It's getting close to bandwagon time for the Raptors. A couple of weeks ago when the club was at it's low ebb, having been blown out yet again on the road and with a record of 11-17 the view here at From Deep - and elsewhere to be sure - was that the next month, a stretch of 12 games, would define the Raptors season. Days off were many, as were home dates. Winning opponents were few. And just to make it more interesting the Month That Matters kicked off with five games against losing opponents. I said an 8-4 record - 7-5 at worst - was the minimum the Raptors should be able to rack up if they had any intention of being team worthy of their fan's respect, let alone the league's or mine.
So far, so excellent. They swept their first five against the weaker thans. Came out a bit flat against Boston in what can only be described as a missed opportunity given the Celtics were without Garnett, Pierce and Rondo. But the win at home against San Antonio and again last night against Orlando obviously lends some weight to the idea that the Raptors are playing at a new level.
The schedule has turned in their favour, certainly, but there defensive improvement has been significant.
Before their 7-1 stretch the Raptors defensive rating - then 116.1/100 possessions - was the worst in the NBA by a margin. The next worse team in the NBA was Memphis who had a rating of 111.7. The league average was 106.7.
Flash forward a couple of weeks and the Raptors now have a defensive rating of 113.2. They're still the worst defensive team in the NBA, but the gap is closing between them and the next worst team, which is now the Suns, with a rating of 111.2.
In the space of eight games Toronto has shaved the amount they trail the league average by 2.9 points. It may not sound like a lot but that's a 31 per cent improvement in the space of two weeks.
And given their offensive rating has remained constant - 111.1/100, good for fifth in the NBA - their improved defence is obviously the main factor in their little run.
There is more meat on the bone here - anyone care to figure out the Raptors defensive rating for their past eight games? Or their past 16? - but it will have to do for now.
For those who want some deeper defensive stats Chris Black has some stuff here that is interesting, as usual.
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