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Step right into a world through which you recognize nothing concerning the Toronto Raptors and the staff’s earlier efficiency within the postseason. I do know it’s troublesome however bear with me.

If not for these playoff points, the Raptors would feel and look loads like an NBA title contender. Sure, the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets have been the 2 finest groups within the sport and, given latest historical past, the Warriors nonetheless really feel like prohibitive favorites to seize the Larry O’Brien Trophy as soon as once more. Nevertheless, Toronto stands head and shoulders above the remainder of the Japanese Convention when evaluating 2017-2018 efficiency.

Since a pedestrian 11-7 begin, the Raptors are 38-10 and, over that point since Nov. 25, Toronto holds the league’s finest internet ranking at +9.5 factors per 100 possessions. Dwane Casey’s staff additionally shows one of the best defensive ranking within the NBA (102.Three) throughout that that span and, even from a season-long perspective, Canada’s squad is way nearer to to Houston and Golden State in internet ranking (+eight.5) than they’re to any Japanese Convention foe.

After all, life isn’t performed in a vacuum and that’s very true of the NBA Playoffs. Toronto has developed a major fame for futility in postseason settings and, whereas at the least a few of that could be unfair for a franchise that has claimed playoff collection victories in back-to-back seasons, additionally it is earned to some extent. The staff’s star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry has fallen flat within the playoffs, with DeRozan posting a hideous 49.four % true taking pictures mark in 41 profession playoff video games and Lowry faring solely barely higher (51.four % TS) in 52 playoff appearances.

The Raptors did handle to succeed in the Japanese Convention Finals two seasons in the past and, in 2016-2017, the staff received a playoff collection regardless of wholly underwhelming numbers on each side of the ball. With that mentioned, the Raptors are certainly enjoying (at the least barely) completely different basketball this season, with technique that much less favors isolation alternative with an elevated emphasis on ball motion. Past that, Toronto sports activities two (sure, two) of one of the best five-man lineups within the NBA this season, with its beginning unit (headlined by DeRozan and Lowry) outscoring opponents by 12.1 factors per 100 possessions and its full second unit (together with CJ Miles, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright) completely eviscerating opponents to the tune of a +24.9 internet ranking.

When the postseason arrives, the energy of a full bench unit will doubtless evaporate, just because benches shorten and never even the Raptors are more likely to deploy prolonged lineups with out both star guard on the court docket. With that mentioned, there’s each statistical motive to count on that Toronto is completely different this time round and, don’t look now, however the Raptors are far nearer to difficult for homecourt benefit all through the playoffs than they’re from dropping out of the No. 1 spot within the East.

Nothing “issues” for this Raptors staff till the NBA’s “second season” arrives and that’s totally comprehensible. Nonetheless, offering this specific staff with the advantage of the doubt wouldn’t be out of line and, from a daily season standpoint, what Toronto has executed has been extremely spectacular.

The place does Toronto rank when in comparison with the remainder of the league on this week’s Dime Energy Rankings? Full velocity forward.

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1. Houston Rockets (53-14, Final week — 2nd)

It lastly occurred. Granted, the Rockets “wanted” an harm to Steph Curry to ascend right here however, as we’ve been saying weekly, this Houston staff can be worthy of the No. 1 spot in any regular season. They’re extremely good and delivered one other reminder of that on Monday towards the Spurs.

2. Golden State Warriors (51-16, Final week — 1st)

Golden State dropping back-to-back video games, even with out the aforementioned Curry, is extremely noteworthy. It needs to be famous that I might nonetheless choose the Warriors to assert the title offered Curry is on the market however Houston is sweet sufficient to place some stage of uncertainty within the combine.

Three. Toronto Raptors (49-17, Final week — third)

The Raptors have received eight in a row and, as famous above, there’s actually no debate concerning the No. Three spot within the league proper now.

four. Portland Path Blazers (41-26, Final week — sixth)

The staff with the longest lively profitable streak within the NBA is… the Blazers! Portland simply fired off 10 straight victories (together with two over the Warriors) and, with that in thoughts, it’s unattainable to maintain them out of the highest 5 this week. Save the “is that this sustainable?” discuss for later.

