Raptors Wrap-Up: Postseason Push
The Toronto Raptors made the most of their easy schedule in the past two weeks, holding one of the best records in the NBA. The most intriguing part of their success is that their best players are in sync for the first time this season. Notably, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby have been efficient, both from the field and from three since March 13.
The Raptors began their winning stretch with an impressive win against first-place Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets. The Raptors were big underdogs heading into the game but that quickly changed when they scored a franchise-record 49 points in the first quarter. VanVleet led the team to the difficult win with a game-high 36 points and three steals, marking the beginning of his return to form.
The team continued their winning ways against the Oklahoma City Thunder who were 6-1 in the seven games leading up to the Raptors. Then they won a decisive victory against the injury-ridden Minnesota Timberwolves.
But the winning came to a halt in what was their most disappointing loss this season. The Raptors lost at home against the Indiana Pacers, a team that is competing for last place.
Scottie Barnes suffered an injury in the previous game that kept him out of the lineup for two games including this matchup with the Pacers. While the Raptors could not contain Canadian Andrew Nembhard who scored 25 points and dished out 10 assists for the Pacers, the Raptors mainly lost because they struggled with the three-point shot, only making seven out of their 34 attempts in that game.
What will the Raptors now rely on to succeed in the playoffs? Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes are finally beginning to mesh well together on the floor, with an impressive showing against the Heat. If the Raptors hope to succeed in the postseason, this play must continue, otherwise they won’t make it far.
As it stands, the Raptors will play against either Chicago or Miami, barring the Hawks don’t collapse at the end of the season. But there is no guarantee the Raptors will maintain their spot in the play-in after the final three games of the season where they play the Celtics and Bucks.
The Raptors rank near the bottom of the league in efficiency and three-point-related statistics. It’s no coincidence that the teams at the top of the standings are also top of the standings in field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
Should the Raptors continue to play as they have in the past two weeks, expect them to have a fighting chance in the playoffs.