Toronto Raptors: Wild Western Conference and a potentially healthy roster await them in March

Toronto Raptors huddle (Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors huddle (Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry Toronto Raptors (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After a short but dominant February, the Toronto Raptors are hoping to keep up the excellent play and return to full strength in March.

March is the beginning of the end in terms of the NBA regular season. This month is considered to be the stretch run, as some teams are on the edge of the playoffs, fighting to get in. Some of the upper echelon teams in the league have pretty much secured a spot in the postseason (unofficially) and are simply trying to hit their peak at the right time so they can enter the playoffs with momentum.

The Toronto Raptors are one of those upper-echelon teams, having the two-seed in the Eastern Conference and coming off a superb month of February. The team has been on a tear, and that is saying something given that they are still trying to get the team full healthy. The Raptors are essentially a lock for the postseason as they enter the stretch run.

Toronto hopes to continue its success from February into March, but it won’t be easy in the slightest. Eight of their 14 games this month will be against teams that if the season ended today, would be in the playoffs. Another thing to mention is that Toronto will be facing some of the best in the west during the month, which is always a nice challenge for the team up North.

March is shaping up to be a challenging month for the Raptors but in a good way. Facing off against the premier talent in the NBA right before the playoffs is going to put Nick Nurse and his squad in the right mindset as the postseason draws near. What else is in store for the Toronto Raptors in March?

Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Wild Wild West

The Raptors are going to see a lot of Western Conference this month. Out of their 14 games in March, ten of them are against teams in the west. They face the Denver Nuggets (twice) Golden State Warriors (twice), Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers, and Memphis Grizzlies (twice) this month. All of these teams should not be taken lightly, as every one of them has the talent to knock off the Raptors on any given night.

Toronto starts the month on a five-game west coast road trip spanning over nine days. They start the road trip facing the Nuggets, then face the Suns, Warriors, Jazz, and end the road trip with the Kings. Toronto’s defence will surely be challenged in these matchups, as each team has offensive star power.

Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets is going to test the bigs down low, with his bruising post-play and his amazing playmaking abilities. Devin Booker is going to make it tough on the guards and wings, and Deandre Ayton is coming off a very strong month, averaging over 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) in February.

Stephen Curry is planning to return from his broken hand in March. Nick Nurse and his squad know how impactful Curry can be, as he always has the potential to explode offensively. No matter how bad the Warriors are this year, Steph gives them a fighting chance to win. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are a formidable duo in Utah, and De’Aaron Fox is one of the quickest players in the NBA. All levels of the Raptors defence will need to be prepared for this road trip. A lack of focus could result in a big night for any of these players, which could cost Toronto the game. But given how their defence has played recently (even all season), they will have some plan in place to try to neutralize these players.

The Lakers come to Toronto later in the month on March 24, in what will be a nationally televised contest (7:30 p.m. on TNT). The Dinos defeated L.A. when they met early in the year, all the way back in November. They rallied late in the fourth to snag the win, which showed their resolve and perseverance.  Toronto managed to get the victory even though Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka were out with injuries.  That should give the Raptors some confidence, as both Lowry and Ibaka should be available to play this time around (barring any injuries that come up).

However, LeBron James is still performing at an MVP level and the Lakers are playing really well collectively at this point in the season. They are first in the west and were 9-2 during the month of February. It is also well known that James has been a constant nightmare for Toronto throughout his career, and he might be due for a monstrous performance against the Raptors.

Ja Morant will introduce himself to the Raptors at the month’s end. Morant has been sensational in his rookie year and has the Grizzlies in the playoffs at this point. His playmaking ability is mesmerizing, and his athleticism makes him capable of posterizing any defender at any time. It will be interesting to see how Toronto defends him when they finally meet.

The Toronto Raptors are going to be duking it out against the wild west for most of the month. The five-game road trip could wear them down, as they haven’t played that many games away from home since November. The Toronto Raptors will get a gauge of how they stack up against some of the west’s best, just in case they might see them again come late May.