The NBA leading Toronto Raptors haven’t looked this good at the beginning of a season in over 20 years – that is to say, ever and they have been taking advantage of a schedule designed to give them every opportunity to enjoy a fast start.
Instead of the usual uphill battle and disheartening early road trips, Toronto has 9 of their first 12 games at home before facing the first really tough stretch on games starting on November 22nd in Cleveland and finishing back in Cleveland on December 9th. However, before the game in Cleveland, the Raptors should continue to rack up the wins.
The best start in Raptors history was 4-1 by the Vince Carter led team in 1999 that went 7-3 to open the season and finished with 45 wins. In 2004 the Raptors also started 4-1, but then lost 5 in a row in yet another forgettable season. If Toronto beats the Magic at home on Tuesday, they are assured of matching or bettering that 1999-00 season start.
The only thing standing between the Raptors and an unbeaten season at this stage was 15 missed free throws in Miami that cost them a road win in a game where both teams play was terrible. The HEAT fouled instead of playing defense and the Raptors missed open shots and let the HEAT out-hustle them. The next time these two teams meet, the quality of the play will be a lot higher.
So far the Raptors record looks like this:
Opponent Score Record
Hawks 109-102 1-0
@Magic 108-95 2-0
@HEAT 102-107 2-1
Thunder 100-88 3-1
@Celtics 110-107 4-1
Wizards 103-84 5-1
76ers 120-88 6-1
The Raptors are scoring an NBA best 107.4 points per game and should comfortably finish the homestand with a record of between 9-3 and 11-1 before being tested in Cleveland.
The next ten games after the homestand includes two trips to Cleveland with a return match against the Cavaliers in Toronto plus a return trip to Atlanta and games against six Western Conference opponents. The Raptors will play the Suns, Mavericks and Nuggets in Toronto and the Lakers, Kings and Jazz on the road. Just how close Toronto is to being a contender will be pretty clear by December 10th.
In the meantime there is nothing left to do except sit back and enjoy the ride. This is rarified air for the Toronto Raptors.
The NBA schedule makers have not always been kind to the Toronto Raptors at the start of the season as this team has often felt they were on an uphill battle from the opening tip. This year, however, things look a little different as a team that finished strong last season and has all of their starters and key reserves back will face a schedule designed for them to get off to a fast start.