“I’m coming home. I’m coming home. Tell the world, I’m coming home. Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday.”
Sorry. I never really liked that song either. And now it’s stuck in both our heads! Skylar Grey sang those memorable lyrics on Diddy’s hit song, Coming Home, which was released in late October 2010.
Also occurring in late October 2010, the Raptors kicked off their 16th season with a home loss to the Knicks. Toronto would lose 8 of their next 10 games and eventually end the season with the 2nd-lowest win total (22) in franchise history. You know what happened next. Jay Triano would be replaced with Dwane Casey and yadda yadda yadda Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol are Toronto Raptors!
Gasol playing defense for the raptors pic.twitter.com/OB1fBzSNRD— Sean Woodley (@WoodleySean) February 10, 2019
As we enter the last couple of days before the All-Star break, Toronto has played more road games (30) then every team except Atlanta (32). After polishing off three Eastern foes on the road last week, the Raptors are about to have a lot of home cooking. Thanks to the All-Star break sandwiched between a six-game homestand, the Raptors don’t have a road game until March 3rd against the Pistons — and as we already know, Detroit is like a second home for Raptors fans.
That’s three weeks of no travel and much-needed rest. Three weeks to get rotations lined up for the final 23 regular season games. Three weeks to acclimate Gasol, Ben McLemore (possibly, at least this week), Malcolm Miller (welcome back!), Chris Boucher (congratulations Duck!), and whoever else Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster add to the roster.
Welcome home, Raptors. Let’s start washing away all the (playoff) pain of yesterday.
Remember, it’s a short week, so make sure to add your picks in the comments.
February 11 vs. Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn GM Sean Marks, did not make any significant moves at the Trade Deadline, other than gaining a 2021 second-round draft pick from Toronto (and Greg Monroe, who they quickly waived) for cash considerations. Maybe he didn’t make any moves because the Nets are over the cap this season. Maybe he didn’t because a move might hamper their summer plans of signing a max free agent (yes, another Kawhi suitor). Or maybe... just maybe... they’re good enough to straddle between playoff contender this season, with grand plans for next season. Maybe... no, this is fact... Sean Marks knew he’d be getting back two important players around the deadline.
Caris LeVert returned on Friday, after missing 42 games with a broken leg — a gruesome injury that could have been career-ending. Allen Crabbe returned on Wednesday, after missing 26 games with a right knee injury. When both are on the floor with the starters, D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Jarrett Allen, the Nets have outscored their opponents by 21.7 points (per 100 possessions). Swap Crabbe for 3-point specialist Joe Harris, and that number soars to 41.4 points!
It’s still early to be making playoff matchup predictions, but these teams could very well meet in the first round of the playoffs.
Raptors have won the last 7 home games and 13 of the last 14 overall against the Nets. In the December 7 loss in Brooklyn, JV started, played well, but the team lost in overtime. Nurse switched back to Ibaka in the January 11 rematch, where eight Raptors ended up in double figures (including Wright and Monroe). Weird stat from both Nets-Raps games: each team scored exactly 11 three-pointers... in both matchups.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has his squad following the Rockets playbook, ranking 3rd in 3-point attempts and 3rd in free throw attempts. That should be a recipe for danger against the Raptors, who have allowed their last two opponents to shoot 40% or better from three, and currently rank in the bottom-10 in personal fouls. However, it’s hard to pick an upset for Brooklyn when they haven’t won on the road since January 18, and have lost four of their last five.
Raptors dunk on the Nets, 115 - 106.
February 13 vs. Washington Wizards
It’s still early to be making playoff matchup predictions, but... wait, I just said that. Also, that can’t still be true for the Wizards, can it?
Imagine being a fan of the Wizards last week (or at all). All-NBA guard, John Wall, who was already out for the season, slips and falls in his home, rupturing his left Achilles tendon and sidelining him for at least 12 months. Markieff Morris is then traded (and waived) to the Pelicans for Wes Johnson (and an escape from the repeater tax). This is followed by Otto Porter Jr. getting shipped to Chicago for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. The problem that Washington needs to solve — to playoffs or not to playoffs — is similar to Brooklyn’s, except Ernie Grunfeld’s direction, or lack thereof, isn’t clear at all.
The Wizards have won their first two games since the trade deadline — albeit against the Cavaliers and Bulls. Portis dropped 30 points against Cleveland and registered a double-double (10 points and 12 boards) in Chicago. Meanwhile, Parker has already shown coach Scott Brooks what he’s been missing all season — a big forward who can pound the glass on the defensive end and immediately push the ball in transition. It surely sounds like a team that’s trying to make the playoffs.
What good is a playoff run when the team is 3-11 against the top 5 East teams? If the trade deadline moves were a white flag on this season — let’s face it, this team got worse and is already outside of the playoff picture — then swallow your pride and start tanking already.
John Wall suffers a major freak injury by falling at his home.— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) February 9, 2019
His mom is battling cancer after losing his father to the disease when he was a young boy.
He’s going back to college during his time away from the game.
I’m rooting for you, John.
Raptors have won the last four meetings, including a double-overtime thriller exactly one month earlier in DC. To overcome Bradley Beal’s 43-point triple-double, Toronto needed 41 from Kawhi Leonard, a career-high 19 boards from Pascal Siakam, and a boost from Oubre-destroyer-now-former-Raptor, Delon Wright — who contributed 17 points and six boards, while Fred VanVleet sat out. Toronto enters the All-Star break by completing a four-game season sweep of Washington, making the Wizards disappear, 120 - 110.