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The Toronto Raptors Defeat The Charlotte Hornets 103-98 And Hold On To Top East Spot

Raptors Keith Allison via Flickr


Are The Toronto Raptors The Team To Beat In The East?

The Toronto Raptors won their 45th game this season after defeating the Charlotte Hornets 103-98 this past Sunday. Toronto has been flying under the radar for a majority of the season.

Currently, the team is 45-17 which is the best record in the east.

Raptors Hold On To Number 1 Seed in The East

At the beginning of the season, the basketball world placed their bets on the Cleveland Cavaliers to come out of the East again. Sundays win put the first place Raptors two games ahead of the Boston Celtics.

Could the Raptors be a threat to the Cavaliers and Celtics?

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has done an excellent job of preparing this team. The Raptors had a productive offseason acquiring CJ Miles and drafting OG Anunoby.

The team is 4-1 post All-Star break and is averaging 112.8 points and 42 rebounds per game. Toronto is also shooting 48.6 percent from the field, per

So far this season the Raptors have defeated some of the top-seeded teams in the Eastern Conference like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

With this impressive season, Toronto is making a case for an NBA finals bid.

Road Wins & Team Chemistry

As of now the team is currently riding a four-game win streak and has an impressive 19-13 road record which will give them an advantage in the playoffs. If the Raptors can hold on to the number one seed home field advantage would be a huge advantage for the Atlantic Division team.

Last season the team averaged 106.9 points and 18.5 assists a game, per  It was evident that DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry felt that they had to carry the team consistently.

However, the team struggled with playing together as former Raptor and current Brooklyn Net DeMarre Carroll alluded to last summer before being traded.

Currently, the team is averaging 23.6 assists per game, which is a 5.1 increase from last season. This season Casey has made it a point to trust his bench by letting them close out games in the fourth quarter depending on the tempo and game situation.

As of now, the Raptors bench scores 54.7 points per game while the starting lineup scores a combined total of 71 points per game.

How The Raptors Can Escape The East

Toronto could be on pace to make it to the Eastern Conference finals if they can address their playoff inconsistencies. In last year’s postseason, Toronto defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round 4-2 in a seven-game series.

In the Conference Semi-Finals, the Raptors would get swept by Cleveland who would go on to win the east. After the Raptors embarrassing series sweep DeRozan expressed his feeling on the playoff loss.

“If we had LeBron on our team, too, we would have won,” said DeRozan.

It’s clear that the comments from DeRozan came from. However, as the team leader, you have to stay away from that type of negativity.

In addition to DeRozan’s comments, some questioned the toughness of Kyle Lowry who decided not to play after spraining his ankle.

Lowry has emerged as a top-tier point guard over the past five years. Since being drafted in 2006 by the Memphis Grizzlies the 31-year-old guard has developed into a solid leader and scorer.

The 6-foot guard is the team’s second option but during the postseason, he tends to shy away in clutch moments.

Playoff Needs

Toronto needs their starting backcourt to show up in the playoffs in order for this team to have a chance. Over the past three years, the narrative has been that the team is one piece away from a championship or it’s just Cleveland’s time.

Critics have written the Raptors off from getting to the Conference finals. A lot of people are expecting to see the Celtics and Cavs square off in the Eastern Conference finals.

However, Toronto’s general manager Masai Ujiri has provided head coach Casey with several upgrades over the years. The team has added include Serge Ibaka, CJ Miles, OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet.

If this year’s team plans to make noise in the playoffs they are going to need major contributions from Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and their bench. With the NBA regular season coming to an end the Raptors have a chance to finish in first place and capture home-court advantage.

Bold Prediction:

The Wizards and Raptors will face off in the Eastern Conference Finals.

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