Raptors Report! Toronto Remains a Fringe Contender Despite Record
Toronto Still Hasn't Shed Its "Pretender" Status
At 20-8, the Raptors are a top-five team in the NBA even above the mighty San Antonio Spurs. They are only a game-and-a-half behind Cleveland for the second spot in the East. They're ranked in the top-six in offensive rating (fourth), defensive rating (fifth), net rating (3rd), and true shooting percentage (fifth). They have the best home record (11-1) in the league. In short, the Raptors are killing it!
The Raptors installed a new offence and it has worked wonders as the stats show. But despite establishing themselves as one of the NBA's best teams, few still consider the Raptors as legitimate title contenders. The Raptors are +400 to win the division from Boston and are +900 (a distant third) to win the Eastern Conference and make their first trip to the Finals and are +2800 (seventh) to win it all.
When the struggling Thunder (+1400) and shorthanded Spurs (+1600) have better championship odds, you know both oddsmakers and the public don't trust the Raptors at all.
A lot of the snobbery against Toronto is mostly attributed to their playoff performances. Despite advancing past the first round for two straight playoffs, Toronto was knocked out quite easily by the Cavaliers both times.
The Raptors struggled to get past Indiana and an injury-plagued Miami team in 2016 and suffered consecutive first-round exits despite being a higher seed. The Raptors exorcised their playoffs ghosts with the last two postseasons but are still a rung below the Cavaliers and probably the Celtics.
If Toronto is to change anyone's perspective, they'll have to beat the teams that matter. Running up scores and extending winning streaks against the subpar Eastern Conference does little for their reputation.
With 28 games under their belt, Toronto has a 7-6 record against teams with a record above .500 and are 1-2 against the Western Conference's top-three teams of Houston, Golden State, and San Antonio, all on the road. Toronto hasn't played Cleveland yet and only has one meeting with Boston, which they lost by a point in TD Garden in a game where Kyrie Irving didn't play.
Toronto's core of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Jonas Valanciunas have been playing together for five full seasons and the team has arguably the most chemistry among the top-five NBA teams. DeRozan and Lowry find ways to help the team even if their shots don't fall and the addition of Serge Ibaka and growth of their young players will only help. But if the Raptors want to shed their "pretenders" status, they'll have to show they are capable of defeating the elites on a regular basis.
Raptors Have a Lot to Prove in 2018
December is a relatively easy month for Toronto as they go up against fringe playoff teams. It's beginning in January when they will have must-watch games. Toronto faces Cleveland and Golden State in back-to-back games in the second week then San Antonio and Minnesota in consecutive games the week after.
- 4-3 - Toronto's record as underdogs this season
- +8.4 - Toronto's net rating this season, third-best in the league behind only Golden State (+12.2) and Houston (+11.4)
- 2-2 - Toronto's against the spread (ATS) record against the four best teams they faced this season; they covered against Golden State and beat Houston but failed against San Antonio and Boston
- 13/15 - over/under results for Toronto during this season
The Raptors are still within striking distance of second place in the East with a 20-8 record. Boston is only 4-3 in its last seven games and an easy Raptors' schedule means they might just catch up with the Celtics, who they remain second to in the Atlantic Division. A quarter of the Raptors' losses have come within the division and with only five games played, Toronto will be seeing a lot of Boston, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn in the next coming months.
When Are The Raptors Playing?
Toronto returns to action tonight at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte at 7:00 PM ET. This will be the Raptors' second of four meetings against the Hornets previously beating them 126-113 last November. Toronto is a slight favourite at -1.5. They are 5-11 ATS when playing in Charlotte while the Hornets are 9-8 when playing at home.
Starting power forward Serge Ibaka is listed as questionable with a slight knee injury while the Hornets are without big man Cody Zeller indefinitely. Backup point guard Delon Wright and forward-center Lucas Noguiera both returned from their injuries earlier and if Ibaka plays, the Raptors will be at full strength.
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