One of the biggest questions as the Toronto Raptors embark on the post all-star portion of the season is will they make the playoffs.
As presently constructed, there’s no question that if the Raptors can stay healthy, they have the talent to make a run as they are a much-improved team with the addition of Rudy Gay.
That said, some of the numbers may put a bit of a damper on the playoff buzz that has developed with the Raptors recent run. True, the team is in 10th place, only six games out of the last playoff spot with 29 games remaining but looking ahead at the teams ahead of them on the radar, it could be a tough hill to climb. Not only must they pass the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks but the Raptors need to be leery of a Detroit Pistons team that sits a half game behind them in the Eastern Conference standings.
Tie-breakers may also come into play as the Sixers, who currently sit in ninth spot, have defeated Toronto in three of four meetings this season and the Milwaukee Bucks who are holding on to the last post-season pass have beaten the Raptors once with two games in Milwaukee remaining.
At the current pace, with Milwaukee a game above the .500 mark, it will take between 41 and 42 wins, 41.8 right now, so let’s call it 42 victories, to secure the eighth spot. Philadelphia has a brutal road schedule to end the season so it’s possible they may slip but if the Bucks don’t, Toronto would likely have to finish 21-8 post-All-Star break to squeak into the last spot.
What if the Bucks start to fade and as some contended at the start of the season, the final playoff berth could be secured with a 38-44 mark? Toronto would still need a 17-12 finish to secure the 38-win total. Ok fans, here’s you optimism pill: Since the dreadful 4-19 start, Toronto has a record of 17-13.
Now folks, let’s play the Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda Game. Here are some sobering numbers that reinforce the idea of a fine line and the old adage that says, “you are never that far from being good when you’re bad or that far from being bad when you’re good”.
In the last five minutes of games, when the difference is two possessions, plus or minus five points, Toronto is 24th in the NBA with a 12-20 (.375) record. When you look at the last minute applying the same score criteria, Toronto is 25th in the NBA with an 11-17 (.393) mark. It probably has something to do with a 29.7 field-goal percentage (22/74) in the last minute of play in those situations.
Many of those totals were posted before Gay was added to the roster In February, the Raptors rank 10th in the NBA with a 3-2 (.600) mark in the last five minutes when the score is plus or minus five points. Just ask the Indiana Pacers or Denver Nuggets what Gay can do to the best-conceived defensive game plans. Toronto has improved its shooting from the floor by almost 10 per cent and is approaching 39 percent (19/49) in the last five minutes of two possession games since the addition of Gay. In fact, Toronto has posted a 3-1 record in the last minute of two possession games with Gay as the team is shooting 43.8% (7/16 from the floor).
OK, enough with the Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda Game. Safe to say that a few more wins would have gone a long way toward helping the Raptors cause. The good thing for Raptor fans is the change in team composition gives them a better chance in close games. Never mind the numbers, the team is passing the eye test as they just look more confident and you can see it when they are on the floor. They feel they have a better chance to win.
But as they say, the only part of the sports page that doesn’t lie is the standings. The reality is Toronto sits in 10th and needs a major push to get to have a chance at playing in May. Can they make it? Let’s put the final answer at possible, but not sure if it’s probable that Raptors end up playing in the post season.