Toronto Raptors Roundup: Raps Avoid Playing Down to Competition in Perfect Week

Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors had another strong week, going 3-0 against some lowly competition. But it might be the professional approach the team displayed, rather than the three wins, that has Raptors fans happy.

You’d be forgiven if you’d looked at the schedule and expected the Raptors to play down to their competition and let one slip away this past week. The Knicks and the Bulls combined have 20 fewer wins than the Toronto Raptors do so far this season.

Toronto approached this week with a level of professionalism and focus that was extremely encouraging for Raptors fans.

The Raps playing shorthanded in two of the three games this week, never took their foot off the pedal and took care of business. They managed to straddle that fine line of rest vs. rust this week and get guys some significant minutes and time off at the same time. Nick Nurse also got to tinker with his line-up and experiment with some different match-ups that he might want to employ come playoff time. The Ibaka/Gasol shared start against the Bulls was one such example of that.

Expect Nurse and the Raptors organization to continue to get guys much-needed rest and time off the rest of the way as the Raptors play out the last week and a half of the season. Here’s a closer look at each game.

Games Recap

Chicago at Toronto

In what might be turning out to be the most pleasant developments of late, Norman Powell continued to show strong play, scoring 20 points. He shot eight for ten from the field including going four for five from deep.

The Raptors jumped out to an eight point first quarter lead and extended it, going up by 15 at halftime. The score got a bit closer in the second half but the game was never in doubt as the Raps came away with the 112-103 victory.

Unfortunately for the Raps, newly acquired guard Jeremy Lin continued to struggle and may be forcing his way out of the playoff rotation. He only managed to score two points on this night on 1-9 shooting. Nick Nurse was going to have to make a decision concerning minute allocation in the next week or so and someone was probably going to lose some playing time. Lin might just be helping Nurse make that decision a little earlier than expected.

Toronto at New York

Pascal Siakam scored 31 points as the Raptors defeated the New York Knicks for the second time in two weeks, winning 117-92 on Thursday to sweep the season series.

The Raptors would be without Leonard and Anunoby on this night, giving each some much-needed rest in preparation for the real games due to start in a few weeks.

Siakam was dynamite on this night, shooting 11 for 19, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists, finishing a +/- of +31.

The Raptors had five other players in double-digit scoring including Danny Green who added 15 points. Green continues his lights-out three-point shooting, hitting five for eight from deep. The Raptors will need his hot shooting from downtown as they head into the playoffs.

Toronto at Chicago

The Raptors were undermanned Saturday night but had little trouble defeating the Chicago Bulls 124-101. Toronto was missing Leonard, Anunoby and Siakam but it mattered not as they got big performances from Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet in the victory.

Ibaka had 23 points and 12 rebounds getting the start alongside Marc Gasol. It was the first start the two have shared and it might be an experiment Nick Nurse goes back to based on the limited success he saw on this night.

VanVleet also scored 23, continuing his stellar play since returning from a hand injury that kept him out for an extended period of time. Steady Freddy was +30 on the night and continues to show why he might be an x-factor in any upcoming playoff match-up.

The Raptors managed to close out the game and avoid playing down to the level of a weak and injured opponent. They never trailed in the game and managed to pull out the double-digit victory. They are now at 54 wins on the season heading into the final five games of the season.

The Week Ahead

Orlando at Toronto

The Raptors will not get a break in this second to last week of the season as they face off against the four teams fighting for the last spot in the playoff race beginning with the Orlando Magic. The Magic have given the Raps fits this year, winning two of three. The Magic currently sit in the ninth spot, a half game back of Miami, but are optimistic that they can make into the post-season. “We’ve got a lot of talent,” Gordon said. “We have faith in ourselves. That’s the only thing you need. Obviously you want your coaching staff and fan base behind you, but when you have faith in yourself, that’s all you need.”

Toronto at Brooklyn

The Nets sit one game above .500 and a half game up on Miami in the seventh spot. With only five games remaining on their schedule (as of Sunday), the Nets will have to win more than they lose if they want to stay ahead of the fray for the final spot. But their focus may be on catching the Pistons for the sixth spot (half game back) and avoid a Milwaukee or Toronto first round match-up. For Toronto, the potential of a first round match-up with Brooklyn will be front and centre. With the Nets fighting for playoff positioning, expect Raptors brass to be scouting the Nets carefully as well as avoiding giving away too much of their own playbook.

Toronto at Charlotte

The Hornets may have the biggest rock to push up the mountain, sitting two and half games back of the eight spot but should still come out fighting, as they did in their previous match-up against the Raptors. The Hornets had seven players in double digits in their one point victory against Toronto last week.

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Miami at Toronto

The Heat currently sit in the eight spot but are playing like a team possessed, winning seven of their last ten. The Heat have the toughest remaining schedule of the playoff contenders however, facing off against the Celtics, Sixers and Raptors. They’ll have to keep their winning ways if they hope to keep their playoff hopes alive and Dwayne Wade’s career going for just a while longer.