Raptors fans should know not to get too excited here, but also: Toronto just ripped through two wins against the Milwaukee Bucks, and another against the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers. They also squeezed in a shorthanded, back-to-back win against the listing Timberwolves for good measure — landing them on a 4-0 week. In the big picture, who knows if these wins will even mean anything — or if we’ll even remember them in six months — but right now? My goodness, it feels fantastic to be a Raptors fan.
What’s most encouraging here overall is Toronto’s execution. Despite having obvious talent deficits against the Sixers and Bucks, the Raptors stuck to their gameplan and had counters ready for everything those teams tried to do. On top of that, their core players are playing at a level they should be — and sometimes even exceeding that. And just as an added bonus, it now feels like coach Nick Nurse has a reasonable handle on how best to use his full rotation of players. The Raptors are now at 16-15 and out of the hole they dug themselves in to start the year. It just feels dang good.
But of course, we turn now to the Power Ranking People to see how they feel about the Raptors’ fortunes over the past week. To start the roll call, we turn first to Tim Bontemps at ESPN to get us going:
14. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 17)
After a perfect week against fellow East rivals the 76ers and the Bucks (twice), the Raptors have officially climbed over .500 after their disastrous 2-8 start. Since then, the Raptors have gone 14-7, good for the second-best record in the East (behind Brooklyn’s 15-6). Suddenly, Toronto is a team to be reckoned with in the East once again.
That about sums it up: even with a disappointing loss here and there since that 2-8 start, the Raptors have been much, much better — and have in fact been one of the better teams in the East. (It’s worth noting here that they’ve beaten the Nets too with Kevin Durant in the lineup — sort of.) Are the Raptors better than the Bucks, Sixers, and Nets? Maybe, maybe not, but they don’t look like an easy out anymore.
Next up, the Athletic’s Zach Harper has his take ready to go too:
9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 16)
Will the Toronto Raptors get a representative at All-Star Weekend? Maybe Kyle Lowry gets in on reputation from the coaches. He’s had a fine year, but I’m not sure you can sell a lot of people that he’s been better than Zach LaVine or Trae Young. Fred VanVleet has been really good, but he’s still shooting just 40.8 percent from the field. Pascal Siakam had a very slow start, and his numbers don’t quite warrant selection. However, it’s much easier to make it in the frontcourt than as a guard, so maybe he’ll have a shot. Just feels weird that the Raptors may not get a guy in the game.
Why are they ranked here? Perfect week, including two big wins over Milwaukee and one big win over Philly. They fly up the rankings because of it.
Quite frankly, I’m fine if the Raptors don’t send any players to Atlanta for the All-Star Game — even if the plaudits are nice and do help burnish each player’s resume in the league. This sums up, though, how Toronto has been going: the key players (Lowry, Siakam, VanVleet) are indeed key, but it’s been a bit more of a team effort this time around so far.
Now we get to the real meat of today’s post, the take from Dr. John Schuhmann at NBA dot com:
12. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 19)
Just like that, the Raptors have a winning record and are in fifth place in the East. It didn’t come easy, though. Their four-game winning streak includes two wins over the Bucks and a comeback from 13-points down in the third quarter against the Sixers. OG Anunoby (who returned from a 10-game absence on Tuesday) and Kyle Lowry were on the floor together for just 14 minutes before Lowry turned his ankle. The Raptors are now 5-3 against the other four East teams with winning records and 6-0 in games Lowry has missed, with Norman Powell having averaged 22.7 points on an effective field goal percentage of 64% over the six games.
Playing Pascal Siakam at center did not work against Joel Embiid on Sunday, when the Raptors were outscored by 11 points in a little more than seven minutes with Siakam on the floor without Aron Baynes or Chris Boucher. But it has otherwise been a good look; Prior to Sunday, Toronto had outscored its opponents by almost 17 points per 100 possessions in 154 minutes with Siakam at the five, with especially good numbers (99.7 points allowed per 100) on defense.
They’ve got another date with Embiid on Tuesday before wrapping up their second five-games-in-seven-nights stretch of the pre-break schedule in Miami.
How about that, the Raptors last season were aces against the bottom-feeding teams of the league and struggled against the conference’s top teams. This year, they’ve played up to their opponents a bit more, which has caught many (including me) unawares. Can this hold up for the rest of the year — can it improve? Well, let’s see when Lowry gets back.
Bringing up the rear once again, here comes Colin Ward-Henninger at CBS Sports:
7. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 15)
Well we knew the Raptors would eventually go on a run, and it started this week with four wins, including two in Milwaukee and one over the Sixers. Even more impressive is that Toronto did it with Kyle Lowry only playing 22 total minutes this week due to an ankle injury and OG Anunoby missing two games. Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam stepped up as expected, and Norman Powell came through with 29- and 30-point efforts against the Bucks and Wolves. The Raptors’ defense is flying around the court, making them a very dangerous team.
A very dangerous team indeed! What’s more to say? In that spirit, you know what time it is...
Now, onto the poll.
Are the Raptors being ranked fairly in Week 9 of the Power Rankings?
This poll is closed
No, the Raptors are back, baby!!!
Yes, now to keep it going into the All-Star break
No, and yeah, I could use a break
Yes, there’s something to be said that this five-man unit is really cool. Would love to see more of them!