The Toronto Raptors lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. On its face, it’s no big deal. Games like that happen, where the better team outplays the lesser team by several metrics but just can’t get their shots to fall. It hasn’t happened often to the Raptors, who are still second-best in the NBA with a 16-2 against record teams below .500 (only the Indiana Pacers, at 10-1, are better).
Zooming out a bit, it marked just the Raptors’ second loss in their last 14 games. That stretch has come against a very easy schedule, sure. Still, even trying to control for that – and recognizing that they have more home games left than any other team thanks to a West-heavy start to the year – the Raptors grade out pretty well. Toronto ranks as follows, when trying to get a big-picture snapshot of the league:
- 4th in Win %, 2nd in the East
- 3rd in average Margin of Victory and 3rd in B-Ref’s SRS, which attempts to control victory margin for opponent quality
- 3rd in ESPN’s BPI metric, which tries to control for opponent quality, rest, and a host of other factors
- 3rd in Blend Rating predictive Win %, which doesn’t yet control for opponent quality but goes off of more than just this year’s results
- 4th in offensive rating, T-5th in defensive rating, 3rd in net rating
The Raptors also have the most games left (50), the most home games left (28), slightly unfavorable rest situations (below-average 11 with a rest advantage, average 13 with a rest disadvantage, league-high 11 back-to-backs), and yet somehow the fewest miles left to travel by a significant margin. In other words, the Raptors have it tough from here, but the comfortable kind of tough light on body clock-disrupting time-zone jumping.
Tuesday’s loss may be magnified here, as an example of the difficulty in rest disadvantages. The Raptors are visiting a rested Oklahoma City Thunder team that’s been on a nice run of late, and Toronto’s three primary weapons played 31-to-36 minutes 25 hours ago. They won’t. and can’t, use that as an excuse, here or for the remainder of the season. That’s life, and to continue to prove themselves as a top-five outfit, the Raptors have to handle exactly this kind of situation against good teams.
The game tips off at 8 on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
As mentioned, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Serge Ibaka worked fairly heavy loads on Tuesday, and while they’re unlikely to be capped here, expect head coach Dwane Casey to continue to buy them extra rest by running with all-bench units that have been struggling some of late. It’s going to take a bit of time to re-configure the rotation now that everyone’s healthy – 11 players played against Dallas, and Lucas Nogueira, a 12th, was set to check in at one point before Casey changed his mind – and to rebuild a chemistry in a second unit that hasn’t played with both C.J. Miles and Delon Wright, perhaps their two most important pieces, together much lately.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
905: Bruno Caboclo, Lorenzo Brown, Alfonzo McKinnie, Malcolm Miller
The Thunder have a fairly set ten-man rotation at this point, one that starts big and skews small in the second unit but provides a great deal of versatility and flexibility for head coach Billy Donovan. They haven’t exactly figured out which lineups are best in which situations, but that doesn’t make them any less of a matchup problem. Specifically, they have Steven Adams, an elite offensive rebounder who can challenge Jonas Valanciunas in his biggest area of strength, they have a ton of length and size to throw at DeMar DeRozan, and they have Russell Westbrook, one of the most uniquely difficult defensive assignments in the NBA, one that figures to be shared by just about every Raptor at some point.
This one should be a lot of fun and fairly educational.
Oh, and there’s obviously the Patrick Patterson Revenge Game factor. Put him down for eight points and five rebounds.
PG: Russell Westbrook, Raymond Felton
SG: Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, Terrance Ferguson
SF: Paul George, Josh Huestis, Kyle Singler
PF: Carmelo Anthony, Jerami Grant, Patrick Patterson
C: Steven Adams, Dakari Johnson, Nick Collison
Oklahoma City: PJ Dozier, Daniel Hamilton
- Voting for the NBA All-Star Game is now open. You can refresh yourself on the voting procedures here. Make sure to hit that hashtag #NBAVote for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (separately – double-player tweets don’t count).
- Raptors 905 are in Delaware for a road game at 7, their last before a three-game New Year’s homestand. Bruno Caboclo and Alfonzo McKinnie remain on assignment as a result. Malcolm Miller and Lorenzo Brown are also with the 905. We’ll have a recap sometime after Raptors-Thunder ends, since the games overlap.
- Friend of the site Ashley Docking got to know Jakob Poeltl as a dinner guest for NBA.com.
- This isn’t really Raptors related, but this piece on Becky Bonner from Howard Beck is terrific. The Raptors might be the organization that winds up producing the biggest competition to Bonner for “first female GM.”
- Eric Koreen and Bruce Arthur joined Zach Lowe for Zach’s annual Holiday Podcast From Toronto.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 27, 2017
On the second night of a road-road back-to-back against a fresh and streaking Thunder team, the Raptors are 3-point underdogs with a 209 over-under. The line opened at Thunder -4 and has since shifted that one point toward Toronto. The over-under has been steady all day after opening very high and quickly being shifted down.