The NBA season is back up and running with many teams making their final playoff push. The question for the Raptors is where do they go from here.
Much of the talk before the All-Star weekend was about the Raptors, who entered the festivities coming off a 15-game win streak. However, the confidence of the other Eastern Conference contenders hasn’t wavered despite the team’s success. The league-leading Bucks emphasized that point earlier this week when they roared back to beat the Raptors at home.
Looking at the Raptors’ remaining schedule, things aren’t getting any easier from here either. The Raptors have the 11th hardest strength of schedule. That includes 2 more games against the perennial beasts of the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors who are currently 9-13 against above .500 squads will seriously have to step up there game to close out the season. The only Eastern Conference contender with the tougher schedule is the Bucks themselves.
The Miami Heat are only 5.5 games behind the Raptors and have the 26th hardest strength of schedule to close out the season. The Philadelphia 76ers who could also look to move up the standings have the second-easiest remaining strength of schedule in the NBA. At the very least, the Boston Celtics who are closest to challenging the Raptors for the second seed have the 12th hardest schedule.
As detailed in previous articles, the second seed, and home court are crucial for the Raptors. The squad is definitely more impressive at home, in front of one of the most devoted fanbases in the NBA. In a playoff setting, a mostly young squad like the Raptors should flourish more within familiar territory. But the real reason home court is so crucial is because of what it does for the other Eastern Conference teams.
The Boston Celtics are barely an above .500 team on the road but are 23-5 at home. The Miami Heat are below .500 on the road but 23-3 at home. And the Philadelphia 76ers are way below .500 on the road but are 27-2 at home. That 27-2 record at home is the best in the NBA.
Simply put, the Raptors better channel some of that 15-game win streak magic to put together some more wins. The finals weeks of the season are where contenders gear up and pretenders fall apart. The Raptors must win some big games down the stretch to enter the playoffs in good standing. Otherwise, the team is headed for an early exit.