Even though they are second in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors haven’t made believers out of anybody. The Raps are projected to win a third-straight Atlantic division title and finish the year with 52 wins. Even still though, after their season and playoff performances of the past two years, nobody has been fooled just yet. If the Raptors want to compete with the likes of the Cavaliers, Spurs and Warriors, they’re going to have to turn it up. They’re going to have to start winning tough games in telling fashion.
Their most convincing victory of the year thus far, was over the Philadelphia 76ers by 20 points. That is definitely a nice win, but everybody beats the Sixers by that margin. When it comes to the strong teams around the league, the Raps have either lost or etched out a win by the skin of their teeth. This trend makes people remember quickly.
In 2014, the Raptors were the hottest team entering the playoffs and lost in the Quarterfinals to the Brooklyn Nets in seven games. The following year, the Raps had their division clinched early and were swept by the Washington Wizards in the opening round. Now in 2016, Toronto is again one of the top dogs heading for the postseason. In fact, basketball betting site TopBet gives the Raptors +3,300 odds to win their first NBA championship. Meaning that despite sitting second in the East, the team is actually the eighth favorite to take the title.
Before the March stretch of the season, which many refer to as the “home stretch”, the Raps have dates with Los Angeles Clippers, the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. If they truly want to start turning some heads, these games will be critical. Especially that date against the Cavs on February 26th. If they can pick up enough steam through the month and take out the Eastern favorite, they’ll be able to find the respect that they may or may not deserve.
It’s the worst cliché in broadcast journalism, but “only time will tell”. The next month will tell the story of the season for the Toronto Raptors.