On Wednesday night, the 22-8 Toronto Raptors face an enormous task that will undoubtedly provide answers to questions about their early success this season. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are traveling to Oakland’s Oracle Arena to face the Golden State Warriors, and we’ll see if they’ve learned anything from their Nov. 16 home loss to Steph Curry and co. Even more, we’ll see if the second best team in the East is capable of defeating the best team in the West, and that’s crucial because the Cavs just did it (again) on Christmas.
No matter what the Raptors do on the court each night, no matter how many points they score and how many stars they embarrass, they’re always chasing LeBron James and trying to prove that being one game behind the defending NBA Champions in the standings is no fluke. However, when it comes to actually playing the Cavs this season, the Raptors still look fluke-ish. They may only have eight losses, but three of them came against the Cavs, and while DeRozan’s silver lining is that each game came down to the wire, it still isn’t convincing us that the Raptors can get over the hump when it matters.
But as DeRozan recently assured NBA.com’s David Aldridge, the Raptors are closer than ever to taking things to the next level.
Me: Y’all are always under the radar because of where you play, but do you feel especially unwatched this season?
DD: Yeah, for sure, especially what we accomplished last year, showing all we did wasn’t a fluke. We went six games with the NBA champions. We won a franchise record in games. We accomplished so much. And it seems we still don’t get our just due, like it was an accident. We’ve been getting better every single year. And I think that’s been our motivation every time we go out there and play, no matter who we play against. We are a team that should be respected like all the other top teams in the league.
Me: The Raptors have lost just eight games so far. Three are to Cleveland. Are they in your team’s head?
DD: You seen them three games. It came down to the last two, three minutes. And that’s what makes them so great, understanding how to close games, how to execute those last couple of possessions to put you over the top. That’s our next development of being a team like Cleveland, understanding that last possession, how great you’ve got to execute, how bad you may need a stop. We’re getting there. And I think that’s our next step. Once we get there, we’re going to be even more dangerous. (Via NBA)
The Raptors lost to the Cavs by three points on Oct. 28, four points on Nov. 15, and four points again on Dec. 5. Fortunately for DeRozan and Lowry, the scheduling gods did them a favor and put their fourth and final regular season game against the Cavs at the very end of the schedule. That gives the Raptors plenty of time to figure out that “next development,” display it in their season finale, and use that for momentum heading into the playoffs.
Then, maybe, we’ll find out if Wednesday night’s game against the Warriors really showed us anything.