The Toronto Raptors Are On A Mission, But Can They Make A Playoff Run?

The Toronto Raptors entered this season as a trendy sleeper pick in more than a few preseason ranking lists but struggled mightily out of the gate battling an assortment of injuries and trade rumors.

The Raptors started the season 5-19 and whispers even began starting to question the long term future of head coach Dwane Casey with the organization. But, over the past two weeks the Raptors have reeled off seven victories versus just one defeat and now find themselves just four games behind the reeling Boston Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Point guard Kyle Lowry says the team’s chemistry has improved a great deal since the start of the season and is one of the reasons the Raptors have been able to win at a high clip as of late.

“Honestly, just togetherness,” Lowry told HOOPSWORLD. “You see everyone cheering for each other, everyone jumping up and down. It works easy, everyone has confidence in everyone’s abilities, there is no one guy trying to do it all. When it’s like that and you have a dynamic like that, it’s just a team effort. You got 13-15 guys on one string.”

The team’s leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, says the early losing left a bitter taste circulating in the locker room and guys are now hungry to prove how good the team can ultimately become.

“I think everybody on this team is just hungry,” DeRozan said. “We had a lot of bad luck earlier in the season with injuries and close games we should have won. Everybody is just hungry, it’s desperation time. So every time we step out on the court, we’re going to play like it’s our last game.”

During the Raptors’ current hot streak they’ve secured wins over Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando (2) and New Orleans.

Lowry feels the team has displayed a huge amount of perseverance after overcoming a horrid start and the guard the team is mentally prepared to continue playing consistent basketball – night in and night out.

“We struggled to start the season,” Lowry said. “A lot of things didn’t go our way, lost a lot of close games and everything wasn’t the greatest. But good teams string it together and we’re trying to become a good team and string them together. If we lose one, bounce back and get the next one and play like we didn’t lose the night before.”

DeRozan agreed with Lowry’s assessment and noted the team’s confidence levels are at an all-time high in the locker room.

“It’s definitely high,” DeRozan said of his teammates’ confidence. “When we’re sharing the ball and talking on both ends, we tend to make it fun. Once we make the game fun, everybody’s confidence level gets high and we feel like we can’t be stopped.

The Raptors will start a six game home stand on January 2 with Portland, Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Milwaukee traveling to the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors currently own a 7-5 record at home, while struggling on the road at 4-15.

This home stand will go a long way in determining if the Raptors can rebound and make a strong playoff push.

Read more at http://www.hoopsworld.com/nba-sunday...EUDFDf1VKIU.99

I don't think the playoffs are going to happen but I do feel warm and fuzzy moving forward for a number of reasons:

1) Raps have a long term C secured in JV who will take time but hardest position in the league is locked up,
2) Raps have 2nd hardest position in the league secured with Lowry who is extremely talented and appears to have had an awakening,
3) Appears the Bargnani era will soon be ending,
4) Ross' development,
5) The removal of Fields' claw and emergence of the contributions he can make,
6) The trade deadline is 7 weeks away and all signals point to Bargnani being sent packing,
7) Casey-ball lives,
8) A sense of unity on the team.


Causes for concern:

1) I have little to no faith left in BC,
2) I am very optimistic about Lowry but I'm not going to lie I have doubts - not of his abilities but how he transfers them in to game situations,
3) Bargnani is not gone yet,
4) a low ceiling of this team's potential.


The Raps are currently 11th in the east:
  • 1 game back of Orlando for 10th,
  • 3 games back of Philly for 9th,
  • 4 games back of 8th seed.


Given the horrendous start, finishing 9th would be pretty damn good in my opinion.



So, what are your:
  1. Reasons for optimism?
  2. Causes for concern?
  3. indicator of success given horrendous start?