After starting the NBA season 5-0, the Toronto Raptors feelgood factor seems somewhat prehistoric now.
Edged out at Utah on Wednesday, their West Coast swing stops in Los Angeles this weekend – facing the Clippers tonight before meeting the Lakers on Sunday. And after only two victories in their last eight games, Canada’s finest find themselves trailing the Celtics unexpectedly in the Atlantic Division. Well below par.
Generally, the Raps defence remains solid although when you factor in pace and possessions, they’re rated only 13th in the NBA. And they’re sixth in offensive rating, a ways behind the unstoppable unbeatable Golden State Warriors but still respectable.
It’s been the small margins, however, that have doomed Toronto who are now out to 15.00 to win the Eastern Conference. In five of their six defeats, they’ve lost the fourth quarter (Golden State being the minor exception) and their first periods have been scarcely better.
They’re also 28th overall in assists with almost their entire ecosystem going through Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. When the All Star pair are pitted against solid defenders, the Raptors tend to take a major scoring hit and they aren’t getting help from their bench.
Don’t count them out yet – especially for the Atlantic. The more familiarity they find, the better they should become. And a respite may arrive quickly. The woeful Lakers should be a breeze, with the Raptors good value even at -6.5 on the handicap at 1.98, although it’s perhaps worth a punt on the hosts at 2.50 for the opening quarter.
The Clippers will be a much tougher proposition with the second-rated offense in the league and a strong starting unit that suggests opting for LA on the handicap at -8.5. Toronto may go south a little more before they head back north.
Best bet: Take over 206.5 total points in Lakers-Raptors at 2.48