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Raptors Power Ranking Poll Week 8: A series of unfortunate events

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The Raptors just had their toughest week in quite some time: three games, three losses — and all to quality opponents. The question is in the air now: is this Toronto team for real?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors hadn’t lost three games in a row since all the way back in mid-November 2018. That’s just over a year ago, right around the time the team was figuring out what it had with Kawhi Leonard (visiting this Wednesday) and whether it could go all the way to the title. That they could indeed — and did — go all the way really puts that little three-game losing streak in perspective. Without checking, do you even remember the teams they lost to at the time?

No, you do not. (For the record: it was the Pelicans, Pistons, and Celtics.)

Of course, perspective is useful again here. This year’s version of the Raptors are not as likely to win the title. History and the odds are against them. It’s hard to lose talent of that magnitude and repeat — yes, even despite whatever internal growth has occurred from the existing roster. Does that mean these three losses in a row are a harbinger of what’s to come?

No. Toronto is trying and changing and doing countless other things, and regardless of the final outcome it remains for sure that you will not remember the losses to Miami, Houston, and Philadelphia come next May or June or July. That’s just how memory works.

Speaking of which, let’s see what those great amnesiac artists the Power Ranking People have to say this week.

First up, as always, the random sooth-saying of one Andre’ Snellings from ESPN:

7. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 7)

The Raptors just completed a tough four-game stretch that saw them face the Jazz, Heat and Rockets at home before going on the road against the rival 76ers. They stumbled a bit during this stretch, especially defensively, but are still right in the mix with the five Eastern Conference teams vying for second behind the surging Bucks. The Raptors also got Kyle Lowry back, reintroducing another strong perimeter threat to a balanced unit that currently ranks 10th in offensive efficiency at 110.1 points per 100 possessions.

Oh sure, now ESPN is ready to concede the high ground to the Raptors by letting them hold their spot in the rankings despite putting together a resolutely difficult week. The fear of reprisal is that strong — or maybe it really is that hard to find a proper place for Toronto. No, that can’t be it.

Maybe Zach Harper of the Athletic can shed some light on the situation:

9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)

Here’s something fun and terrifying for the rest of the NBA. Pascal Siakam has actually come back down to earth over the last 14 games of the season. During the first eight games of the season, the Raptors’ new star was obliterating the field. Siakam averaged 27.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists with 51.9/41.3/95.0 shooting splits. Those numbers seemed too good to be true, and in a way, they absolutely were. Taking over the top spot on the hierarchy of their attack while increasing efficiency just doesn’t make any sense. People were waiting for Siakam to come back down to something far more terrestrial and that’s absolutely what happened.

In those 14 games, Siakam is averaging just 22.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists while throwing down 42.8/34.1/73.0 shooting splits. During that time, the Raptors are 9-5 and they’ve been without some pretty key players at various points in this stretch. Those are Siakam’s slumping numbers as a top guy for a top team in the Eastern Conference. If that’s the baseline, the ebbs and flows of this NBA season are going to be smooth sailing for the Raptors.

He’s still learning to stabilize his own attack as the number one option, and he doesn’t have very many bad games in a row. He usually bounces back with a great effort the next night. Siakam just continues to blow everybody away with his maturation process on the court.

Why did the Raptors fall this week? Both are totally justifiable losses, but losing back-to-back home games against Miami and Houston meant the Raptors were going to drop some. Three games in a row after dropping one to Philly too? Raptors had to take the hit this week as everybody else surged.

Honestly, these are all extremely fair points. And what’s more, they read like they’ve been thought out and rationalized properly. It’s a long drop from three to nine, but it was not a good week for Toronto. I have nothing to add here.

Could Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA dot com rouse me from this sort of torpid thinking or what?

9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)

The champs have come back to earth a bit, losing three straight games to fall to 3-7 against the other 12 teams that currently have winning records. They’ve allowed more than 112 points per 100 possessions over the losing streak, but the bigger difference between their numbers in games vs. the good teams (104.8 points scored per 100 possessions) and their 12 games (all wins) against everybody else (114.6 per 100) has been on offense. It starts with Pascal Siakam, who has averaged 26.9 points on effective field goal percentage of 56.4% in the other 12 games and just 21.9 on 46.0% in the 10 games against the tougher opponents. Overall, his effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage are now way down from last season. One of those tough opponents was the Clippers, Siakam shot 6-for-17 in L.A. on Nov. 11 (when he was mostly guarded by Maurice Harkless and Patrick Patterson), and the rematch is Wednesday.

Good lord that last parentheses — Siakam dominated by Mo Harkless and Patrick Patterson? Say it ain’t so! The Raptors lost at least one game this week they could have won, and they lost to the Clips back in early November in a game they also could have won. My point here is that they’ve been in most games regardless of how they eventually turned out. And Siakam? Well, as has been made clear so far by these blurbs and by the team’s play, his ultimate ceiling is still a work-in-progress.

Now, could... could CBS Sports and their raging wild man Colin Ward-Henniger upend anything here?

9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 2)

Toronto suffered tough losses to the Heat and Rockets at home to start the week before dropping a road game to the 76ers on Sunday, as Kyle Lowry re-entered the fold. The Raptors aren’t a worse team with Lowry, but they had things clicking so well without him that there would inevitably be a period of adjustment. They’re still one of the top teams in the league in net rating, so a subpar week is no cause for panic.

Dammit Ward-Henniger! Don’t give the “They’re better without Lowry” troopers any more ammunition! Yes, the Raptors are still adjusting to the return of their most important player, the one who has been most responsible for most of their winning over the past five plus seasons. It’s fine to take a little time! And please, please, remember: perspective.

Now, onto the poll.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    No, but yes — think about it!
    (19 votes)
  • 47%
    Yes, but no — we actually don’t need to think about it
    (40 votes)
  • 4%
    No, but no — I’m enjoying this bald-faced turn into existential chaos
    (4 votes)
  • 25%
    Yes, but yes — wait, what were we talking about?
    (22 votes)
85 votes total Vote Now