Raptors By The Numbers: Devastating Start May Yield To Success

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Alan Anderson has been a find for the Raptors. (Ron Turenne/NBAE)

Raptors by the numbers: It’s not so bad.

Inconceivable.

Despite a 4-19 start, the playoffs are by no means out of reach for the Toronto Raptors.

First the good news: The Philadelphia 76ers have four more wins, Boston, Brooklyn and Friday’s ACC opponent — the Orlando Magic — are all within reach of a particularly fruitful two weeks.   The Raptors own more victories than Charlotte, Detroit, Cleveland, Washington and New Orleans.

Now the bad: it looks like a .500 record will earn a playoff spot. That means the Raptors, at 9-19 have to win 10 more games than they lose the rest of the way. That’s something around a 32-22 record and that means a 60 per cent winning percentage.  Tough.

It is an absolute mystery how a team playing at a .321 clip can buck up and earn a post-season spot but these are unfathomable times and the hideous Western road trip is a distant memory. Remember how Antonio Davis led the Raptors to 10 wins in their final 12 games and a playoff spot in 2002?

The tale will be told in January. The Raptors own a winning record at home. They open the month with six straight home games. Ten of the month’s 15 games will be played at Air Canada Centre.

The funny thing about pro sports is that winning is supposed to answer questions while losing is supposed to inspire them.

In this way, the Raptors are as enigmatic as, well you-know-who.

The Raptors, who gave up more than 100 points  in half their previous games, haven’t surrendered the century mark once and have averaged 90.8. points against in their last five. The best defensive teams in the league, Memphis, Chicago and Indiana, average 90 points surrendered.

Ample credit must go to Alan Anderson, The 30-year-old Anderson, essentially a walk-on last season is a remarkable defender who can make life difficult for a shooting guard, swing man, even an opposing power forward. He has thrown in ten points a night and you needn’t look a whole lot further than Anderson to identify the Raptors improvement.

Let’s do it anyway.

Jose Calderon has been superb. Calderon said his goal was to be the most professional player in the NBA. He backed it up when he bounced back from the loss of his starting job to deliver performances worthy of player of the week honors including a triple-double and his 5000th Raptors point.

Ed Davis has rejuvenated his career as an energy player who can score and rebound. Though he rarely sees the court down the stretch, the 23-year-old has delivered 29 minutes a night over the last five games and 11.6 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. That’s a player.

After 27 games last year, DeMar DeRozan had six games of five or more rebounds. After 27 this year, he has 16. Urged to be more assertive going to the glass and posting up, DeRozan has torn down five rebounds and 18 points a game over the course of the streak.

The fun, of course, starts in a few games when point guard Kyle Lowry, who struggled as the team floundered, returns from an arm injury. Landry Fields is back right now, albeit on the end of the bench. Anderson has proven himself the kind of glue guy the Raptors sought in signing Fields so he gets to play.

The questions to be answered are the good kind. How to re-establish the new guys while keeping the chemistry of the winning streak? Will Bargnani resurrect his often moribund play? Will an extended surge postpone any needed reconstruction?

For now, the Raptors will bask in the headiest winning streak of the last few years. The questions won’t go away. With the team enjoying a four-day holiday break after the Orlando game, the answers will keep.

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