It’s been quite the return from the All-Star break for the Toronto Raptors, huh?
Three straight losses coming out of the break (five in a row overall) and there’s quite literally a Civil War on Raptors Twitter.
But hey, the Raptors are missing three very good NBA players and are (hopefully) getting a few back tomorrow against the Detroit Pistons.
Which leads me to the point of this recurring series of articles here on this website. Every week we’ll be looking ahead to the next three to four games for the Raptors and predicting how they’ll do in those games.
The Raptors upcoming four-game stretch sees them finish up their three-game road trip against the Pistons, come back home against the Utah Jazz, and finish it off with a back-to-back on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets.
Wednesday, March 17th @ Detroit Pistons
Most of this depends on who is available for the Raptors, but things are looking pretty good that they’ll get at least a couple of the players that have missed extended time due to the health and safety protocols back.
These teams played earlier this month and the Pistons handed the Raptors a 129-105 butt-kicking to start off this five-game losing streak. Detroit made 20 threes and Wayne Ellington had eight of them.
Call me a nerd but I don’t think that team shooting will sustain for a second game.
The Pistons will have Jerami Grant back for this game after he missed the first meeting but I’m going to predict that the team the Raptors started their five-game losing streak against will be the team it ends against as well.
Player to watch: Delon Wright
I would have liked to say Hamidou Diallo but he’s not guaranteed to play so I’ll go with old friend Delon Wright.
He’s averaging career-highs across the board: points (10.6), rebounds (4.5), assists (4.8), steals (1.4), and shooting a career-high from three (39.2 percent on over 2.5 attempts per game). It’s always nice to see a former Raptor doing well.
Friday, March 19th vs. Utah Jazz
I think no matter who is back for the Raptors in this game, it will probably be a loss.
For those that haven’t been watching, the Jazz are scorching the league by shooting a ton of three’s (most in the league) and making them (third highest percentage).
The Raptors, on the other hand, give up the fourth-most three-point attempts.
It’s a bad matchup for a team that will still be working guys back into shape after missing so much time.
The one saving grace for the Raptors is that the Jazz will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back after playing in Washington the night before. Perhaps the Raptors can catch them tired on the fourth game of a five-game road trip but the Jazz are simply a bad matchup.
Player to watch: uh, the whole team?
Although Donovan Mitchell leads the Jazz in scoring by almost a full seven points per game compared to Jordan Clarkson in second, the Jazz built their offence around ball movement and three-point shooting.
So watch how beautifully the Jazz ping the ball around the floor on offence and admire it.
Sunday, March 21st @ Cleveland Cavaliers
By this time the Raptors should have their guys back from H&S protocols and back into game shape.
It’s their first of three meetings against the Cavs this season, who are now in quite the tailspin, going 6-17 after going 8-7 to start the year.
They’re the worst offence in the NBA with a 105.1 offensive rating and it won’t be any easier for them to score against the Raptors at full strength.
There are no sure-things in the NBA (and especially so for the Raptors as of late) but a relatively healthy Raptors team should have no trouble winning this one.
Player to watch: Jarrett Allen
Ever since escaping the shadow of DeAndre Jordan and the Brooklyn Nets’ refusal to play him, Allen has broken out with the Cavs.
In 25 games since being traded to Cleveland, Allen is averaging 14.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. The Raptors already aren’t a great team finishing at the rim and going against Allen will make it even harder.
Monday, March 22nd @ Houston Rockets
The Rockets were the Raptors’ last win all the way back on February 26th.
Similarly to the Cavs, things are not going well for the Rockets as of late. They’ve lost 16 straight games as of today (they play tonight against Atlanta Hawks) and their injury report reads like a novel.
There’s no guarantee all of these guys are out by next week, but it’s not a good sign for the Rockets, even against a Raptors team playing the second night of a back-to-back. I’ll give the Raptors the win here as well.
Player to watch: Kevin Porter Jr.
He’s not going to beat the Raptors by himself, but he’s been really fun to watch since being recalled from the G-League, where he went scorched Earth on the competition.
In his 15 games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Porter Jr. averaged 24.1 points, 6.4 boards, 7.3 assists, and 1.6 steals. So far in the NBA, his best performance came against the Jazz where he put up 27/3/8 with a steal and two blocks. He’s fun!
So overall I have the Raptors coming out of their next four games looking pretty good. A 3-1 week would have the Raps only two games under 0.500 and firmly in the thick of the playoff race.