Tough slate of games will prove what Toronto is made of


Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors are right back in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference, as their 2-8 start is firmly in the past after Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and the rest of the much-improved Raptors reeled off eight wins in 14 games. While the results have been encouraging, they are just a tad on the fraudulent side.

After starting the season at 2-8, Toronto has only beaten three playoff teams from last year. Of those three, one of them was a Dallas Mavericks team that can’t stop a nosebleed, a Miami Heat squad playing without Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, and a Brooklyn Nets team that lost Kevin Durant for most of their matchup.

The Raptors will get a chance to prove themselves against two of the league’s best teams in the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, as they will play each of the top two seeds in the East twice each during a five-game span. A Raptors team that hasn’t had the best results against elite teams and scorers not have to tackle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

While the Raptors have plenty of balance on the offensive end, they will be tested in this five-game stretch. Nurse should use this as a litmus test to determine just how good the Raptors are right now.

The Toronto Raptors’ depth and execution will be tested

The Raptors have crawled back into the postseason hunt on the back of some quality perimeter shooting and some interior defense. Unfortunately, Milwaukee and Philadelphia have constructed their rosters to specifically stop teams that want to attack in that fashion.

With 6-10 Simmons and 6-11 Giannis handing out around the perimeter, a lineup that features two undersized guards in 6-0 Fred VanVleet and 6-1 Kyle Lowry could be in for some rough afternoons. Defensively, OG Anunoby and Yuta Watanabe might not be enough to turn the tide of what could be an extremely challenging assignment.

With Chris Boucher too skinny to play at the 5 on defense most of the time, Baynes will likely be at center for large chunks of the game. Against a player in Embiid that is playing at an MVP level and Giannis as lethal as ever in the paint, the Raptors could be torched on the inside unless Anunoby plays some of the best basketball of his career.

If Toronto can win a few of these games, they can cement themselves as a contender. If they lose, the wheels could completely fall off.