Sorry … what?
The Raptors, long the David of the NBA world, have made the Finals and will face off against the Goliath Golden State Warriors. And they got there thanks to some strange, unexpected play and performances that have flown in the face of long-held beliefs (however ill-gotten) about the team.
Here’s a closer look at some surprising stats from the Raptors’ run to uncharted territory:
.750: The Raptors are 3-1 in close-out games in these playoffs, dropping only a single chance to end a series in Game 6 vs. the 76ers. The team was just 5-6 combined in such games prior to this season.
+.629 3P%: The fact that Fred VanVleet put up an .824 3P% on 17 attempts in Games 4 through 6 in itself is unprecedented. The fact that he did it after shooting .195 from three in the first 15 games of the playoffs (41 attempts) makes it the most complete and dramatic shooting turnaround in NBA history.
102.4 DRtg: Even after facing off against the 60-win Bucks and Joel Embiid’s 76ers, the Raptors are allowing just 102.4 points per 100 possessions for the playoffs — a number that’s second only to the Bucks’ 101.8 mark.
That’s a quantum leap from previous performances in the Masai Ujiri era:
|Playoffs||DRtg||League rank (out of 16)|
The Raptors’ current playoff defensive rating would have topped the best mark in the regular season (Milwaukee’s 104.9) by a full 2.5 points. It’s also 4.4 points better than the Raptors’ own fifth-place regular-season mark of 106.8.
.417: Speaking of defence, the Raptors are holding opponents to a .417 FG%. That’s the best in franchise playoff history. In last year’s 10 games, the team let opponents hit at a .486 clip — the worst mark in franchise playoff history.
34.5: The Raptors are taking exactly 34.5 three-pointers per game in these playoffs, and hitting exactly … 34.5 percent of them. The team has bettered the latter number a few times in the post-season in the past, but the former is a franchise high.
Kyle Lowry leads the team in individual attempts with 107 (almost six per game), and Kawhi Leonard leads with 40 makes.
In related news…
621: The Raptors have taken 621 three-point attempts in these playoffs, which is the seventh-highest mark for a single post-season in league history. If the team keeps up their current pace and the Finals last at least five games, they have a shot at the Warriors’ all-time three-point-happy record of 778 attempts. Yes, that’s right. This Raptors team. Poster children for the three-point revolution.
3: And yet, despite that above fact, Danny Green has somehow gone three straight games without a three pointer. That’s never happened to him in the playoffs.
In fact, only once in his post-season career — a total of 118 games — has he gone even two games without a three. That happened in the first round of the 2017 playoffs versus Gasol’s Memphis Grizzlies, and he bounced back by hitting at least one triple in each of the Spurs’ 12 remaining games.
(Yes, that included hitting 1.5 per game against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.)
+24.1: Sportsnet NBA Editor Dave Zarum covered a litany of incredible Kawhi stats last week, but here’s one more: To this point in the playoffs, the Raptors are 24.1 points better per 100 possessions better when the Klaw is on the floor than when he’s off of it.
That’s a huge number, and worth mentioning on its own. But it’s also eerily reminiscent of LeBron James’s first title run with the Heat in 2012, when the team was 24.3 points better with LeBron on the floor than with him off of it.
More eerie (or, you know, merely coincidental) similarities between this Raptors team and that Heat one:
• When Kawhi is on the court in these playoffs, the Raptors are 10.7 points better per 100 possessions than their opponents. When LeBron was on the court during the 2012 playoffs the Heat were 10.9 points better than their opponents.
• The 2012 Heat needed 18 games (series of five, six and seven games) to get to the Finals. The 2019 Raptors? They also needed 18 games (series of five, seven and six games).
• Kevin Durant was waiting for both of them once they reached the finals, though it’s still unclear when he’ll play against the Raptors.
To sum up, I’m not saying Kawhi is LeBron and these Raptors are the 2012 Heat. The stats are.