We The North are heading north. Atop the Eastern Conference the Toronto Raptors have excelled through their first 10 games of the season, with an 8-2 record that has the Raptors off to one of their best starts in ever.
The schedule has been oh-so-easy for the Raptors,with seven of the first 10 games having been played at home, as well as the next two, coming up as they close-out a seven game home-stand. Through their first ten games the Raptors have only faced three legitimate playoff teams, winning only one game. Losses to the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls have left people wondering if the Raptors 8-2 start, which has them as the top team in the Eastern Conference, actually makes them a contender.
Slow starts have been killer for the Raptors, at times playing games where they’ve only shown up for one quarter and still won. For the most part, they only play 36 of the 48 minutes of the game. They’ve trailed at halftime in half of the games that they’ve played this season, once allowing the Heat to score 31 and 33 points in the first two quarters of the 107-102 loss. Against the Bulls, they took a seven point lead into half, but out of the locker room the Raptors were dry. The Bulls outscored them 35-14 in the third en route to handing the Raptors a 100-93 loss. Put into perspective, the Raptors could be 10-0 if they showed up in those three quarters.
The most convincing win for the Raptors came against the Washington Wizards – a team in similar position to the Raptors. Both are young, inexperienced and looking to take another step after successful seasons last year. The Raptors got off to a fast start and never looked back, beating the Wizards by 19.
Other wins for the Raptors include defeating the banged up Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz and two against the Orlando Magic. While, none of these teams are currently in the playoff picture, Oklahoma City will qualify once Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant return; Atlanta has an opportunity to sneak in with a weak Eastern Conference.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan continue to lead the way for the Raptors as they did in the previous season. Lowry is averaging 18.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists so far and has racked up one triple-double which came against the Wizards. DeRozan passed Andrea Bargnani for third on the all-time scoring list in Raptors history, leading the team with 21.2 points per game.
The Raptors’ schedule gets a little tougher in the coming games, as they face a 9-1 Memphis Grizzlies team and take off for Cleveland in a week. The eight wins have been great for the Raptors as they progress towards getting off to better starts, but they also need to prove that they can defeat the top teams. The Grizzlies and Cavaliers will be the perfect opportunity to prove that. The Raptors can no longer be the team that only bullies the weaker teams, but rather become a team that can stand up to any challenge, and even considered as a contender for the Eastern Conference Finals. In order for that to happen key role players, such as Terrance Ross, Patrick Patteron, Jonas Valanciunas and James Johnson will be highly relied upon for help down the stretch of games, especially late in the year.