The Toronto Raptors cannot find it in themselves to lose a basketball game.
This week, they needed a pair of wild comebacks to continue what was already a franchise-tying win streak. The clincher came in the first of two against Indiana, where a full court defence confounded the Pacers down the stretch, who melted and coughed up the ball just enough for Toronto to escape with a win. A similar, while not as dramatic plot played out Saturday against Brooklyn, as the Raptors came back to beat the Nets and stretch the win streak to a damn 14 games.
With this in mind, there’s nary a bandwagon spot to be found for this Raptors team as they continue to climb the league standings. As we’ll have observed in the power ranking summary below, Toronto is just two losses back of the Los Angeles Lakers for the league’s second-best record, and are starting to create some space between them and the three through six seeds in the Eastern Conference.
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
The Raptors pulled out two one-point victories last week over the Pacers and Nets to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games. They continue to win despite consistent injuries to key players, the latest of which sidelined Kyle Lowry with whiplash. The All-Star break will help them rest up and get healthy to make a late-season push for the top playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference.
Whiplash reads as such a dramatic injury in a sports context, and it helps add to the heroics of this paragraph.
It also basically summarizes my lede to this article, so why not move forward and see what Colin Ward-Henninger has to say on CBS Sports?
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
What else can you say about these Raptors? They’ve won 14 straight games and are now just two games back of the Lakers in the loss column for the second-best record in the NBA. Two of this week’s wins were particularly exciting, as they pulled out one-point victories over the Pacers and Nets. If you’re not watching the Raptors right now, you’re making a big mistake.
Take that, LeBron! The Raptors climb above the Lakers in the CBS poll and also observe a pair of very exciting wins. We also echo Colin in encouraging you to watch more Toronto games, especially tonight against a porous Minnesota defence. Please watch us shine.
On to Zach Harper at The Athletic, whose theme of the week is post-trade deadline thoughts on each team. Not everyone made trades, though, so not everyone fit the context. The Raptors are one such team.
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
The Raptors forgot how to lose basketball games. I want to hop in the DeLorean and head all the way back to Jan. 12, when the San Antonio Spurs beat them in Toronto. Pascal Siakam missed a desperation 3-pointer from 34 feet as time expired as the Spurs took them down by one point that night. Toronto fell to 25-14 on the season, which was still a highly respectable record. At the time, we were marveling at the resiliency of the Raptors. They lost who they lost and they were still highly competitive in the thick of the Eastern Conference. The Raptors sat fourth in the East by a half-game over the Philadelphia 76ers and had a +5.1 net rating (sixth in the NBA). Everything was going better than most expected.
Since then, they’ve rattled off 14 straight victories. Their previous franchise record had been done twice with 11 straight wins. They’re scoring an absurd 118.3 points per 100 possessions. That would be good for the greatest offensive rating in NBA history extrapolated over the course of a full season. In fact, the Dallas Mavericks currently have the best offense in NBA history and this is 2.2 points per 100 possessions better than what Dallas has done. Toronto has a net rating of +10.5 per 100 possessions during this streak, which is better than double what it was previously doing. The scary thing about the Raptors during this stretch? Siakam has been fine. He hasn’t been great by any means. He could do a lot more. And this team is shredding the league right now. It’s firmly in the 2-seed by a couple of games and looking like a team capable of getting back to the Finals.
The stats dive here is really impressive. It matches up well with the joy of watching Raptors games these days too — it’s not one superstar leading a team, it’s different guys standing out every night as the team finds every which way to win.
Finally, we go to Dr. John Schuhmann at NBA.com, last week’s lone hold out for putting the Raptors in the top three. Has he changed his tune?
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 5)
The Raptors continue to be shorthanded (Kyle Lowry missed a game on Saturday when he got lost in Serge Ibaka’s scarf), and their second-ranked defense has slipped a little without Marc Gasol. They had two of their three worst defensive performances of the season last week, allowing the Pacers and Nets to score more than 120 points per 100 possessions at Scotiabank Arena.
But the winning streak, now at 14 games, remains alive. The champs forced three straight Indiana turnovers over an 11-0 run to close that win on Wednesday and they got the one stop they needed after losing an 18-point lead to Brooklyn on Saturday. Eight of their 14 wins on the streak have been within five points in the last five minutes, and both the Raptors (20-for-39) and their opponents (18-for-33) have shot better than 50% in the clutch over these four weeks.
The Raps are just one bucket from shooting 50% overall (they’re 621-for-1,244) over the course of the winning streak. They’ve seen a bigger improvement from their first 39 games in the paint, where the scarf artist has shot 68% over the 14 games. He’s one of six players (a pair of former Raptors are also in the group) who have shot 70% or better on at least 100 shots in the restricted area and 45% or better on at least 100 shots elsewhere in the paint.
And there it is! While a bad scarf joke was a bit of a distraction here, we get the usual statistical goodies from Schuhmann — and yes, it is notable that the Raptors have slipped a bit on the defensive end despite continuing the streak.
So, have we finally reached nirvana? Only the poll can answer.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 17 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
Yes, I feel a tingling sensation of happiness
No, we need a dose of reality... look at these close games
Yes, this was what I expected as a basketball scholar
No, and we’ll prove it against the Bucks dammit