Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Raptors’

 

The Toronto Raptors have clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 92-73 win over the Indiana Pacers. They are officially guaranteed home-court advantage throughout the East playoffs.

With their 57th win of the season, the Raptors have also sealed the highest win total in their 23-year history, surpassing their 56 wins from the 2015-16 season.

All three of the Raptors’ 50-plus win seasons have occurred in the past three years and this year they’ve shown significant strides on both ends of the floor. For the first time in franchise history, Toronto is among the top five in both offense and defense, and finished with the third-best net rating in the league.

SEASON OFF RTG (RANK) DEF RTG (RANK) NET RTG (RANK)
2017-18 111.3 (3rd) 103.6 (5th) 7.7 (3rd)
2016-17 109.8 (6th) 104.9 (8th) 4.9 (4th)
2015-16 107.0 (5th) 102.7 (11th) 4.3 (6th)

Toronto (57-22) will finish with at least one of the three best records in the NBA, currently sitting behind the Houston Rockets (64-15) and sharing the second-best record with the Golden State Warriors with three games remaining.

All-Star guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry helped pace the Raptors throughout the year, averaging a team-leading 23.3 and 16.3 points, respectively. DeRozan has forced his way into the MVP conversation, showing major improvement as a passer, averaging a career-high 5.2 assists per game.

One of the biggest success stories for the Raptors this season has been their deep bench. The line of C.J. MilesJakob PoeltlPascal SiakamFred VanVleet, and Delon Wright have the second-best net rating of any five-man combination in the NBA (minimum 300 minutes played together).

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Can the Toronto Raptors win it all this year?

DeMar DeRozan thinks so.

“Yes,” he told SLAM’s Marcel Mutoni. “If we didn’t think so, there’s no reason to be in this line of work. So, we definitely believe so.”

Barring a disaster, Toronto will finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference for the first time ever, as the club holds a five-game lead over the No. 2 Boston Celtics with 11 regular-season games remaining. They have the NBA’s second-best point differential (plus-8.6) and are the only team to rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating.

And yet, many are hesitant to bet on the Raptors heading into the postseason, where they’ve flamed out the past couple of years following successful regular-season campaigns. They took the Cleveland Cavaliers to six games in the 2016 conference finals, only to get swept by LeBron James and Co. in the second round last year.

But lending to DeRozan’s optimism are philosophical changes the team committed to after last year’s disappointing playoff exit and the success they’ve had implementing them. Toronto has shifted its dependence on DeRozan and Kyle Lowry playing isolation basketball to moving the ball much more and trusting the other players on the roster. It’s led to a far less predictable offense and the NBA’ most potent bench.

Despite sacrificing minutes and shot attempts, DeRozan is putting up a team-high 23.7 points, four rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 34.1 minutes per outing, while also averaging a career-high 5.1 assists and not seeing a bump in turnovers. He started in the All-Star Game last month in his hometown and is on pace to earn his second straight All-NBA nod.

The retooling has not only given DeRozan more confidence, but also head coach Dwane Casey, who called his Raptors “one of four teams” who can legitimately contend for the Larry O’Brien trophy this postseason.

“We’re one of the teams that I feel like can win it. Why not?”

Toronto Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan is flabbergasted that the officials decided to not call a foul on Oklahoma City Thunder wing Corey Brewer at such a pivotal juncture of Sunday’s game at the Air Canada Centre.

It appeared Brewer caught DeRozan’s arm as he drove in for a layup with approximately 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but no whistle was blown. DeRozan was assessed a technical foul with 11.7 seconds left on the clock, and then another after Toronto turned the ball over just seconds later, resulting in his immediate ejection.

“He smacked me. He smacked the shit out of me,” said DeRozan following Toronto’s eventual 132-125 loss, according to Raptors HQ’s Daniel Reynolds. “He smacked me because I had a layup. He fouled me. Period.”

The 28-year-old guard wasn’t the only Raptor to head to the locker room early, as teammate Serge Ibaka and head coach Dwane Casey were also ejected for seemingly mouthing off at the refs out of frustration.

DeRozan defended his fellow ejectees on the Raptors, saying he felt the team has had enough of what he claims has been unfair officiating.

“No, we’re used to going against the odds … It’s been like that,” he said, according to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg. “We fight through it, but as soon as we say something, we’re the bad guys, we get fined, we get criticized … but we’ve all got a breaking point and it’s frustrating.”

DeRozan finished with a team-high 24 points to go along with five assists and three rebounds on 8-of-18 shooting in 33 minutes of action, as the Raptors failed to extend their winning streak to a franchise-best 12 games.

DeMar DeRozan could’ve kept his demons to himself, but that wouldn’t have helped anybody.