5. Utah Jazz (37-30, Final week — 10th)

Utah continues to be absurd. The Jazz have received 18 of 20 video games and, hilariously, that’s solely sufficient for them to (lastly) sneak into the No. eight spot within the West. Anybody paying consideration is aware of that Rudy Gobert and firm are enjoying extremely effectively however, due to the general document, they’re flying beneath the radar.

6. Boston Celtics (46-21, Final week — 4th)

Accidents are mounting for the Celtics and, merely put, Boston isn’t all that scary proper now. Respect must be given for the way the staff has performed over the total physique of labor however there’s motive to be a bit nervous concerning the Celtics for April and Could.

7. Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder (40-29, Final week — 11th)

The Thunder don’t really feel as harmful as they need to however, in the intervening time, they’re enjoying higher basketball. Three straight wins (and 6 of eight) propel Oklahoma Metropolis into this spot they usually face off with the Hawks on Tuesday with a chance to construct on that success.

eight. Indiana Pacers (39-28, Final week — eighth)

Indiana simply received’t fade. Nate McMillan’s bunch has received 5 of six (together with 4 wins over playoff-bound groups) and the lone loss got here to the streaking Jazz. There may be little rhyme or motive for the way the Pacers have amassed this document with their expertise however kudos needs to be given.

9. Denver Nuggets (37-30, Final week — ninth)

If the season ended as we speak, the Nuggets can be out of the playoffs. That could be a merciless actuality for a staff that’s enjoying higher than most however that’s, apparently, life within the Western Convention.

10. Los Angeles Clippers (36-29, Final week — 14th)

The Clips picked a pleasant time to have six residence video games and added 4 wins to their ledger within the course of. Solely the Pelicans have a worse internet ranking amongst West playoff groups and this nonetheless doesn’t really feel actual… however it’s.

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11. New Orleans Pelicans (38-28, Final week — fifth)

New Orleans lastly misplaced a basketball recreation after which they misplaced one other. Clearly, the staff’s efficiency was unsustainable in earlier days however now comes the difficult half. Can the Pelicans maintain their line till mid-April with an eye fixed towards the postseason?

12. Cleveland Cavaliers (38-28, Final week — seventh)

Amazingly, we’re again right here with the Cavs. Cleveland’s misplaced 4 of six video games and, over that point interval, alarm bells have been firing in some ways. Having a playoff dialogue is completely different however, if something, this feels excessive when it comes to present, common season energy rankings.

13. Philadelphia 76ers (36-29, Final week — 15th)

Philly has latest losses to the Warmth and Bucks and, if these went the opposite approach, it might be simpler to have them within the prime 10. As issues at the moment stand, although, the Sixers nonetheless have the third-best internet ranking within the East and, in my thoughts, the next ceiling than the Gordon Hayward-less Celtics.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves (39-29, Final week — 13th)

It isn’t typically staff stops the bleeding of a dropping streak with a win over the Warriors however Minnesota did simply that. The Jimmy Butler-less Wolves aren’t enjoying all that effectively however they’re nonetheless in affordable form and, when he returns, this can really feel low.

15. Washington Wizards (38-29, Final week — 16th)

A stretch with 4 losses in six video games isn’t nice for Washington however the defeats did come to a set of playoff contenders. In some unspecified time in the future, the Wizards have to really win a few of these however they’re… fantastic.

16. San Antonio Spurs (37-30, Final week — 12th)

For the reason that starting of February, the Spurs are Three-11. It’s odd to even kind that sentence however, in plain phrases, San Antonio is unhealthy proper now. They’re out of the playoffs and, even with the optimism of Kawhi Leonard’s pending return, there’s motive for official fear that the league’s longest playoff streak will come to an finish.

