The NBA’s current Beasts of the East are also the Pride of the North. And the manner in which the Toronto Raptors have opened up the season suggests Canada will have plenty to cheer about in the months to come.
The Raps are a Conference-best 11-2 heading into tonight’s clash with the Phoenix Suns and in possession of the best points differential in the entire league, scoring 106.9 per game on average while ceding a mere 94.7.
That’s already provided a six-game lead over Brooklyn in the Atlantic Division where they’re now 1.30 to come out on top. Toronto are also 12.00 to storm to the Eastern title – that remains improbable but having beaten high-quality opponents like Memphis, Cleveland and Washington so far, a 60-win campaign isn’t out of reach.
Saturday’s defeat of the Cavaliers was illustrative of how good the Raptors are, coming from 18 down to take victory by 17 – and so far their three-guard rotation of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams is notching a combined 52.2 points per night.
"One day you're the statue, the next day you're the pigeon," said coach Dwane Casey in a bid to temper expectations but he has few obvious flaws to deal with.
After a shaky start, his counterpart in Phoenix, Jeff Hornacek, can also like what he sees, especially with four consecutive wins on the road, and an offense now generating 105.3 points per.
But Toronto is a classier opponent than the Suns have vanquished before and their offense may not find points as plentiful as in previous outings, with taking under 203.5 worth a punt at 2.50.
Best bet: Take Toronto at -5.5 on the Quarter 1 handicap against Phoenix at 3.85