The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The season will return on July 30 and NBA.com‘s writers are taking an updated look at each of the league’s 30 teams.
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Record: 46-18, No. 2 in Eastern Conference
Season summary: Kawhi Leonard seemingly took the Raptors’ hopes for a repeat with him to Los Angeles. But the Toronto Raptors still have several guys who contributed to the franchise’s first championship, know how to win games, and have terrific chemistry on both ends of the floor. That core of returning players, even though most of them have missed more than 10 games, has been the foundation for a team with a better winning percentage than last season’s Raptors.
Toronto’s success starts with the league’s second-ranked defense, arguably the league’s most cohesive unit on that end of the floor. The Raptors rank second in opponent turnover rate and are also the only team that ranks in the top five in both opponent field goal percentage in the paint (52.7%, second) and opponent effective field-goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (48.2%, third). The offense has taken a step backward without Leonard, but the Raptors’ young players have taken steps forward and some of the new reserves, with undrafted rookie Terence Davis standing out among them, have proven to be more reliable than originally thought.
Breakout player: After undergoing an appendectomy the day after the last game of the regular season, OG Anunoby didn’t play at all in the playoffs. This season, he’s not only returned to the rotation, but he’s seen big jumps in minutes (from 20.2 to 30.1), points (from 7.0 to 10.7) and rebounds (from 2.9 to 5.4) per game. Those are the 12th, 33rd and 12th biggest jumps, respectively, among 234 players that have played in at least 40 games in each of the last two seasons.
Those jumps have come with an increase in efficiency, and Anunoby’s effective field goal percentage of 58.4% ranks 13th among 137 players with at least 500 field goal attempts. Anunoby scored a career-high 24 points against Charlotte on Nov. 18, topped it with 25 against Minnesota on Feb. 10, and then went for 32 points in Denver on March 1. The third-year forward has been one of the league’s most improved players, has a high ceiling, and doesn’t turn 22 until July 17.
Statement win: Dec. 28: Raptors 113, Celtics 97 — Three days after a Christmas Day matchup in which the Celtics won by 16 in Toronto, the Raptors had a chance for revenge. They were playing without Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell, and this was one of the 14 games in which the Celtics had all five of their best perimeter players. But the Raptors came away with a wire-to-wire victory, just the Celtics’ second loss in 15 home games at that point. It was one of the Celtics’ worst offensive games (97 points on 99 possessions) of the season, with the league’s No. 1 3-point defense holding them to just 7-for-32 (22%) from beyond the arc. Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 30 points, replacement starter Patrick McCaw added 18 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and the Raptors were a plus-19 in Chris Boucher’s 16 minutes on the floor. The Raptors have lost their other six games against the other teams in the East’s top four (Milwaukee, Boston and Miami), so it’s nice to have this one win in their pocket.
Most exciting game: Dec. 22: Raptors 110, Mavs 107 — Playing without Siakam, Gasol and Powell, the Raptors trailed by 30 points with a little more than two minutes to go in the third quarter. Nick Nurse pulled a full-court press out of his bag of tricks, and the Raptors were able to slow down the league’s No. 1 offense. They were still down 18 with nine minutes to go in the fourth, but outscored the Mavs 20-2 over the next 3 1/2 minutes, tying the game on a sideline out-of-bounds play that resulted in a layup for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Raptors went up by five, but the Mavs climbed back and took a one-point lead on a pair of Kristaps Porzingis free throws with 32.2 seconds left. The lead didn’t last long, as Lowry (who scored 20 points in the fourth quarter) pushed the ball up the floor, beat two Mavs off the dribble, attacked the paint, and found a trailing Boucher for a dunk with 25.8 seconds to go. On the other end, some incredible defensive effort forced a Jalen Brunson pull-up that fell short with four seconds left, and the champs came away with a three-point win almost 10 years to the day since the last time a team won a regular season game it trailed by 30 points or more.
Memorable moments: “I put you on scarves,” Anunoby said in a clip from Feb. 5 that went viral. “I’ve been in the scarf game 10 years now,” Serge Ibaka replied. For the next home game, Anunoby showed up with a ridiculously large scarf, only to be outdone by Ibaka, who would later say, “I don’t do fashion. I do art.” … The Raptors’ lost Lowry (fractured thumb) and Ibaka (sprained ankle) to injuries on Nov. 8. Two nights later, they trailed the Lakers by double-digits. But a 61-44 second half gave them their best win of the season to date. Nick Nurse had a hard time trusting anybody beyond his top seven up until that point, but Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Matt Thomas combined for 24 of the team’s 35 points in the fourth quarter.
From Jan. 15 to Feb. 10, the Raptors played some bad teams (11 of the 15 wins were against teams with losing records) and won some close games (eight of the 15 were within five points in the last five minutes), but a 15-game winning streak (the longest in franchise history) is still quite a run. The champs had the league’s No. 1 offense (118.7 points scored per 100 possessions) over those four weeks, with nine different Raptors averaging double-figures (though Siakam and Davis were the only two of the nine to play in all 15 games). The streak, which took them from fourth to second place in the East, came to an end in the last game before the All-Star break, when the Raptors shot just 38% in Brooklyn.
Team MVP: Lowry and Siakam get the honors, but there’s no need to split hairs between the resumes of the Raptors’ two All-Stars (who have played almost the same number of minutes). They’re both a big part of the league’s second-ranked defense. Lowry ranks second with 0.58 charges drawn per game, while Siakam has contested 5.7 3-pointers per game, most in the league by a wide margin. Offensively, Siakam has scored at a higher volume, while Lowry has had the ball in his hands more, ranks seventh in assists per game (7.7), and has scored more efficiently (Siakam has actually seen a big drop in efficiency with a big jump in usage). Lowry also has an effective field goal percentage of 60.4% in the clutch (score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime), the sixth-best mark among 71 players who have attempted at least 30 clutch shots. The champs are 30-11 when they’ve had both Lowry and Siakam in uniform, and actually 10-2 (with wins over the Lakers, Sixers and Jazz) in games that Siakam has played without Lowry.
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