Toronto Raptors winning streak: By the numbers
With the Boston Celtics dominating early in the East, what can we learn from the Raptors’ recent run?
A quick look at the Eastern Conference sees several unexpected surprises. The Boston Celtics tower over the rest of the pack amidst a 16-game winning streak followed by the Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Here, we’ll focus on the Raptors, who have won four games in a row and six of their past seven. Their only defeat during the impressive run came in the form of a one-point reverse to the rampant Celtics. Let’s take a look at the reasons behind Toronto’s success.
After an exodus of Eastern Conference stars to the West including Paul George and Jimmy Butler, the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers carried out a blockbuster trade involving their starting point guards, Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. Whilst all this was going on, the Raptors lost Patrick Patterson to the Oklahoma City Thunder and acquired CJ Miles, importantly keeping their core of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and mid-season acquisition Serge Ibaka.
Continuity is not the most exciting term but its importance is wrongly overlooked in the NBA. With the Raptors, another year of the core group, combined with a culture change in the front office have been key to building renewed hope. And despite having the same arsenal at his disposal, head coach Dwane Casey has looked to evolve his side this season. More 3-point shots and better ball movement have eventuated, and this will hopefully eliminate the isolation-based offense Toronto have fallen back on in years past when the going gets tough.
Culture change in numbers
When the Raptors lost the Cavaliers for the second year running in last season’s playoffs, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri called for a culture reset. Casey and Co. listened. Compared to last season, the Raptors are averaging five more assists and seven more attempted 3-point shots per game in 2017/18. Even the king of the mid-range, DeMar DeRozan, has extended his scope to the 3-point line, almost doubling his attempts from beyond the arc.
Other notable performances have included Delon Wright’s continual improvement as the backup point guard, Pascal Siakam’s suffocating defense (notably against the Wizards on Sunday night) and rookie OG Anunoby’s development.
The cultural change isn’t without its challenges though. Kyle Lowry has struggled through the early games this season, averaging just 14.6 points per game, 8 less than last season. His production has at least increased during the Raptors’ hot streak, and should Lowry get going and strengthen his already formidable partnership with DeRozan, look out.
Check out some of the dynamic duo’s highlights against New York recently that sum up the Raptors culture change and show off the significant improvements from the supporting cast.