17. Los Angeles Lakers (30-36, Final week — 17th)

The Lakers have been legitimately good for some time they usually simply throttled the Cavs on nationwide tv. Let’s simply attempt to take pleasure in it.

18. Milwaukee Bucks (36-31, Final week — 18th)

It’s exhausting to assign credit score to the Bucks for beating the Knicks and Grizzlies as a result of, effectively, everybody beats the Knicks and Grizzlies. Successful is best than dropping, although, so take solace in that.

19. Miami Warmth (36-32, Final week — 19th)

The Warmth haven’t received a highway recreation since Jan. 29. I perceive that may be deceptive as a consequence of home-heavy scheduling and the break however there’s simply one thing about this Miami staff that enormously underwhelms me.

20. Detroit Pistons (30-36, Final week — 21st)

Stan Van Gundy is likely to be in some hassle and the Pistons are genuinely uninspiring in the intervening time. Seven losses in 9 video games will do this and Detroit most likely simply desires the top to reach. Sadly, it received’t be for some time.

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21. Charlotte Hornets (29-38, Final week — 20th)

It’s been a bizarre 12 months for the Hornets, who simply misplaced 5 straight video games earlier than mercifully snapping that skid with a house win over Phoenix. Charlotte isn’t within the tanking race or the playoff race. That’s a tricky spot to be in for the month of March.

22. Chicago Bulls (23-43, Final week — 26th)

The Bulls have received three of 5 and that’s noteworthy in itself. Granted, Chicago’s victories came to visit Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas however, on the finish of the day, any individual has to win these video games between tanking groups. Proper now, it’s the Bulls.

23. Dallas Mavericks (21-46, Final week — 27th)

Dallas was housed at residence by Houston in its final recreation and there’s no actual disgrace in that. Previous to that drubbing, although, the Mavs picked up back-to-back wins and that is sufficient to catapult in these specific rankings.

24. Sacramento Kings (21-47, Final week — 23rd)

The final 5 wins for the Kings have come towards different tanking opponents. That dates again fairly a good distance and, effectively, the Kings having extra younger expertise than a few of their opponents can solely take them to this point.

25. Brooklyn Nets (21-46, Final week — 25th)

The Nets try more durable than a lot of the groups on this vary. They are surely. I promise.

26. Orlando Magic (20-47, Final week — 22nd)

The Magic misplaced seven in a row. Then, the Magic received back-to-back video games. Now? The Magic have misplaced 4 in a row once more. Making issues worse, although, is that Orlando simply appears like a run-of-the-mill unhealthy staff and that’s even much less intriguing than the full-blown tankers.

27. Atlanta Hawks (20-47, Final week — 28th)

The Hawks allowed 129 factors to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday… in a house recreation. Taurean Prince had one of the best recreation of his younger profession in that spot for Atlanta but it surely was most likely the final time this season through which the Hawks might be favored in Las Vegas and that claims fairly a bit. And for good measure, Atlanta’s finest participant this season (Kent Bazemore) is now gone for the period with a knee harm.

28. New York Knicks (24-43, Final week — 24th)

New York is 1-11 since Kristaps Porzingis went down and, with each passing week, that exact stat will get bleaker. In truth, it might be straightforward to argue that the Knicks are enjoying worse than any staff within the league that doesn’t reside in Tennessee.

29. Phoenix Suns (19-49, Final week — 29th)

The Suns stay unhealthy and 5 consecutive losses assist to drive that time throughout at this juncture. Granted, 4 of the defeats got here on the highway and there’s expertise right here however, in the long run, all of it comes full circle with a gross general efficiency.

30. Memphis Grizzlies (18-49, Final week — 30th)

Memphis has misplaced 18 straight video games. In some unspecified time in the future in every Grizzlies recreation, an informal fan wouldn’t be capable to title a single participant on the roster. It’s all unhealthy. Let’s simply agree on that.

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