Tonight’s Opponent: The Toronto Raptors
Playoff Status: Currently 4th in the Eastern Conference
Current Streak: Lost one
The Raptors have been the biggest surprise in the Eastern Conference this season, since absolutely no one – not even their own mommas – predicted that this team would be sitting atop the Atlantic Division this late in the season.
Problem is, the Raptors are starting to play more like the team everyone had them pegged for before the season started, and as a result, they are in danger of losing their grasp on the Division crown. The Raptors are only 5-5 in their last ten games, and have seen their lead over the much-improved Brooklyn Nets dwindle to a mere 1.5 games.
Part of Toronto’s problem is that this team went from being road warriors to road meh. Heading into tonight’s game in Boston, Toronto is just 18-17 on the road, not terrible, but nowhere near as impressive as the team looked earlier this season. And your, “Oh, by the way” moment: Toronto has lost 11 consecutive road games against the Celtics.
Could it be that the Raptors’ success got the best of them? That seems to be what head coach Dwane Casey was implying following last night’s 102-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers:
We’re not good enough to scoreboard watch. We’ve got to take care of our business at hand. If we don’t do that, we’re not going to out-talent anybody by just showing up and showing our press clippings. We’ve got to come out and do all the dirty work, be a desperate team, play that way or we struggle.
The Raptors are led by an exciting backcourt made up of DeMar DeRozan (22.7 ppg) and Kyle Lowry (17.6 ppg, 7.8 assists per), both of whom are probably chomping at the bit to prove their mettle against Boston’s tandem of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. Lowry and DeRoazn combined for 35 points and 18 assists last night in Cleveland, but shot a combined 13-for-34 as Toronto fell behind by as many as 21 before rallying to make it close at the end. Look for these two to try and get in a rhythm early to help the Raptors take control of this game early.