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Step right into a world wherein nothing in regards to 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 appear loads like an NBA title contender. Sure, the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets have been the 2 greatest groups within the sport and, given current 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 greatest web 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 much nearer to to Houston and Golden State in web ranking (+eight.5) than they’re to any Japanese Convention foe.

In fact, life is just not carried out in a vacuum and that’s very true of the NBA Playoffs. Toronto has developed a big fame for futility in postseason settings and, whereas no less than a few of which may be unfair for a franchise that has claimed playoff sequence 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 p.c true taking pictures mark in 41 profession playoff video games and Lowry faring solely barely higher (51.four p.c 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 gained a playoff sequence regardless of wholly underwhelming numbers on each side of the ball. With that mentioned, the Raptors are certainly taking part in (no less than barely) totally 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 web ranking.

When the postseason arrives, the power of a full bench unit will doubtless evaporate, just because benches shorten and never even the Raptors are prone to deploy prolonged lineups with out both star guard on the court docket. With that mentioned, there may be each statistical cause to count on that Toronto is totally 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 explicit 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 could 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 very noteworthy. It must be famous that I might nonetheless decide the Warriors to assert the title supplied Curry is on the market however Houston is nice sufficient to place some degree of uncertainty within the combine.

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

The Raptors have gained eight in a row and, as famous above, there may be actually no debate in regards to 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 unimaginable 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 gained 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 taking part in extremely nicely however, due to the general report, they’re flying underneath 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 needs to be given for the way the staff has performed over the complete physique of labor however there may be cause to be a bit nervous in regards to 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 mean time, they’re taking part in higher basketball. Three straight wins (and 6 of eight) propel Oklahoma Metropolis into this spot and so they 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 gained’t fade. Nate McMillan’s bunch has gained 5 of six (together with 4 wins over playoff-bound groups) and the lone loss got here to the streaking Jazz. There’s little rhyme or cause for the way the Pacers have amassed this report with their expertise however kudos must be given.

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

If the season ended at present, the Nuggets could be out of the playoffs. That may be a merciless actuality for a staff that’s taking part in 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 dwelling video games and added 4 wins to their ledger within the course of. Solely the Pelicans have a worse web 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 sport 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 a watch 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 totally different however, if something, this feels excessive by way of present, common season energy rankings.

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

Philly has current losses to the Warmth and Bucks and, if these went the opposite method, it might be simpler to have them within the prime 10. As issues presently stand, although, the Sixers nonetheless have the third-best web ranking within the East and, in my thoughts, a better ceiling than the Gordon Hayward-less Celtics.

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

It isn’t usually 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 taking part in all that nicely 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. Sooner or later, the Wizards have to really win a few of these however they’re… superb.

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

Because the starting of February, the Spurs are Three-11. It’s odd to even sort 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 may be cause for professional 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 and so they simply throttled the Cavs on nationwide tv. Let’s simply attempt to get pleasure from 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, nicely, 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 gained a highway sport since Jan. 29. I perceive that may be deceptive as a consequence of home-heavy scheduling and the break however there may be simply one thing about this Miami staff that vastly underwhelms me.

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

Stan Van Gundy is likely to be in some bother and the Pistons are genuinely uninspiring in the mean time. Seven losses in 9 video games will do this and Detroit in all probability simply desires the tip to reach. Sadly, it gained’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 troublesome spot to be in for the month of March.

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

The Bulls have gained three of 5 and that’s noteworthy in itself. Granted, Chicago’s victories came visiting Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas however, on the finish of the day, anyone 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 dwelling by Houston in its final sport 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 explicit 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, nicely, the Kings having extra younger expertise than a few of their opponents can solely take them thus far.

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

The Nets are attempting tougher than many 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 gained back-to-back video games. Now? The Magic have misplaced 4 in a row once more. Making issues worse, although, is that Orlando simply seems 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 sport. Taurean Prince had one of the best sport of his younger profession in that spot for Atlanta but it surely was in all probability the final time this season wherein the Hawks will likely be favored in Las Vegas and that claims fairly a bit. And for good measure, Atlanta’s greatest 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 specific stat will get bleaker. In truth, it might be simple to argue that the Knicks are taking part in 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 may be expertise right here however, ultimately, 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. Sooner or later in every Grizzlies sport, an off-the-cuff fan wouldn’t be capable of title a single participant on the roster. It’s all unhealthy. Let’s simply agree on that.

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