The Toronto Raptors are the hottest team in the NBA right now. The defending NBA champions have not lost a game since Jan. 12, when they fell by one point to the San Antonio Spurs.
Their 15-game winning streak is currently the longest in the association, and the U.S. sports media is turning their attention to one of the most underrated stories of the season: despite losing NBA Finals’ MVP Kawhi Leonard and defensive stalwart Danny Green, the Raptors are still very much in the running for a back-to-back trip to the NBA Finals.
Here’s a sample of what they’re saying about the Raptors in the U.S.:
Prove ’em wrong
The Raptors have made a believer in ESPN analyst and former NBA champion Kendrick Perkins.
Perkins even took on doubters in the U.S. media who slammed the door shut on any chance for the Raptors to replicate last season’s success after Leonard’s departure. Fox Sports Radio host Jason McIntyre went as far as declaring the Raptors an “irrelevant franchise” that was bound to the basement.
On his podcast on The Ringer, Ryen Russillo argued that nobody could have predicted this run of success for the Raptors: after losing arguably the best player in the league in Leonard, it has been a surprise that the Raptors have the third-best record in the league.
“None of us knew (Pascal) Siakam was going to be this much better, (Fred) VanVleet is perfect in their setup,” said Russillo, praising the Raptors depth.
“Every guy that comes in for Toronto offers you something.”
Heart of a champion
ESPN The Jump’s analysts Kevin Arnovitz and Paul Pierce discussed Monday how the Raptors are deploying their defensive acumen to beat teams. They’re treating every regular season game like it’s a playoff game, the pair say, despite the Raptors backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry being “really small.”
“You forget one ingredient. These are the defending champs,” said Pierce, known for trolling Raptors fans when he played in the NBA.
“So this is not something that they’re doing on the fly. They’ve been together and they understand how to make the changes.”
Even better without Kawhi
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Teams that lose a superstar are supposed to go into rebuilding mode, but at 40-14, the Raptors have a better record now than they did last year, CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn points out.
“The streak is not only the longest in Raptors history, but is historic in Toronto’s home nation as well. The Raptors are the first Canadian professional sports franchise to win 15 or more games in a row in any major American professional sports league (the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB).”
Injuries haven’t hurt team
Tim Bontemps of ESPN detailed how the Raptors were able to extend the winning streak to 15 games on Monday, beating the Timberwolves 137-126 despite the home team not having a traditional centre in the lineup due to injuries and Russell D’Angelo’s first game with Minnesota after a trade deadline blockbuster deal.
“A big reason Toronto’s win streak remains intact is that the Raptors were able to shut Russell down after a productive opening three quarters in his Timberwolves debut.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Do you think the Raptors deserve more respect from around the league and the U.S. media during this 15-game streak? Does it matter? Share your thoughts.