Winners of 47 games last year and an inaugural Atlantic Division title, the Toronto Raptors have now reached a critical point in the 2007-2008 NBA Regular Season.
Currently, in 2nd place in the Atlantic, behind the juggernaut Boston Celtics (31-6), Toronto (21-18 ) is 5th (overall) in the Eastern Conference and, if the Playoffs were to start today, slated for a 1st Round match-up with the Washington Wizards (20-17, 4th place, with Home-court).
Since New Year’s Eve, and prior to last night’s home-court victory against the Kings (15-22), the Raptors had been playing .500 basketball (3-3), losing to the Pistons (29-10, home and away) and the Cavaliers (20-18, home); while winning versus the 76ers (15-24, home), Knicks (12-26, away), and Trail Blazers (23-15, home, Double OT).
But, with this schedule, for the next 6 weeks:
Jan 17 vs Sacramento/15-21
Jan 18 vs Atlanta/17-18
Jan 19 at Philadelphia/15-24 (back-to-back)
Jan 23 at Boston/31-6
Jan 25 vs Milwaukee/16-23
Jan 29 at Washington/20-17
Jan 30 vs Washington/20-17 (back-to-back)
Feb 1 vs LA Lakers/26-11
Feb 4 at Miami/8-29
Feb 8 vs LA Clippers/11-23
Feb 10 at Minnesota/5-32
Feb 11 vs San Antonio/25-11 (back-to-back)
Feb 13 vs New Jersey/18-20
Feb 20 vs Orlando/24-17
Feb 22 at New York/12-26
Feb 24 vs New York/12-26
Feb 25 at Indiana/18-22 (back-to-back)
Feb 27 vs Minnesota/5-32
Feb 29 vs Indiana/18-22
- Only 6 of 19 games against teams with .500+ W-L records
- Only 2 of these 6 games on the road
Toronto now has the chance to separate itself from the other “quasi-contenders” in the Eastern Conference, and solidify its position as a top team (#3 or 4), in this half of the NBA, entering the final third of the Regular Season and driving for Home-court Advantage in the Playoffs.
Overall, the Raptors two most recent games (versus Sacramento and Detroit) are indicative of the way Toronto has performed this season.
In a TYPE 1 GAME … against a lesser team, like Sacramento (15-22)
Toronto dominated several different phases of the game (i.e. FGM, FG%, FTM, FT%, TOT REB, AST, TO and STL).
In a TYPE 2 GAME … against a quality team, like Detroit (29-10)
Although Toronto did a solid job on the boards (TOT REB: TOR/47, DET/41) the Raptors were dominated by the Pistons in almost every other phase of the game (i.e FGM, FG%, 3FGM, 3FG%, FTM, AST, TO, STL, BS and PF).
If the Raptors are going to re-establish themselves this season, as a top team in the East … it will happen during this stretch of 19 games, in conjunction with their commitment to: (i) TEAM REBOUNDING (#23), (ii) SHOOTING HIGH PERCENTAGE SHOTS (#14), (iii) MINIMIZING TURNOVERS (#2), and (iv) GETTING TO THE FREE THROW LINE (#30).
Should the Raptors emerge with a 13-6 (or better) W-L record from these games, they will once again find themselves ensconced in the Top 4 of the Eastern Conference Standings, with a 34-24 W-L record (.586) and be well-equipped to gain home-court advantage for the 1st Round of the Playoffs (at least), with the opportunity to amass a Wins Total (e.g. 48, should they finish 14-10, .583) which exceeds last year’s final number (47).