The Toronto Raptors improved to 7-2 on the season after winning consecutive games over the Charlotte Hornets and New Yorks Knicks this past weekend. This would be the first time this season the Raptors played a back-to-back and their first time meeting these Eastern Conference teams. DeMar DeRozan continues to lead the way, scoring over 30 points for the 8th time in 9 games and is now averaging a league high 34 points per game to start the season. DeRozan was also awarded the NBA Player of the Week award following his stellar performances. Jonas Valancuinas returned to the starting line-up Friday night after missing the previous 2 games with a knee contusion. After getting some minutes while JV was out, Dwane Casey continued to give playing time to Lucas “BeBe” Nogueira at the back-up Centre position and he has taken full advantage. During Saturday night’s nail biting win over the Knicks, Nogueira finished with 6 points (3/3 shooting), 10 rebounds, and 5 blocks including 2 massive swats on Melo/D-Rose to end the game.
In a league where momentum and home court advantage are key for teams come playoff time, these games were must wins for the Raptors early on the season. The Hornets appear to be building off their successful campaign last season where they finished with a franchise best 48 wins. As for the Knicks, not only are they division rivals who made some key signings this past off-season, it was around this time 1 year ago when Carmelo Anthony was not called for stepping out of bounds in an eventual Raptors loss. In a much improved Eastern Conference, the Raptors now have a little cushion with a very tough schedule ahead.
Tonight they will visit Cleveland to take on LeBron James and the Cavaliers at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Cleveland last played Sunday night where they defeated the Charlotte Hornets 100-93 led by Channing Frye’s 20 point effort. This will be the second meeting this season between the 2 Eastern Conference Finalists, where Cleveland won the last game 94-91 following a controversial no-call. Tied at 91 in the final minute, JV appeared to be fouled under the net by JR Smith (who even raised his hand following the contact) but no whistle was blown and Kyrie Irving drained a dagger 3 which he has done so many times in his young career. The Raptors will have a second chance at vengeance against the best Eastern Conference team, who appear destined to return to the NBA Finals for the 3rd straight season.
Following tonight’s game against the Cavaliers, the Raptors will head back home and host the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Despite receiving criticism to begin the season, the Warriors appear to be getting better every game where Durant is getting more comfortable. They will be on 3 day rest after winning their Sunday match-up 133-120 against the Phoenix Suns. Durant, Curry, and Thompson combined for 89 points including 12 3-pointers. This will be the first of two times that the Raptors will face the Warriors this season. They saw them in action earlier in October to tip off pre-season where they emerged victorious. Unfortunately, that was pre-season and this is a completely different ball game.
Following the next 2 games over last season’s NBA Finalists, the Raptors will head out on a 4 game road trip:
Sunday November 20th: Sacramento Kings
Monday November 21st: Los Angeles Clippers
Wednesday November 23rd: Houston Rockets
Friday November 25th: Milwaukee Bucks
The Raptors will then head home for a 6 game home stand. This will be a good test early on in the season for the Raptors to face the league’s elite and continue improving as a unit. Check @atbnews and atbnews.com for the latest Raptors updates and highlights!