Raptors Continue to Creep Up On the East

(PHOTO CREDIT: Bill Streicher/USA Today.)

So remember when I said SHHHH about the Raptors? Well, they made a little bit more of noise as they came back from a 22-point deficit on Thursday to beat a very game Sixers team (that didn’t have Joel Embiid). They needed every one of DeMar DeRozan‘s points for the big comeback.

The Raptors have won five games in a row. They had always been a very good offensive team and in the last few years, their defense has become stronger. They are currently 6th in defensive rating (allowing 105.1 points per 100 possessions). They’re going to need to turn that up against whoever they run into in the East (namely Cleveland, since the rest of the conference has to go through them).

But the wrinkle in their new offense has been a lot more passing. A lot more ball movement. DeRozan is mostly known as an iso player but he has bought into their new strategy on O. They were last in assists last season and second-to-last two years ago (in fact, they were bottom 10 in the last four seasons). This year, they’re in the middle of the pack at 15th. Making their opponents chase the ball has worked great for the Raptors.

DeRozan is also shooting a few more three-pointers. He’s had moderate success at .321 but last night, he went six for nine. We always said about good players if so-and-so could shoot or have a three-pointer, they would be very dangerous. DeRozan having more range can open up the court more for him and he could work into his favored midrange shot, a dunk, or even another pass (he is averaging a career-best 5.0 assists this season) if people start to respect his three-pointer.

But will all of this matter if they can’t get past Cleveland? We hope it, at least, gives all of us pause. Sometimes, you just gotta hang in there long enough until the incumbent either makes a catastrophic mistake (whether it’s on-court strategy or personnel decision) or gets too old and tired.

Dwane Casey, an assistant for the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, definitely knows something about that.


*Speaking of the Cavs, they’re no fun. They snapped the Bullsseven-game win streak (leaving Toronto with the longest current win streak in the East).

*The Grizzlies are 2-11 since the firing of David Fizdale. It’s not all on J.B. Bickerstaff; he was given a really difficult situation. But we have to face the facts that this team, especially without injured point guard Mike Conley, just isn’t very good.

*Boston has lost two straight and now the sky is falling. (They’re still #1 in the East.)

*What is up with Michael Beasley!? He went for 32 points and 12 boards in 25 minutes in the Knicks’ big win over Boston. He’s averaging 28.3 points per in his last three!

Also, go ahead and get your jokes off on how #2 from the 2008 Draft pick Beasley is a more productive player than #1 pick Derrick Rose in 2017.

*The Spurs are still working Kawhi Leonard back. But they’re still in pretty good position at 22-11 (which is basically in pace for 55 wins). If they can be all healthy come playoff time, that’s all that matters. Of course, right in front of them, are the sizzling Rockets and Warriors



CHI 112 (10-21) @ CLE 115 (24-9)
TOR 114 (22-8) @ PHI 109 (14-17)
BOS 93 (26-9) @ NY 102 (17-14)
MEM 95 (9-23) @ PHX 97 (12-22)
SA 89 (22-11) @ UTA 100 (15-18)


DeMar DeRozan busted out a career-best in scoring against the Sixers.

45 points, 5 rebounds, 6/9 3FG.

Honestly, I’m surprised he hasn’t scored that many in a single game yet considering his production on buckets.



It’s weird that Troy Daniels gets cast off by multiple teams when all he does is make clutch threes like this one right here. This is the eventual game-winner against Memphis with 17 seconds left.

Hey now! Follow Rey-Rey on Twitter at @TheNoLookPass.

You can also see some of his work at Forum Blue & Gold, a site specializing on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Also, while it’s on hiatus due to personal and health issues, you can listen to old episodes of Rey-Rey’s podcast, Rey-Rey Is Fundamental, which has NBA talk and other topics. The podcast will be back as soon as he’s healthy.

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