Toronto Raptors Playoff Preview; First Round vs. Indiana Pacers
With the 2016 NBA Playoffs now underway, let’s take a look at this year’s Toronto Raptors Playoff Preview.
The Toronto Raptors, who are 54-26, are enjoying their best season in franchise history. In the past, a good regular season hasn’t resulted in playoff success. In the last two seasons, they have failed to get past the 1st round of the playoffs, despite being the higher seed.
In 2014, they lost a heart-breaking seven-game series against the Brooklyn Nets. Last season, they suffered a disappointing four-game sweep against the Washington Wizards. Toronto will be looking to turn the page on their playoff failures and finally make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Keys to Success
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan
If the Raptors hope to overcome their playoff demons, they will need their All-Star tandem of Lowry and DeRozan to lead the way. If the regular season is any indication, the two stars look to be on a mission to prove that the Raps are true contenders in the Eastern Conference. They are currently the best scoring backcourt in the East and 3rd in the NBA averaging 45 points per game.
DeRozan has really elevated his play this year and has improved in every major statistical category from last season. He has raised his PPG from 20.1 to 23.6, his FG% from 41.3 to 44.3 and his 3PT% from 28.4 to 34.1. He is also attacking the basket more than ever, resulting in 8.5 free throw attempts, which is 3rd best in the NBA.
Lowry has also made huge strides this season and has boosted his scoring average by nearly four points from last season (17.8 to 21.4) and his 3PT% has gone up by nearly 5% (33.8 to 38.5). He is also among the leaders in steals, averaging 2.1 per game, tied for 2nd in NBA. This dynamic duo has really transformed into one of the most fearful backcourts and they are a force to be reckoned with.
As good as Lowry and DeRozan have been this year, they will still need help from their teammates to reach their ultimate goal. Jonas Valanciunas could be the x-factor for this team. If they can get him going it will make them that much stronger.
The Raptors rank near the bottom of the league in points-in-the-paint. Right now, Big V only averages 8.8 shots per game, which is not nearly enough attempts for a guy who has a FG% of 56.8. They need to make more of an effort to give him the ball down in the post.
Bismack Biyombo is another player who can be a difference maker with solid defense and his ability to crash the boards. He’s an absolute terror on the glass, averaging 8 rebounds per game in just 22 minutes. Earlier this season, he had 25 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers, which is a franchise record. Biyombo could become an unsung hero in these playoffs.
Someone else who could be a factor is DeMarre Carroll. He recently returned to the line-up after missing most of the season with a knee injury. It is unclear what his role will be come playoff time, but if he’s close to 100%, his defense and 3 point shooting could be very valuable to the team.
There is no denying the success the Raptors have had this season They are 5th in the NBA with an offensive rating of 106.8. After Friday’s victory against the Pacers, they now have a winning record against every playoff team in the Eastern Conference. With that being said, one of their major flaws has been sharing the basketball. They average 18.6 assists a game which is 2nd last in the NBA, the only team worse are the Los Angeles Lakers.
They settle for isolation plays more often than they should. To a certain extent, it is understandable since they have two great one-on-one players in Lowry and DeRozan. However, individual basketball isn’t a recipe for success in the playoffs. If the Raptors are serious about putting an end to their playoff woes, they need to start playing better team basketball.
(Toronto Raptors Playoff Preview)