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NBA Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors Looking To Capitalize On Upcoming Schedule

(Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

During the past week, the Toronto Raptors have looked like two completely different teams at times, one, the surprising Atlantic Division leaders, while the other resembles a franchise struggling to find it’s way in very unfamiliar territory.

After posting a comeback win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Sunday that also avenged an overtime loss earlier in the week, the Raptors pulled to an even 2-2 for the seven day stretch, and will now enjoy four straight outings against sub .500 opponents.

Before looking ahead however, Toronto desperately needs to amend whatever is causing the team to play fundamentally worse basketball than a squad of three-year-olds.

Other than trailing the eighth-place Hawks for three quarters of a game that was sloppy and even difficult to watch, the Raptors were once again plagued by poor shooting. From the charity stripe, Toronto shot just over 71 percent compared to its season average of 78 percent, and from long distance where the Raptors already struggle as a team at 37 percent, equaling that unimpressive number was also too much to ask as they were held to 33 percent vs. the visitors.

It obviously wasn’t all bad for the Raptors who out-rebounded a playoff-bound opponent for the second straight game, and Sunday’s win was an ideal time for Toronto to come up with its biggest comeback victory of the current campaign.

While we’ve learned a lot about this group during the team’s ascent into league-wide respectability, if there’s one thing that should still be cause for concern it’s the fact that on most nights, the combination of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry carries the offense, and Toronto would be in serious trouble if either went down with an injury.

For example, if the Brooklyn Nets lost a player such as Joe Johnson or Paul Pierce, that loss could potentially be offset by a combination of capable scorers like Deron Williams, Marcus Thorton, Andrei Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic, and Shaun Livingston in the same way that they’ve subsidized their offense in the absence of Brook Lopez.

At the end of Saturday’s action, Toronto held a slim, two-game lead over Brooklyn for first place in the Atlantic, and remained a half game up on the Chicago Bulls for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

In the midst of a playoff race, the Raptors’ upcoming week will consist of four games against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics (two), and Orlando Magic, while the pesky Nets will also have the benefit of facing only one team currently headed for the postseason in the four games they’ll play over the next seven days.

Fortunately, the Bulls will play two of their three contests this week vs. the conference-leading Indiana Pacers and the Portland Trail Blazers who nobody wants to face in a seven-game series, and if the Raptors do their part, the end result could be some much-needed breathing room in the East.