Title: FIVE LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE RAPTORS’ DAUNTING CAVS, WARRIORS BACK-TO-BACK
Date: November 17, 2016
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice Canada, I looked at five lessons the Raptors can take forward with them from the back-to-back from hell.
The Toronto Raptors dropped both ends of the most impossible back-to-back imaginable. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, in consecutive days, is some Blofeld-level villainy from the schedule-makers. It is difficult to imagine a tougher 28-hour stretch that wouldn’t have raised too giant a red flag for the league’s schedule-makers—visiting the defending champions one night and returning home to host the title favorites is scenario enough for even the most legendary of outfits. That the Raptors are merely very good rather than historically so rendered them an underdog in each installment.
As far as 0-2 stretches go, this was on the better end of the spectrum. No, the Raptors didn’t come away with an upset in either game, and the franchise has grown past the point of moral victories (those, I’m told, are for minor-league coaches). Losing to the two best teams in the league by a total of 10 points, though, is indicative of a good team, confirming the Raptors’ perch as a near-contender firmly entrenched in the league’s second tier. That’s a great place to be given where the franchise has been in the past, and the Raptors showed well in affirming themselves a semi-serious threat (or at least, an annoyance) to the league’s elite on a given night.
For perspective on how losing these two games by a combined 10 points informs the perceived quality of the Raptors, consider Basketball Reference’s Adjusted Net Rating, which controls margin of victory for strength of opponent. Losing any two games at this point in the year will hurt given the limited sample of games, but the Raptors fell only from fifth to eighth, dropping from an adjusted net rating of 6.46 to 5.25. The losses will probably look even better in retrospect later, when the Cavaliers and Warriors assume their places closer to the top of the rankings. There’s a lot of noise so early on, but the message is pretty clear: Playing the league’s elite teams tough is a good indicator of perceived quality, which is a good indicator of future success.