Maybe we just need to get to the playoffs. That’s been the dominant sentiment in Toronto this past month. Sure, it would be nice if the Raptors were stampeding every team, and exhibiting that same fearsome coherence they had in abundance back in February. But it would also just be nice to be done with the regular season already.
The Raptors had another troubling week, despite playing just two games. There was a satisfying win over a ridiculously hot-shooting Denver Nuggets team; but that was followed by a deeply frustrating loss against the annoying Boston Celtics. We had a Celts-related tweet go viral and it was.... not fun.
This Celtics team is the most annoying team on the face of the Earth.— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) April 1, 2018
So then, what of the Power Rankings this week? How do they assess a team that is still in first place, still leagues better than most of the rest of the teams around, but also showing modest signs of weakness. The whole thing is unsettling. I am in a state of unease.
You know what, maybe we just need to get to the playoffs.
Anyway, let’s get to this week’s Power Rankings and decide how to feel — and if the Raptors are being ranked fairly.
First up, the computer running the show at ESPN provides some exacting analysis.
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
After tying their franchise record with 11 straight wins, the Raptors have gone just 4-4 since. The struggles can be tied to the defense, as Toronto has allowed opponents to shoot 49.5 percent from the field since March 16, the worst in the NBA over that span.
Ooof. Seeing that 4-4 there and understanding at a bone-deep level that the Raptors have been — I don’t know, shaky? disengaged? tired? solved? — let’s say, in some kind of funk, is not great. Still, it’s nice to see ESPN give the team more respect now then when Toronto was in the midst of its insane win streak.
Maybe Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated will make us feel better. Let’s see:
7. Toronto Raptors (55–21)
Last Week: 5
Hmmm, the Raptors are looking a little creaky. Toronto has alternated wins and losses since March 16, and the inconsistent play means the Raptors have only a two-game lead for first place in the East. Toronto’s upcoming week is huge, with games against the Cavs, Celtics and Pacers on deck. It wouldn’t be the Raptors if they didn’t inject a bit of uneasiness into their feel-good ride. Losing the one seed could be a significant blow to this team’s psyche, though.
Surely the science of Dr. John Schuhmann will provide if not comfort, then perhaps some fact-based certainty. The NBA dot com response:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)
Pace: 100.0 (12) OffRtg: 111.5 (3) DefRtg: 103.8 (6) NetRtg:+7.7 (3)
The Raptors have dropped out of the top five in defensive efficiency, having allowed 113 points per 100 possessions as they’ve gone 3-4 over their last seven games to make things interesting at the top of the East again. Of course, it was the offense that looked more concerning down the stretch in Boston on Saturday, as they shot 3-for-14 (with six turnovers) over the final 7 1/2 minutes. They rank 19th in clutch offense(105 points scored per 100 possessions) and 27th in clutch assist rate (having assisted on just 41 percent of their buckets with the score within five points in the last five minutes). DeMar DeRozan’s assist ratio (18.3 per 100 possessions used) is still a career-high mark, but it drops from 24.9 per 100 in the first quarter to just 7.9 per 100 in the fourth, and that fourth quarter ratio is lower than it was last season (12.3).
You know when you use the phrase “facts only” as a way to end an argument, like when you drop some knowledge with absolute positive conviction, as if no doubt could ever creep into your mind? The above, from the doctor, is the opposite of that. Hoo boy, facts only.
And finally, the parting shot from Chris Barnewall of CBS Sports:
7. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 5)
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have both laid eggs in the playoffs in the past. They both have something to prove. Before this season, so much of the work fell on to Lowry’s shoulders. He’s been relieved of that this season. Can he step up in the playoffs as a response?
Full disclosure: I copied and pasted this excerpt into here without looking at it. I refuse to read it! It’s fine though right? Good vibes only!
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 24 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, they must respect the Net rating!
Yes, 4-4 ain’t great, my dude
No, they’re still laughing at us in Boston
Yes, but come on: Boston? Why worry???