Title: HOW THE RAPTORS MATCH UP AGAINST POTENTIAL FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF OPPONENTS
Date: March 21, 2017
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice, I looked at potential Eastern Conference seeding and what certain matchups would mean for the Raptors.
Reeling from one of their worst losses of the season on Thursday, the Toronto Raptors laid the gauntlet down to each other in a players-only meeting. The effort level against the Oklahoma City Thunder was unacceptable, and the team strongly felt its better than what it showed that game. As newfound voice of the locker room P.J. Tucker told media afterward, though, the time for talking was over, with the schedule dwindling and the Raptors losing runway to get things sorted out before the postseason.
Would you argue with Tucker? It appears the Raptors don’t want to, either, responding with a gutty win in Detroit on Friday and then one of their most complete victories of the year on Sunday, a 116-91 drubbing of a solid Indiana Pacers outfit. Two games later, the Thunder seem like a thing of the distant past. The Raptors have won two in a row, they’ve done it with defense—they’re up to third in defensive efficiency since the All-Star break—and they’ve snapped out of their cold shooting stretch, at least for now.
Those are important wins, too. The Raptors’ schedule is easier by raw strength of schedule the rest of the way, but they face a steady stream of teams fighting for their playoff lives. Meanwhile, the Raptors themselves are focused not just on securing home-court advantage in the first round, but potentially catching up with Washington for the third seed and the chance to avoid the Cavaliers until the Eastern Conference finals, should all go well in the postseason.
The Raptors remain in fourth, and they’ve now built a four-game cushion for home court.