Despite consistently playing shorthanded, the Toronto Raptors continue to pick up big wins and show why they are still contenders.
If there was any doubt as to whether the Toronto Raptors were still contenders after a tough loss to the Milwaukee Bucks a couple of weeks ago, their recent road trips should have provided an answer.
Norman Powell made his return to the lineup at the right time leading the team to three-straight wins averaging 31.3 points per game while having a breakout performance with a career-high 37 points against the Golden State Warriors. His efforts earned him the NBA’s Eastern Conference player of the week award for the first time in his career.
According to Sportsnet, this was just the 10th time in franchise history that a Raptors player was given the award. It’s pretty astounding considering Powell wasn’t a starter going into this season and there many instances where his future was in doubt after signing his contract.
Unfortunately, Powell was forced to leave Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz less than two minutes in with a sprained ankle. Toronto was already without Marc Gasol and Fred VanvVleet but still managed to get a win over a Jazz team that had won five straight games.
This Raptors’ team has constructed one of the toughest identities among any other team in the NBA as they continue to fend off the Boston Celtics who were making a push for second in the Eastern Conference. All this while having the most missed games because of injury among playoff teams according to Spotrac.
Every time a starter is forced to leave a game or is ruled out, fans are left wondering whether this team is cursed. Then you see them pull together an impressive win and it seems more satisfying than everything they did last season…well except for winning their first championship.
As NBA.com writes, the Raptors have only had their best lineup together for 17 games this season where they have a 12-5 record. Unfortunately, there have also been occurrences where the injuries have too much to overcome but you don’t see the Raptors give up in those situations.
This in large part has to do with Nick Nurse’s desire for the Raptors to be responsible defensively and utilizing the playmakers on offence. With a healthy lineup, the team’s options are pretty deep considering the effect it has from top to bottom.
What’s impressive about this season is how much respect this team is earning south of the border especially when some didn’t expect the Raptors to stand a chance after losing Kawhi Leonard. They might not be looked upon as the lock to repeat but that seems to be the driving force behind everything they have accomplished so far.
Now, they just need to find a way to get healthy and make sure that this resilient group has as much going in their way heading into the playoffs.
What do you think about the Raptors play this season? Do you like their chances to repeat as champions? Let us know in the comments below.