Let’s start with the awesome news: Kyle Lowry, after a janky couple of months and some concerns about his back, has returned to form. Watch any couple of minutes of Raptors’ basketball with Lowry on the court and that becomes immediately apparent. With Lowry going full-tilt, Toronto always has a chance at something.
If you watched Toronto’s game against Miami on Sunday afternoon, Leo Rautins kept making this point: Lowry is fired up because he looks at this Raptors’ roster and thinks, this is it, this may be the best chance to go to the Finals as more than just a veteran tag-along. When Kawhi Leonard is playing up, with Marc Gasol pinging the ball around, with Pascal Siakam seemingly adding new things to his game in real-time, the time is now for Toronto. We know it, Lowry knows it, and things have been generally coming together to that effect.
The less-than-awesome news? Well, as the Power Rankings reveal this week, there are other NBA teams with the same kind of aspirations and designs. And there’s no reason not to think they won’t defeat the Raptors — despite our brightest hopes and wishes.
Let’s get to the Power Ranking Squad and see what’s what this week for Toronto.
We lead off with the captain of the team, Kevin Arnovitz at ESPN:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
Pascal Siakam has all but locked up the Most Improved Player Award. He has more than doubled his scoring output per game (7.3 to 16.4), while upping his true shooting percentage from 54.9 to 64.6. Yet more than statistically, Siakam has given the Raptors a scorer, playmaker and defender they can rely on unreservedly to make big decisions in big spots.
Pascal Siakam is the MIP, that’s it. Yesterday on the broadcast, Matt Devlin through out that Siakam would be an All-Star next season and not a single one of us blinked. Why would we? Would you bet against Pascal Siakam in 2019-20?
The chief lieutenant, Khadrice Rollins at Sports Illustrated, has some advice:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 7)
Take advantage of the schedule.
The Raptors play teams below .500 in 11 of their final 15 games. The Bucks left the door open this week with a couple bad losses, meaning the top seed is still up for grabs if Toronto can close out the season hot. Worst case scenario, at least this is a chance to get players more acclimated with each other before the postseason.
Me personally, I’m throwing that opening scenario right out. The Raptors are not going to gain meaningful ground on the Bucks. Sorry, it’s the two-seed for Toronto. (It’s much more interesting to see if Indiana can hold on to the three-spot and stay in the Raptors side of the bracket.) The second, worst case scenario is.... not bad at all! I hope all the Raptors become close personal friends and excel together.
Obvious medical supervision is here to be provided by Dr. John Schuhmann at NBA dot com (and a real doctor):
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
It’s been a relatively rough season for the Raptors’ bench, and their loss to Houston on Tuesday may have been the nadir in that regard. Their starting lineup was a plus-17 in its 29 minutes, but the Raptors were outscored by an incredible 29 points in 19 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor against the Rockets. Coach Nick Nurse continues to try both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in the starting lineup and the Raptors have been good as long as they have multiple starters on the floor. They have three of the league’s top seven three-man combinations (in regard to on-court NetRtg) among the 258 that have played at least 100 minutes since the break. The Pistons have two of the top seven, and the Raptors will get another chance to beat their former coach when they visit Detroit on Sunday.
Dammit John, you really had to harsh the buzz here didn’t you? Yes, the Raptors bench looked bad against Houston, and then didn’t seem to help much against the Pistons. No one has a word to say about their lights out performance in Miami in what should have been a trap game, but that’s fine. That’s honestly life on the bench in the NBA. Anyway, if the Raptors don’t beat Detroit this week I am planning on completely losing it.
And the rogue element, the loose cannon of the squad, has to be Reid Forgrave at CBS Sports:
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
Masai Ujiri changed the Raptors’ definition of success in the offseason when he went for it and traded for Kawhi Leonard. Now everything rides on this season. In an East that looks incredibly stacked at the top, for the Raptors to consider this season a success, they have to either make the Finals or play in a hotly contested, six- or seven-game Eastern Conference finals. Basically, give Kawhi as much incentive as you can to return to Toronto. If the Raptors accomplish that and he still leaves, they will have done absolutely everything they could.
Case f-ing closed. Good night.
Now, on to the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 21 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, number one seed or bust, baby!
Yes, just stay healthy and get people acclimated
No, you know deep down one of those two things won’t happen
Yes, spring starts in 10 days, let’s stay upbeat