It might seem like the young Toronto Raptors might be hanging on for dear life to avoid falling out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference after a poor West Coast road trip, but a strong homestand has kept them right in the thick of the play-in hunt against Atlantic division rivals like the Knicks, Celtics, and 76ers.
The Raptors stand at 13-15, which is a solid mark considering that all but one player (Svi Mykhailiuk) has missed some time due to injury and their only player older than 30 (Goran Dragic) is away from the team. The East is still open enough where Toronto could charge towards the postseason if they made a run.
While the Brooklyn Nets, winners of two straight against Toronto, are starting to pull away from the rest of the pack, just 2.5 games separate the division’s second-place team in Philadelphia and the last-place squad in New York.
All five Atlantic teams will fight for a spot in the playoffs. The Raptors should feel relatively good about their chances to leapfrog some of their rivals, as they have beaten all three of these teams at least once by leaning on these select traits.
1 advantage the Toronto Raptors have over their division rivals.
Knicks: Backcourt scoring skill
While the slight regression of Julius Randle has been frequently cited as the main reason that the Knicks have been unable to capture their magic from the previous season, but their lack of tremendous perimeter talent. Even the Raptors, who have virtually no functioning reserves, can outscore the Knicks from the perimeter on most nights.
Evan Fournier has been a massive disappointment after signing a four-year contract in the offseason and Kemba Walker has been removed from the rotation completely. Since that move, the Knicks are a robust 2-7, with replacements like Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley both shooting under 40% from the field.
The Toronto Raptors have more quality scorers than the Knicks.
The Raptors, when fully healthy, can lean on either Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, or Gary Trent Jr. to take home wins. While VanVleet recorded a double-double and Trent led the squad with 24 points in a Raptors victory in Toronto, Anunoby’s 36 points in Madison Square Garden shows that this Knicks team is in a major funk right now.
The Raptors might not have a formula built to take on teams like the Nets and Bucks when Giannis Antetokounmpo is active, but they can beat up on the Knicks with ease. Unless Randle and RJ Barrett take a step forward, Toronto might just be able to put some distance between the two teams.