Previewing key Raptors matchups in the second half of the season

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 14: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 14: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

With the second half of the season coming up, the Toronto Raptors are currently sitting in the 7th seed six games back from contenders like the Bulls and Heat. In a general sense, Nick Nurse has done a fine job of coaching this season.

Before the NBA All-Star break, where Fred VanVleet made his first all-star appearance, the squad went 8-2 in the last 10 games. During this streak, they beat the Heat twice (including a triple OT thriller) and the Bulls once. They proved that they can hang with anyone on any given night.

To avoid the play-in tournament, Toronto will have to rank sixth or higher in the East. The rival Celtics occupy that spot right now after they went on a nine-game winning streak of their own. The top 10 seeds in the East are extremely close right now, meaning that any team could slide into a playoff spot with a spectacular second half of the season.

After the second half of the year didn’t get started off in the best way thanks to their absolute demolition at the hands of the Hornets, the Raptors need to get back on track before these games come up on the schedule.

Looking at some pivotal Toronto Raptors second-half matchups.

Toronto Raptors vs Brooklyn Nets

The Nets made the biggest splash at the trade deadline by trading away James Harden to acquire Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond. This not only improves their defense, but also bolsters the depth Brooklyn has needed for a while.

The Raptors play the Brooklyn Nets back-to-back to end February and begin March. This comes at a time when Brooklyn is finally starting to get back on track after years

Simmons might decide to return during these games. Rumors of the New York vaccine mandates being lifted could allow Kyrie Irving to eventually play in home games. Former Raptor Goran Dragic has signed with the Nets, and he may be facing Toronto for the first time after getting bought out.

The Nets are right behind the Raptors, so these two back-to-back games are key to widening the gap in standings. Two wins from this showdown against the Nets could move the Raptors up the pecking order depending on what the other six teams in front of them do

Toronto Raptors vs L.A. teams

Both Los Angeles teams are in the eighth and ninth seed, respectively, after facing major injuries. The Lakers have rarely fielded a fully healthy team, while Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and new addition Norman Powell are both currently injured for the Clippers.

The Raptors play the Lakers and Clippers a total of three times in six days in March. With the race in the East being as tight as ever, winning three times against these teams could change whether the Raptors are in a playoff or play-in spot at the end of the season.

Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers, like the Nets, were a part of the biggest trade at the trade deadline. The Sixers acquired James Harden and Paul Millsap. A superstar duo of Joel Embiid and Harden with Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey as supporting pieces is lethal on paper.

Toronto plays the Sixers in late March and near the end of the season. This will be a good test for the Raptors, as these games will mimic playoff matchups against a potential opponent.

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