If you’ll allow me a moment of indulgence here, I want to comment on what a weird occurence this is. As you read this latest Power Ranking Poll column, it is August 10th, which just happens to be my birthday. In and of itself, who cares about that milestone — still it will remain a strange fact that I am writing this column today at all, and that there is indeed a Raptors game later tonight. This may never happen again in my lifetime (here’s hoping, anyway).
Yes, the restarted NBA has put us all in a weird space. Two thirds of the league is in Florida, the regular season — such as it is — is over in a mere few days, and the Raptors are about the embark on a serious mission to defend their 2019 NBA title. It’s worth mentioning also that this will likely be the final Power Rankings Poll of the 2019-20 season. The post-season begins on August 17 — another first.
All of this is to say, let’s review what the Power Rankings have in store for the Raptors, now that they’re 4-1 and lost in a much anticipated showdown with the Celtics. Are they treated fairly? Let’s find out.
First up, we tag Tim Bontemps from ESPN for his astute take:
2. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 4)
Despite an ugly performance against the Celtics on Friday, the Raptors are now 4-1 inside the bubble and have clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference for a second straight season. The Raptors will be hoping for this year’s playoffs — albeit under different circumstances — to play out the same way last year’s did. Toronto will play Brooklyn in the first round when playoffs begin early next week.
Nothing to argue with here. Let’s just be glad we don’t have to sit through another opening round series against the Magic.
Next, what does the esteemed Zach Harper of The Athletic say about the Raptors this week?
1. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)
Are they in a good spot? Despite the Boston Celtics demolishing them this week, the Toronto Raptors are in a great spot. The Raptors continue to build momentum from a conversation standpoint when it comes to the team that might represent the Eastern Conference when it comes to the NBA Finals in the bubble. The defending champions are no longer doubted. Their coach has beyond proven himself in his second season (which is easier to do when you won the championship in your first season). The remaining players from the title run over a year ago are locked in and never seem to panic. They present tons of problems for Milwaukee, Miami and the lot. However, as confident as this team is, there are plenty of people wondering if they match up well enough with Boston. That’s a problem when they face the Celtics in the second round.
They’re locked in with a first-round matchup: Brooklyn Nets. The Raptors don’t really have to worry here. As long as they stay healthy, Toronto will most likely sweep its first-round matchup. If Brooklyn were healthy (not even talking Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving), then the Nets would have a better chance of making the series tough. The Raptors are penciled in for the second-round.
Another number one from Zach, and he’s not wrong to say so — even with, yes, that Celtics loss hanging over Toronto’s head. In truth, a series against Boston was always going to be something of a toss-up. The Raptors can win, but I’d be lying if I didn’t add: so can the Celtics. I realize this isn’t exactly astute analysis, but this is why they play the games. (Again, let’s just be thankful for a Raptors-Nets series and then we’ll see what happens.)
Third, we go to Dr. John Schuhmann, from NBA dot com, who remains unmoved:
3. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 3)
The Raptors clinched both the 2 seed in the East and their fifth straight 50-win season with a victory over the Grizzlies on Sunday. They’ve had the No. 1 restart defense (99.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) by a healthy margin, ranking in the top six in each of the four factors on defense over these 11 days of games.
The offense hasn’t been great. Only the Lakers have scored fewer points per 100 possessions than the champs (102.1) in the restart, and things were particularly ugly against Boston on Friday. The Raps never led, they trailed by 40, and they scored just 57 points on 77 possessions (shooting 4-for-29 from outside the paint) through the first three quarters. There are reasons on both ends of the floor — a potent, off-the-dribble offense and capable defenders to slow down Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam — to believe that Boston is a tough matchup for the champs.
But before they can worry about the Celtics, the Raptors will have to deal with a feisty Brooklyn team in the first round. Toronto went 3-1 in the season series, though it was the Nets that ended the Raps’ 15-game winning streak in the last game before the All-Star break.
I say unmoved because, well, it appears as though nothing can dislodge the Bucks and Lakers as the top two teams to beat in the eyes of the NBA mothership. In truth, that’s not unfair. On paper (and in practice too), the Bucks should be favoured. And as per usual, it is difficult to bet against a LeBron James team, period. Still, the Raptors continue to measure up well against both (though tonight’s Bucks game might signal something else, one way or the other).
And finally, we turn it over to Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports, who likely does not think about us here at HQ at all:
1. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 1)
The Raptors picked up three more wins this week, but the blowout loss to the Celtics is somewhat concerning given their potential second-round playoff matchup. Toronto continues its spread attack on offense with five players averaging double-figure points this week, and the defense has been relentless outside of a couple of quarters against Boston. The Raptors have looked the best out of any of the league’s top teams in the restart.
Maybe coach Nick Nurse will have all kinds of tricks for the Celtics in that persumptive second round series. Has anyone thought about that? Also: is it me or was this the year the Raptors would have grabbed 60 wins? I think so — on both counts!
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 3 of the restarted Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, I want #1s across the board and will not rest until I see them
Yes, Toronto has shown out, and it still looks like they have another gear for the playoffs
No, I’ll just sit here with my asterisk, one way or the other [ominous laugh]
Yes, but don’t ask me to explain