How’s everyone doing this afternoon? Still basking in the glow of last night’s (shorthanded) Raptors victory over the Lakers? It’s a back-to-back, and the Raptors are in action again in just a few hours, but you should definitely enjoy this feeling as long as you can.
Here to help you out, at least somewhat, are this week’s Power Rankings! Now, most of these are published first thing Monday morning, so a late-night win on Sunday might not have as much impact on these rankings as we’d like, as Raptors fans. Still, every ranking we track here at Raptors HQ had the Raptors making a move on up this morning.
Let’s start over at ESPN, where Andre’ Snellings got the Raptors assignment again:
7. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 10)
Despite Kawhi Leonard’s departure, the Raptors remain one of the best teams in the NBA this season, with their only losses coming on the road against the Celtics and Bucks. The Raptors have arguably the best defense in the NBA, and with Pascal Siakam continuing to flirt with averages of 30 and 10 through three weeks, they still have an MVP candidate as their foundation. Their depth will be tested in upcoming weeks, though, with Kyle Lowry dealing with a fractured thumb.
Nothing but #facts from Snellings here, although he said pretty much the same thing last week, so we might have to dock him a point for originality. It is telling that Siakam followed what was probably his best game of the season with perhaps his worst... and that worst was still a 24-point, 11-rebound, 4-assist and 3-block showing. And that lockdown D did indeed lock down the Lakers after halftime last night (60 points on 56% shooting in the first half; 44 points on 32% shooting in the second).
Now let’s mosey on over to see what The Athletic’s Zach Harper has to say:
5. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 6)
The Toronto Raptors received some tough news this week when they found out Kyle Lowry will miss a couple of weeks with a broken thumb and Serge Ibaka is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. Those are two very key members for this Raptors team that Nick Nurse now has to replace in the lineup, and it’s not exactly two positions of absolute depth for the Raptors. This team is very deep on the wings, but it has some issues with depth at the point guard and big man positions. Fred VanVleet can fill in easily at the point, but who backs him up? They can play a lot of Pascal Siakam at the 4 and utilize their wing depth, but there is a bit of a concern with how the Raptors avoid getting him worn down physically.
At least for a night on Sunday when the Raptors took down the Lakers in the second half, they had some contributions from lesser known faces. Chris Boucher filled in off the bench and gave the Lakers all kinds of problems. Rookie Terence Davis came in and knocked down shots and made a bunch of plays. Having those two give you consistent production is asking a lot, but the Raptors have been grooming these guys as much as they can for them to be ready for this. Toronto will still have to rely on its defense and hope Siakam can carry it most nights. But it’s fun seeing these guys get an opportunity to prove themselves against one of the top teams in the NBA and then taking full advantage of that opportunity. Raptors probably can’t endure many more injuries to key players, but they look like they’re having fun right now money.
Zach is right, it is indeed fun seeing other guys get an opportunity to prove themselves; last night was the most fun I’ve had watching the Raptors since June, and I’ve been officially inducted into the Chris Boucher hive.
However, Zach also included a gif of the Raptors’ horrifying “retro mascots” from the first anniversary night. How dare you, Zach!? I refuse to include it here, lest it give any of you nightmares.
Let’s continue the upward climb with John Schuhmann of NBA.com:
6. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 10)
Nick Nurse has had a tough time trusting anybody beyond his top seven guys, and then he lost two of his top seven guys — Kyle Lowry (fractured thumb) and Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle) to injuries on Friday. So there Nurse was playing Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Matt Thomas in the fourth quarter of a close game in L.A. on Sunday. And of course, those four guys combined for 24 of the team’s 35 fourth-quarter points as the champs pulled off what was clearly their best win of the season. In fact, each of their other six wins have come against teams that are no better than 4-6. The relatively weak schedule could be a reason why Toronto opponents have barely shot 50% in the restricted area, with Ibaka ranking as the league’s best rim protector. But on Sunday (with no Ibaka), the Lakers (20-for-34, 59%) shot well below their league-best mark of 72%. More bench contributions will be needed as the Raptors’ reunion tour continues with a game against Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers on Monday.
Coach Nurse has been quite candid about that lack of trust, and I, for one, love him for it. This team won a title, and their expectations are understandably high, and he’s not letting anyone off the hook — and he was rewarded by his bench last night. As for that weak schedule note? Not the droids I’m looking for, John. Move along, move along.
Saving the best jump for last, CBS Sports’ Colin Ward-Henninger has the Raptors rocketing way up the charts:
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 10)
Hey, remember when losing Kawhi Leonard was supposed to mean a huge step backwards for Toronto? Yeah, that’s not happening. The Raptors are now tied for the league lead in wins after a 3-0 week capped off by a gigantic road win over the Lakers without Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby have been fantastic this season, and the “next man up” mentality has trickled all the way down to the likes of Chris Boucher and Terence Davis with the recent injuries. Nick Nurse and the Raptors are for real, and are dangerous no matter who they put on the court.
Funny, I don’t remember thinking that losing Kawhi Leonard was going to mean a huge step backwards. Colin here is coming around, though — he had the Raps ranked 15th just two short weeks ago!
Let’s roll to the poll:
Is Toronto’s upward mobility in the Week 4 Power Rankings warranted?
This poll is closed
Yes. All is right with the world.
Yes, and there’s plenty more where that came from!
Nope, I’m not letting one fluky win fool me!
Warranted? Why aren’t they number 1!? These polls are a disgrace