The Toronto Raptors are 10 games into the regular season with a record of 7-wins and 3-losses, so it should be safe to say the team is doing well. However, it doesn’t feel that way. Where’s the buzz? After setting consecutive franchise records for wins in a season over the past two years, nothing short of exceeding 50 wins for the first time in club history is going to cut it this time around and just meeting some early season expectations may not be enough.
At 10 games the sample size is small, but the Raptors have experienced a lot during that time. They’ve played three Eastern Conference teams hoping to make the playoffs and knock the Raptors down a peg in the Celtics, Pacers and Bucks and beat them all. Plus, they’ve played three teams expected to make the playoffs in the Western Conference and swept them. Road losses in Miami and Orlando were a downer, but a 2-2 record away from the Air Canada Centre really shouldn’t have anyone all that concerned.
The team has had to overcome some early season adversity as well. Starting small forward DeMarre Carroll missed three games with a sore foot and probably should have missed four. Toronto went 1-2 without Carroll. Right after Carroll was hurt, the Raptors backup wing Terrence Ross injured a finger and his loss combined with Carroll left a gaping hole in the team’s ability to make three-point shots. Ross could be gone for a while yet, but the Raptors may have found an answer in Luis Scola (6-11 from three) and stretch-four Patrick Patterson has found the range again recently.
Excluding the easy victories over the winless Sixers and the 1-9 Pelicans, the Raptors are still on target to win over 51 games this season. Their eight quality opponents currently have a combined winning percentage of 55.8. Its an honest record against average to better than average competition, plus you do get to keep those wins against shoddy competition like the Sixers.
Toronto sits in third place heading into action on Sunday night. Head coach Dwane Casey’s defense is back as only two teams in the East and two teams in the West have held opponents to fewer points than Toronto (96.1 points) and only Miami and Chicago have held opponents to a lower field goal percentage (41.5). On offense, Toronto has only failed to score over 100 points during the two games on the road in Florida when Carroll’s foot let him down. Their 102.1 points per game scored bumps to over 107 points taking out the Florida anomaly.
In all there is plenty to be optimistic about, but …
The Raptors are on the road for seven of their next 10 games and those road games include the unbeaten (unbeatable?) Warriors (11-0), Clippers (6-4) and Hawks (8-3). Their next home game is against the Cavaliers (8-2). Plus seven of the games are against the West, so maybe that’s why the Raptors fans are holding back their enthusiasm. Toronto is kind of used to being disappointed.
A 6-4 record over the next 10 games should be considered a successful run. If they do better than that, it’s time to get the bandwagon revved up.