) has been worse defensively against that group than the the No. 5 defense in the league, which has fattened up by taking care of business against lesser teams. The eighth-ranked Bucks have the best offense of potential first round opponents, and the Raps’ two remaining games against top-10 offenses are Tuesday against the Nuggets (who will be playing the second game of a back-to-back) and next Tuesday ... in Cleveland again.
Have noted how Raptors have been best at taking care of business, but after Ls to 2 top-10 offenses (CLE & LAC) last week, here's something...— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) March 26, 2018
Only the Cavs have been worse defensively vs. league's top-10 offenses. pic.twitter.com/JmoAq3qRZY
I... I hate reading everything written above. It could very well be true, but I still hate it. Don’t think it is lost on Raptors fans that their team may have to go through the Bucks and then the Sixers just to get a shot at LeBron. Life is not fair sometimes — and these above numbers do not help.
Finally, with some good news from Chris Barnewall at CBS Sports:
5. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
Two reasons why the Raptors have been so great this season: They’ve changed their offense and they’ve remained shockingly healthy. Part of this has to do with their depth on the bench. Their “next man up” mentality makes it easier than ever for them to fill injury holes.
WTF is with these bumps down to no. 5? Absurd! Still, let’s not complain to loudly, as Barnewell notes there: the Raptors have been relatively lucky with health this season, and I do not want to tempt any kind of fate by complaining about this or that ranking any more than I have to.
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 23 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, the conspiracy is real
Yes, the conspiracy is not real
No, the conspiracy doesn’t exist because nothing really exists
Yes, I can see no trouble at all on the horizon of this flat earth