Numbers, we’ve been told ad nauseam, can be deceiving, but there’s no deception when one looks at the Raptors’ numbers heading into the NBA’s all star break.
In their past 17 games, the Raptors have scored 100 or more points. During that stretch, the team has gone 12-5 while averaging 108.0 points.
In the wake of Wednesday’s 104-93 win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers, the Raptors ran their home unbeaten streak to eight straight.
In their past 15 home games, the Raptors have 14 wins.
When they hold opponents to fewer than 100 points, the Raptors are 17-0.
Only twice before have the Raptors hit the all star break with 29 wins.
No matter how the numbers get crunched and no matter how the figures get interpreted, the Raptors are finding ways to win.
As they enter the break, there isn’t really anything that’s broken.
Health no longer is a concern, especially when it applies to Reggie Evans, who made his long-awaited debut against the 76ers following four months of rehabbing an injured foot.
The team’s defence can get better. They still are vulnerable against dribble penetration, but in recent wins the Raptors have stepped up to make stops in crunch time with different players elevating their game.
On teams that rely so much on their offence, contesting shots and controlling the glass are all one can ask, especially in late-game situations when a possession or two determines the game’s outcome.
At 29-23, the Raptors are a season-best six games above .500 and firmly entrenched as the fifth seed in the East.
When they resume play Wednesday against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies, the Raptors would have to go on a 21-9 run to reach that elusive 50-win total and likely secure home-court advantage in the post-season.
Since they hit rock bottom on Dec. 2 following an embarrassing 146-115 loss to the Hawks in Atlanta, the Raptors have compiled a record of 22-10.
The balance of the schedule sees the Raptors play 15 times at home and 15 games on the road.
An opportunity awaits for the Raptors to finish with the franchise’s best regular-season win total (twice the club has won 47 games), but more importantly get out of the first round of the playoffs for only the second time in club history.
That, more than any number or any Chris Bosh 20/10 game, is how these Raptors will be judged.
In theory, continued improvement shown by DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Antoine Wright and Amir Johnson can’t hurt.
Evans figures to get his wind back in time and his playing minutes will be established, even if it means fewer minutes for Johnson.
Marco Belinelli has to find a better balance when he attempts to heave an off-balanced shot.
Against Philly, he struggled and looked terrible, missing all five of his shots to post his fourth scoreless night in his past five games.
Hedo Turkoglu has yet to sustain a high level of play over an extended stretch, which is an absolute must as the NBA’s unofficial second half gets set to tip off.
Bosh and Andrea Bargnani are proving to be one of the NBA’s effective big man tandems.
There’s depth at point guard with Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon and head coach Jay Triano must be applauded for his in-game managing and his ability to manage minutes.
There’s another level the Raptors have to reach if they want to be considered with the likes of Cleveland, Orlando, Atlanta and even the struggling Celtics, who are showing signs of age and decline.
Maybe the Raptors will get there simply by showing the kind of improvement they’ve shown in the last two months.
Perhaps GM Bryan Colangelo doesn’t have to sacrifice a core piece to make the team better.
Whatever happens in the days leading up to next Thursday’s trade deadline, the Raptors will ultimately be judged in the post-season.
The team has come too far to settle for anything less.
It’s second round or bust.