Are the Raptors A Bigger Threat to the Celtics Than Cleveland?
Entering today, the Cavaliers sit in third in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, but the Raptors look legit. Last week the Raptors blew out the Cavaliers and almost rallied from a 27 point deficit against the Warriors. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have struggled tremendously. They’ve lost four straight and five of their last six. To make matters worse, in three of their last four games they’ve lost by double digits. With the half way point of the NBA season upon us, each of these teams are starting the second half at different points.
When the season began, not many people saw the Raptors as a threat. Many people saw the East as a battle between Cleveland and Boston. That still could happen, but to this point Toronto is proving people wrong. The Raptors have a talented roster and are led by potential MVP candidate DeMar DeRozan. They are a top ten defensive team and are outscoring their opponents by an average of eight points a game. They have dealt with adversity, as earlier in the season one of their key players, Kyle Lowry, missed time due to injury. Despite the Raptors early season success, some are not sold of them yet. That is for multiple reasons, and one unique to Cleveland.
When the Cavaliers head coach Tyron Lue was asked why he thought his team was still the best in the East he said, “Because we got the best player in the world.” Lue was talking about LeBron James, who even at age 30 is having a career year. Unlike the Cavaliers, the Raptors have a group of accomplished veterans. The Cavs are also integrating many new pieces into the offense, such as Isaiah Thomas. Isaiah has only appeared in six games this year, but is considered a key piece to the Cavaliers after being acquired via trade in the offseason. Even with all the talent on this roster, there is still concern about whether or not this team can turn it around. The Cavaliers biggest struggle has been on defense, as they lack a rim protector. This team still has the talent to make a run, but they need to turn things around fast.
At the moment it looks as if the sky is falling in Cleveland. Even though the Cavaliers have been in this spot before, this time people aren’t to sure if they can recover. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, “several prominent members are concerned about the immediate future of the team as a contender.” This is a problem the Cavaliers haven’t had before and that Toronto does not. The Raptors have lost their last two, but those games have been close. They are also only two games behind the Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They are loaded with young talent and ready to make a playoff run. There is still a lot of basketball to be played and the Cavaliers could bounce back. The Celtics have been the best team in the East all season, and the only question remains is who will challenge them in the end for that top spot?