When the 2013-14 NBA season began, it was hard to imagine the Toronto Raptors as playoff contenders. Flash forward to the end of February, and they currently occupy the third spot in the Eastern Conference.
When an early-season trade with the Sacramento Kings banished Rudy Gay to the desert, it seemed like the Raptors were looking toward the future. A few injuries, mishaps and boneheaded decisions later, Toronto will make the postseason barring an epic collapse. I did say that they gave up Gay, so who possibly could be leading the league’s only Canadian team?
Remember that terrific Villanova team in 2005-06 that made it to the Elite Eight? You know, the team was lead by Randy Foye, Mike Nardi and Allen Ray? There was one more important name: Kyle Lowry.
Lowry is having a career season with the Raptors, averaging 16.7 points, 7.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. Out of nowhere, he has become the leader and has Toronto staring down the No. 3 seed. With the Chicago Bulls falling to the Miami Heat, the Raptors had a chance to increase their lead on the fourth-place Bulls. Led by none other than Lowry, Toronto beat up on the Orlando Magic on Sunday evening 105-90. Lowry had a fantastic game with 28 points and six assists, and the Raptors improved their record to 31-25.
The Indiana Pacers and Heat should both keep Toronto in the back of their minds. There is no chance that the Raptors will catch either team, but there are rather good odds that either Miami or Indiana will meet Toronto in the second round of the playoffs. Really, this is a team that has nothing to lose. No one is talking about them, no one knows who is on the roster and basically no one knows they exist.
Lowry and the Raptors sit in the perfect position: the position of the surprise team. All they have to do is capitalize.
Shane Phillips is an NBA Writer for RantSports.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneRantNBA, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also email Shane at ShaneRantNBA@gmail.com.