The next four games may not decide the Raptors' playoff fate, but the stretch is shaping up as a potentially defining moment in a season full of imponderability and inconsistency. Two home games against Western Conference powers followed by back-to-back road games against teams jockeying for playoff seeds in the bottom half of the East, which happens to include the Raptors. Here's a thumbnail sketch of what awaits.
UTAH JAZZ (46-25)
Carlos Boozer is expected to bolt this summer in free agency, but it hasn't stopped him from elevating his game. He's a beast on the block who posted a 22-point, 18-rebound game in a 104-91 win over Toronto back in November. Utah enters Wednesday's tip at the ACC winners of eight of its last 11 games. Its three losses were all on the road. The Jazz comes to town on a high after beating Boston, erasing a 12-point deficit and simply dominating in the second half. "We came out like a bullet out of a gun," Boozer said.
DENVER NUGGETS (47-23)
Carmelo Anthony is one of the few visitors who gets cheered. Melo can't be stopped, especially when he's motivated. He toyed with the Raptors when T.O. visited Denver early in the season, going off for 32 points in 30 minutes. Hedo Turkoglu missed the game (hip flexor). One of the best ways to neutralize Melo is to make him work on defence. Nuggets will be in the midst of a five-game road trip when they play T.O. on Friday. Denver is on a five-game win streak vs. Raptors, averaging 133.0 points at home and 111.5 at the ACC.
MIAMI HEAT (37-34)
Dwyane Wade has averaged 23 attempts from the field in three games against the Raptors this year. Sunday's meeting in South Beach is the fourth and final of the season between the two teams with the Raptors holding a 2-1 series edge. T.O. posted both its wins at the ACC. Miami spanked the Raptors by 20 at home. Wade visits his native Chicago on Thursday where he'll get grilled on the potential of playing for the Bulls next season. Chicago cleared cap space and is expected to take aim on Flash. Miami's final eight games are against teams with losing records.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS (35-34)
The Bobcats are a matchup problem for the Raptors because of their athleticism and quickness. No player is as athletic and quicker than Gerald Wallace, an all-star who torched the Raptors for 31 points and 13 rebounds in Charlotte's 116-81 win on Nov. 25. The Bobcats are poised for the franchise's first post-season appearance. When they play host to Toronto on Monday, they'll be in the middle of a five-game homestand. Charlotte is dangerous, but it's inconsistent and goes through stretches of offensive futility.