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By Aiden Maughan
Last updated: 29/11/18 13:51
The Toronto Raptors have been dominant over the past few seasons, but have not disappointed the playoffs. Aiden Maughan writes that the leaders of the Eastern Conference seem ready to eliminate these disappointments and to launch a real challenge for their title.
Skepticism about the Toronto Raptors and their hopes of winning the NBA title was not missed. In the last three seasons, they have accumulated more than 50 regular season wins before not returning to their best form in the playoffs. They lost twice in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference and once in the final of the Conference.
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November 30, 2018, 1:00
A start to the game of 18-4 – the best league record – is consistent with his usual regular season form, but the way he won these victories suggests that in April they might be on the brink of realizing their potential. in the playoffs.
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What's different this season?
The Raptors are part of a handful of real two-way teams, as stingy in defense as explosive in attack. Toronto, with Denver and Milwaukee, ranks in the top 10 for the attack (average points for 100 possessions) and for the defense (average points awarded for 100 possessions).
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Offensively, head coach Nick Nurse continued the work begun last season by his predecessor, Dwane Casey, who decided to keep the Raptors safe from a heavy isolation offensive (often splashed into season) for a smoother attack in three-point shooting.
Under the nurse, the Raps make the fourth highest number of balls in the league (11.5 per game). There are two seasons, they ranked 21st.
This season, the development of their young players and the depth of the lineup have allowed a more balanced offensive. In the past, opponents who solved the double threat of guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had let the Raptors stagnate offensively.
Now they receive contributions from everywhere. Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas now have more clearly defined roles in the offense and have therefore contributed more consistently. The sixth man's candle, Fred VanVleet, continued to make a lot of noise on the bench.
Pascal Siakam is becoming a potential star player this season. The Cameroonian striker, who is in his third year in the league, has already won the title of player of the week in the Eastern Conference this season. His percentage of goals scored 63.0 (not to mention his advantage of 69.9%, his best result in the league), illustrates the efficiency with which he gets his points.
Embodying the Raptors' prowess at both ends of the field, Siakam also improved his defense, posting a record-breaking career average, and using his length and athleticism to stop attackers on the perimeter.
Siakam has a realistic chance of becoming the league's next two-way star and, thanks to a very successful summer trade, has a two-way All-Star to guide him in this direction.
The Raptors' decision to exchange their centerpiece DeRozan against the San Antonio Spurs against Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green quickly paid off at both ends of the room.
Leonard, who missed almost all of last season's games with the Spurs, with the exception of nine, before finally leaving town, participates in the conversation with the most useful player and dispels any concerns about his commitment to the Toronto cause with 24.3 points (on a shot of 47.4%). 8.6 rebounds and 1.8 interceptions per game.
Leonard shows the example at both ends of the court and his teammates have followed him until now. The Raptors defensive rating of 106.7 (points awarded for 100 possessions) is the seventh best scorer in the league and bodes well for the playoffs, where the game slows down and defense becomes even more valuable.
Due to the presence of Leonard, a former defensive player of the year and MVP of the finals, Toronto now has an elite defenseman to protect the best player from his opponent, which they could not count.
The post-season experience of Leonard and Green – who played a key role in the San Antonio victory in 2014 – will also be crucial for the upcoming Toronto playoffs. The former Spurs duo took and made big shots under the most intense pressure in the post-season. This means more options for Nurse in times of crisis and less concentration on one or two players (Lowry and DeRozan the previous seasons) to bring the team above the line.
After 60 regular season games and an extra two months of basketball playoffs, it's far too early to announce a preview of the NBA Finals at the Golden State Warriors in Toronto.
But the first 22 games of this campaign have suggested that things are different for Toronto this time around. Their debut at the top of the league, and the reasons behind them, suggest that they are much better prepared to succeed at the end of the campaign.
Finally, the strength of the regular season seems to be fully equipped to perform a memorable race in the post-season.
- Golden State Warriors @ The Toronto Raptors at 1 am live on the Sky Sports Arena
- Indiana Pacers @ Los Angeles Lakers, 3:30 am
- Los Angeles Clippers @ Sacramento Kings, 3:30 am
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