The Raptors just finished their best road trip in franchise history. Now they have a chance to climb up the NBA standings
LOS ANGELES—The Raptors just finished their best road trip in franchise history to set themselves up to make a late charge to who knows where in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The manner in which they did it, the way they handled a horrid stretch right before, speaks volumes about what this team is and what it can be.
“We’re just resilient,” Siakam said after the second win in Los Angeles.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time a Raptors team has ever won five road games on the same trip, consecutive or otherwise. It’s added some significant juice to the final 13 games of the regular season as the Raptors now have their sights set on spots thought impossible maybe a month ago.
Beginning a stretch of 10 home games in the final 13 games, the Raptors will be seriously tested. But given the way things went to finish the western road trip, there’s every reason for them to be confident.
They are in a tie with Cleveland for sixth in the East today, only two games away from Chicago for fifth and, somewhat amazingly, has them within 2 ½ games — two in the loss column — from fourth-place Boston.
Given that the Raptors play in Chicago on Monday, at home against Cleveland on Thursday and a home date with Boston on March 28, fun times are likely ahead.
After starting the post-all-star portion of the season — with ugly losses in Charlotte and Atlanta and then defeats at the hands of East minnows Detroit and Orlando — the turnaround’s been quite something.
“It took us a couple of games to get back into the flow of things but just proud of the way that the guys responded,” VanVleet said after Wednesday’s 103-100 win over the Clippers.
“You know, wins in every different kind of way, different guys stepping up each night, can’t take any of these for granted.
“It’s pretty hard to win consistently in this league.”
What the trip has reaffirmed to the Raptors is that staying in games, and playing though tough times has tangible benefits. They are talented but they are not overwhelming and need to work to win. Things don’t come naturally very often but being mentally tough in difficult times pays off.
“We just want to fight every single night no matter what’s happening, (whether) the odds are against us or whatever the case might be,” Siakam said.
“One man down, or two men, just continue to fight, play together as a team and try to get a win. I think we did a great job this road trip of staying together, following the game plan, and no matter what … we just stay together.”
It’s quite possible — likely, even — that the Raptors will stumble a few times in the final 13 games that begins with a difficult stretch of three games in four nights. The Raptors play the Lakers at home Friday but have a bear of trip to Philadelphia and Chicago for games Sunday and Monday that have taken on greater significance because of the 5-0 end to the road trip.
It’s been something to watch this group mature at the most important time of the season, for fans and for players.
“I think we’ve got a lot of guys that are learning how to win and we have a lot of guys that know how to win, and mixing those two together, it’s been fun this year,” VanVleet said.
“I like where we are, and our group is definitely growing and we have a lot to be excited about.”