DeRozan, Lowry, Raptors Taking Annual Christmas Snub Personally
“It has gotten to the point where you just sigh and say, ‘Another year…’ That’s crazy,”.
A 114-109 victory of the upstart Philadelphia 76ers marked the Toronto Raptors’ 11th win in their last 12-games. They have undoubtedly been one of the most consistent teams this season, moreover, one of the more consistent teams over the last half-decade. The Raptors are 22-8, with the best home record in the entire NBA at 11-1. They have the fewest losses in the entire Eastern Conference and sit just 1.5-games back of the Boston Celtics.
Through 30-games, nearly the midway point of the NBA regular season, the Raptors are ahead of the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs. They are only three games away from the Houston Rockets, who hold the best record in the entire league and just 2.5 games apart from the defending champion Golden State Warriors, a team they nearly beat almost two months ago.
But the team the Raptors were just two months ago is completely different from the team they are presently.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 22, 2017
“I always wanted to say that I’m playing on Christmas,” Said DeMar DeRozan after scoring a career-high 45-points against the 76ers.
The fact is, the Raptors have been one of the best teams in the NBA for quite some time, yet never seem to get the respect they rightfully deserve. Over the past four seasons, they boast a 204-124 (.622) record. They have reached the Eastern Conference Finals and have found a consistent niche a top the Eastern Conference playoff standings year in and year out. They two franchise stars in Kyle Lowry and DeRozan, and the fan interest surrounding the game of basketball is at an all time high, not only in Toronto, but in the entire country.
“I have never played on Christmas,” Lowry said to The Undefeated. “I’ve always in my life wanted to play a Christmas game. There a lot of things I want to say as the reason I think ‘why not’ [for Toronto]. It’s never happened, but I’ve always had the opportunity to always be with my family on Christmas. It’s a blessing to be able to not play, but at the same you always want that one time you play on Christmas.”
As the season has progressed, the Raptors have continued to show something different. A style of play far from what we have become accustomed to seeing from Toronto’s team.
Last season, the Raptors were 24th in pace of play and dead last in assists per game. They played a slow, methodical, and isolation-based style of basketball on offence, and while defensively, the team was rather solid, there was no excitement surrounding the roster. The chemistry was there, but it wasn’t in a way. The style of play didn’t make the possibility of beating other elite teams in a seven game series conducive.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 17, 2017
Now, the Raptors are totally different and are better than ever. Quite possibly boasting the best Raptors team in franchise history, albeit with many returning and familiar faces.
The style is different, the tempo is quicker. As the league focuses on finding the winning formula to take down the Golden State Warriors, the Raptors are finally catching on. They are no longer living in the past – they are adjusting with the times. Through 30-games, the Raptors shot up to 10th in pace, are fourth in offensive rating, sixth in defensive rating, third in SRS, and are ninth in assists per game.
The ball is popping, the Raptors are running, and with it, they are improving and quietly becoming legitimate contenders. Yet, they are unable to garner enough respect to play on Christmas Day. There may not be a more underrated team in the league, but maybe as the season continues and the new-look Raptors continue to maintain this pay and continue to build on their success, the respect will come.
The Raptors must force the respect to come.