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Toronto Raptors In Unfamiliar Territory

The 13-2 NBA leading Toronto Raptors are in very unfamiliar territory indeed. Off to their best start in 20 years, this one-time 1995 expansion franchise is seemingly doing things they have never done before each and every night. In the process Toronto has won 11 of their last 12 games for their most productive stretch since they won 11 of 12 games at the end of the 2001-2002 season.

The Raptors got off to the best start in franchise history at 5-1 with a win over the Wizards in what Head Coach Randy Wittman called, “a good old-fashioned butt-whooping.” That win opened a seven game home stand in which Toronto went 6-1 and got to their tenth win of the season faster than ever before.

Toronto is currently on a six game winning streak by defeating the Grizzlies, their co-leaders in the NBA, the Suns, a team that beat the Raptors in both games last season, LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland, and the Hawks in Atlanta who were 5-1 at home before facing Toronto.

The response from opposing coaches after playing the Raptors has sounded a lot like what Toronto fans had become used to hearing from their own team prior to the turnaround that started last season.

“They made a lot of shots. They made a lot of plays,” said Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer. “Tonight (was) a night that tests your mental toughness that tests your physicality. For a lot of the night we were good, but you got to do it for 48 minutes against a good team. So a test like tonight is good for us and we’ll get better for it.”

With the win in Atlanta, the Raptors passed another franchise mark by starting the season 4-1 on the road for the first time ever. But possibly even more impressive was with the win over the Suns on Monday, the Raptors have started a franchise best 4-0 against the Western Conference (previous best was 3-0 versus the West in 1998-99 and 2001-02).

However, the tests keeping coming for the Raptors and when a team is 13-2, every contest seems like the next big game. The 11-5 Dallas Mavericks visit Toronto on Friday as the highest scoring team in the Association at 109.3 points per game. The Raptors, however, are not far behind scoring 108.

Then it’s three road games against the West before returning home for a rematch against what will surely be an amped up Cleveland Cavaliers with something to prove.

After the big trade last December the Raptors went on a 54-win pace for the rest of the season and there were some that believed this year would be the first time Toronto won over 50 games. However, at 13-2 the Raptors are on a 71 win pace that no one can quite comprehend or honestly believe is maintainable, but for the moment at least, everyone in Toronto can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

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