Kyle Lowry scored 23 points, C.J. Miles added 20 off the bench, and the Toronto Raptors trounced the Boston Celtics 111-91 on Tuesday. The win, which involved five double figure scorers, is the third straight for Toronto. They are now positioned just one game behind their East rivals and could be poised for a championship run.
The Raptors have been right on the cusp the last two seasons, winning 50 games both times, but falling just short of the postseason.
Despite no major additions outside of C.J. Miles, the Raptors are up to third in the NBA in points per game. They are scoring 4.5 more than last season. This is largely due to the fact that they rarely turn the ball over, ranking fifth in that category.
The other reason for Toronto’s success is their huge depth. Four of five starters and C.J. Miles are averaging at least 10 points a game. What’s more, three of those players are grabbing five rebounds and two are making five assists per contest.
In a division where teams have as much turnover as the Celtics, who only returned four starters, some stability and chemistry is welcome. The Raptors’ ability to play together sets them apart from other teams.
DeRozan has been the team’s star since 2009, and Lowry joined in 2012. For a few years now, the team has kept the same style. Each player has a well-defined role basic to basketball. The point guards are clearly ball handlers, the shooting guards are clearly shooters and so on.
They have started to thrive because of, not despite, the fact that they lack a true star like LeBron James or Stephen Curry. Instead, the Raptors have a group of core, selfless players who know their roles and will do anything to win games.
Despite all this great chemistry now, the Raptors did not have the best start to their season. Through the first 19 games, they were 12-7. This stretch included a number of close losses. And when the playoffs roll around, the lack of a true star at the level of James or Kyrie Irving may derail the team.
But for now, Toronto is poised to win the one seed and make a deep run in the East. Those close losses have turned into blowout wins as the chemistry and shooting has improved. The turnovers are also waning to a minimum.
The Raptors may have won three straight now, but they also have not reached their peak. Ranking in the top 10 in both offense and defense, it is a little surprising that it has taken them this long to close the gap to Boston.
This team’s depth, especially at the guard positions, shows Dwayne Casey and Bobby Webster have built its chemistry for a deep playoff run. Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet are crucial second and third quarter men because they can put up the necessary points. On defense, Serge Ibaka and Jakob Poeltl are both in the top 20 in blocks.
Toronto is now the leading candidate to win the tightening Eastern Conference. They and Boston may have separated themselves from the pack by record, but don’t be surprised if any of the other teams win some games in the playoffs. The East is as competitive as its ever been, which should make for a fun playoffs.
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