After revealing he suffers from depression, the Toronto Raptors shooting guard explained what prompted him to finally open up about his battle.

“We all go through stuff. You can’t name nobody that don’t go through something,” he told TMZ Sports on Thursday in D.C.

The four-time All-Star suggested that although it may not have been easy, it was important for him to share his story so other people who are struggling with the mental health issue understand they’re not alone.

“Just because we’re successful or on TV don’t mean we don’t all go through something or got problems. You know, it’s life,” he added.

DeRozan, 28, previously stressed that no matter how “indestructible” professional athletes like him may look, they’re all humans with feelings that may sometimes overwhelm them, just like everybody else.

Even before one of its most high-profile stars spoke out on the matter, the NBA and NBPA had committed to supporting the players with a new mental wellness program.

DeRozan also left the door open for other steps he could take to spread awareness:

“We gon’ see.”

Hours before the two longtime friends are set to square off in one of the most anticipated matchups of the regular season, Toronto Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan cast his MVP vote for Houston Rockets guard James Harden.

“He earned it,” DeRozan told reporters after shootaround Friday, according to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg. “The things he’s been doing all year is incredible. I think he’s locked for it. He deserves it.”

DeRozan also suggested Harden should have won the award last season, when his 29.1-point, 8.1-rebound, 11.2-assist campaign for the 55-win Rockets was outvoted by the Russell Westbrook triple-double machine. But both Harden and the Rockets have been better this year. Harden is leading the scoring race, averaging 30.9 points a game to go along with 8.9 assists and a 62.4-percent true shooting mark for the NBA’s top team. He is achieving the rare double feat of leading the league in both efficiency and usage rate, the latter having increased from last season despite the Rockets’ addition of Chris Paul.

Though his scoring rate has come down from a season ago, DeRozan is also in the midst of a career year, putting himself on the fringes of the race he’s already calling for Harden. DeRozan is averaging 24 points and a career-high 5.2 assists per game while spearheading a stylistic evolution for the overachieving Raptors.

The Rockets (51-13) and Raptors (47-17) come into Friday night’s game in Toronto sitting atop their respective conferences, carrying the NBA’s two best point differentials. The Rockets come in riding a 17-game winning streak, while the Raptors have won six straight and 13 of their last 14. The Rockets own the league’s best road record at 26-7, while the Raptors are the top home team at 27-5.

Before the blockbuster matchup, DeRozan reflected on the journey he and Harden – who both grew up playing together in Los Angeles – have taken to get to where they are now.

“I knew him when he didn’t have a lick of hair on his face,” DeRozan said of his now-bearded peer. “We’ve grown. We talk about it a lot. We never thought we’d be in the position we’re in today.”

DeMar DeRozan‘s got them.

The Toronto Raptors became the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season with a 121-119 overtime win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. They currently sit first in the East with a record of 47-17.

DeRozan scored a game-high 42 points, including the game-saving dunk in regulation, and dished the game-winning assist to Fred VanVleet in overtime to overcome a strong challenge from Blake Griffin and the reeling Pistons.

This will be the Raptors’ fifth straight postseason appearance since president Masai Ujiri took control of the team. Toronto lost in the first round in 2014 and 2015, but advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016 and took two games off the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round last season, but lost again to the Cavaliers, which forced Ujiri to make a difficult choice about their future.

The Raptors ultimately decided to bring back their core, while updating their offense to reflect the modern style of basketball. Making that transition successfully, coupled with the emergence of several prospects in the second unit, has pushed the team to new heights.

Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan was seemingly on top of the world. He was set to start in his fourth All-Star Game in his home state of California, roughly 25 minutes from where he grew up in Compton.

Then, out of the blue, DeRozan published a tweet on Feb. 17, one day prior to the star-studded exhibition, which caught many of his fans off guard: “This depression get the best of me.”

What many interpreted as being a song lyric was, in actuality, DeRozan sharing how he felt, as he was seemingly going through a rough time.

“It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day,” DeRozan told The Toronto Star’s Doug Smith. “We all got feelings … all of that. Sometimes … it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.”

DeRozan elaborated further, acknowledging he has “various nights” dating back to his childhood when he feels down, and his “standoffish” demeanor, to those who don’t know him, is somewhat of a coping mechanism for him.

His tweet brought forth an outpouring of love and support for the 28-year-old.

“Sometimes you hear things from other people, such as doing something like that (the Saturday morning tweet). There could have been a better way to take that approach, but I got great words from a lot of people,” he said.

“It’s not nothing I’m against or ashamed of. Now, at my age, I understand how many people go through it. Even if it’s just somebody can look at it like, ‘He goes through it and he’s still out there being successful and doing this,’ I’m OK with that.”