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Raptors Morphing Into Warriors East?

Written By: Kent Tukeli

Toronto’s second-biggest comeback in franchise history was as unnecessary as it was entertaining. No competitive reason exists for the Raptors to trail 22 against a 76ers rotation without Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick, but missed shots and coverage add up fast. You would have received excellent odds from Sports Interaction had you backed the Raptors to come all the way back to win.

So the Raptors calmly ripped a Warrior-esque run to pull alongside the 76ers, before Lowry’s four-point play deflated the Philly faithful for good. Toronto would win by five, powered by a playstyle which bears an uncanny resemblance to Golden State.

DeRozan Becoming Nearly Unguardable

DeRozan’s wizardry of smooth jumpers and post shimmies make DeMar a tough assignment for most NBA guards. If recent proclivity from beyond the arc continues, DeRozan will turn into an unguardable menace.

Opponents typically sag when DeMar holds the ball at the perimeter, aware of his underwhelming long-range efficiency. Over the past week, he’s found his three-point stroke, hitting 10-16 for an outrageous .625 3P%. It’s not coincidental that DeMar dropped a career-high 45 on the 76ers after scoring 28 in 29 minutes against the Hornets.

Certainly, DeRozan won’t continue shooting threes better than a .600 clip. But if he’s able to hit enough bombs to pull defenders further from the basket, DeMar will create more room for himself to drive, draw fouls and create open looks for his teammates.

Good luck to the rest of the east if DeRozan’s permanently extended his range.

Delon Wright Unlocks Lineup Depth

The full-court tenacity of Delon Wright helped swing the momentum in the third quarter of the comeback. When he entered the game, Wright quickly lifted the rotation by absorbing charges, hitting threes and igniting production from his teammates.

While Delon sat with a shoulder ailment, the bench mob didn’t produce the same punch contributed earlier in the season. Now that he’s back, Toronto enjoys an obvious boost in rotation depth.

In theory, Delon could play a similar role as Igoudala, unlocking Toronto’s version of a “death lineup”. Lowry, DeRozan, Wright, Anunoby and Ibaka create the type of configuration which provides three-point shooting at every position, without sacrificing too much on the defensive end.

Nobody’s suggesting the Raptors possess the type of depth and deadliness inherent in Golden State’s game, but the ability to field a Warriors-lite type of lineup will create a serious challenge to eastern competitors – especially if DeRozan and Anunoby continue hitting threes at an above average rate.

Toronto Raptors Christmas Holiday Feast

76ers at Raptors – December 23rd

With 17 wins over their last 18 meetings against the 76ers, Toronto welcomes Philly back to their nest for another matchup. Regardless of Embiid’s status, the 76ers will have a tough time overcoming the Raptors momentum. Philadelphia doesn’t play well in Canada, so expect a hefty point spread and a Raptors victory.

Raptors at Mavericks – Boxing Day

Toronto’s won four in a row against the Mavericks, a team in the middle of a rebuild. Dallas plays well in Texas, creating a few surprising results, including victories against the Thunder, Nuggets and Pistons. The Raptors can’t take this one for granted and win, even if they’ll be heavily favored by sportsbooks.

Raptors at Thunder – December 27

This will be the Raptors second road game in two days, often referred to as a “schedule loss”. Even worse for the Raps, Oklahoma City’s beginning to show signs of meshing into a cohesive unit after struggling to balance a trio of A-type personalities. Toronto will have the opportunity to transcend a difficult scenario and gut out a statement win.

Hawks at Raptors – December 29

The worst team in the NBA visits the North as the Raptors return home from a quick, two-game road trip. Toronto will be able to eviscerate Atlanta at the ACC after beating the Hawks by a 34-point margin in Georgia. Should be one of the easiest point spreads of the season.

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