The Toronto Raptors have come into March like lions and are officially already better than last season with still 20+ games left to go in the season. The Raptors get a win in Minnesota and now head home for perhaps on of the most important game remaining on their schedule against the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn has finally battled back above the .500 mark but still sit 4 games behind the Raptors who are 9 games above .500 for the first time since 2007. If the Raptors win they would be up 5 games with 20 games to go. Basically in effect wrapping up the division based on the Raptors remaining schedule.
Kyle Lowry continues to tear is up coming in off 18 points 12 rebound and 11 assists for a triple double as part of the 111-104 win Sunday night in Minnesota. He and DeRozan have been playing like All-Stars since the break and providing the leadership that has led to this turnaround.
Despite the Nets turnaround the Raptors have still been better 8-2 in their last 10 compared to the Nets 7-3. Raptors lead the season series 2-1 and with a win would hold any tiebreaker between the two. There is really no way to express how important this game is for the Raptors final month and a bit of the season. If they win they can likely focus on the playoffs and perhaps rest some people down the stretch and focus on positioning. If they lose the division is now no longer a lock for the Raptors.
The Raptors of late have had some playoff style battles with the Wizards and Bulls to prepare for a big night like this. One bit of bad news prior to the game in Minnesota that Patrick Patterson will be out at least 7-10 days as he re-aggravated an elbow injury that will require surgery after the season. Patterson was playing through the injury though. No work on if this recurrence of the injury has changed anything in terms of making the injury worse. It already was going to require surgery as previously stated.
Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes may be called in to fill in gap going forward. They obviously do not offer the offensive skills of a Patterson though. This does come at a time where Amir Johnson seems to have caught a second wind and is playing some of the best basketball he has in quite some time.
Raptors will need all hands on deck in Brooklyn to get a really important win that could make their path to the playoffs a much easier one. The fact they will make the playoffs is really no longer a question at this point.
What this season will mean will remain uncertain until after it is over in July. Most fans don’t seem to be concerned with that and are just enjoying what has been an unexpected rise of the Raptors that no one saw coming. Which given all that folks have had to endure in the last 5 years or so is very understandable.
It has been a long time since we could talk about important games in March and April but we have arrived at that point. Not many will be bigger than tomorrow night until we get to the playoffs themselves.