While the Washington Wizards hung in there with the red-hot Toronto Raptors for long stretches of Sunday’s 100-91 Raps win, the game was another in a string of impressive performances for the club who extended their win streak to four games.
Since losing a one-point heartbreaker to the Celtics in Boston last weekend, the Raptors have been playing with purpose and are now tied with the Detroit Pistons for second in the conference with an 11-5 record.
Here’s a closer look at how the Raptors have been racking up the wins over the past week:
DeRozan and Lowry delivering
The Raptors have been getting stellar performances from their all-star backcourt which, despite the apparent depth the team has at its disposal, is still the most important ingredient for success for this team. Earlier this season when Kyle Lowry was struggling to find his rhythm and place within the Raps’ new offence the team struggled as a result.
But Lowry’s all-around game has been on full display over the past four games, and coupled with DeMar DeRozan‘s consistent star-calibre performance in that stretch has helped the club do serious damage against their opponents.
Despite scoring just ten points during Sunday’s win versus Washington, Lowry has contributed across the board and seen a spike in both his assists and shooting percentages.
After shooting just 35 per cent from deep in the 12 games prior to the win streak, Lowry has been averaging 18.3 points on 47.8 per cent from the floor and an even 40 per cent from beyond the arc, while also registering 8.8 assists and 7.3 rebounds over his last four games.
DeRozan has been unreal during the Raptors’ win streak, leading the team in points, rebounds (tied with Lowry), and steals. He’s averaging 26.8 points on 56 per cent shooting (85 per cent from the free-throw line) to go along with 7.3 boards, 6.0 assists, and 1.5 steals over his last four. Simply put, he’s the most reliable Raptor night in and night out, which is nice given he also doubles as their go-to player.
The pair have also hooked up for (near) half-court alley-oops in each of the past two games:
Over the last four games the Raptors have been eighth in three-point attempts (32.3) and in the middle of the pack in three-point shooting (38 per cent, a notable improvement from earlier this season), but the team is shooting the lights out inside the three-point line. This is evidenced by the fact they’re shooting 52.8 per cent from the field during this stretch — good for third in the league during this timespan, behind only The Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks who have played half as many games since Nov. 14.
Toronto has averaged 115.3 points per game during the win streak, outscoring opponents by an average margin of 14.3 points. Their energetic defensive effort has forced opponents to cough up the ball, and the Raps are capitalizing on those opportunities, scoring a 19 points off turnovers per game.
One of the more encouraging stats over the last four games has been the Raptors’ assist ratio, the percentage of the team’s possessions that ends in an assist. At 20 per cent, the Raps are in the top-four during the streak. For comparisons’ sake, the team was second-worst last season with a ratio of 14.6.
The rookie continues to impress
The Raptors remain undefeated since inserting OG Anunoby into the starting lineup. Coincidence? Maybe. But there’s no question the 20 year-old forward has given the team a boost on both ends of the floor, fitting in seamlessly in his current role. Of rookies who have seen legitimate playing time this season, Anunoby leads the pack in offensive rating and net rating during the streak, while ranking third with a true shooting percentage of 68.8.
Anunoby has impressed all season — he ranks first in net rating among the 20 rookies who have averaged at least 18 minutes per game this year — but he’s found a niche in the starting five that could lead to some difficult decisions for Dwane Casey and his staff once Norman Powell recovers from his hip injury.
Depth proving to be a critical asset
The Raptors are missing two key rotation players — Powell and Delon Wright, who is out with a right shoulder injury — yet have been winning convincingly in part due to their depth.
Toronto’s inexperienced bench was considered by many a point of concern heading into the season, yet through the first month — and especially during this current win streak — have proven to be a legitimate difference maker.
On Sunday it was second-year forward Pascal Siakam who stepped up in a big way during a nine-rebound, two-block performance that barely tells the story of how impactful the 23 year-old big man was for his team.
In the Raptors’ blowout win versus the Rockets in Houston last Tuesday, veteran sharpshooter C.J. Miles came off the bench for 19 points and a whopping six three-pointers (he’s averaging four made threes during the streak), while Wright stepped up with 14 points and some excellent stretches of defence.
Simply put, the Raptors are getting contributions from multiple bench players in every game over their past four wins, and frankly with the depth of talent the team has at it’s disposal right now (let alone when everyone is healthy), it looks to be a key element to the teams’ success this season.
After a brief break, the Raptors head out onto the road for their next three games, all solid opportunities to extend the streak. They face the Knicks in New York on Wednesday night, followed by games against the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets.