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NBA

Raptors’ playoff odds surge amidst six-game win streak

The past two years have been a mess for the Toronto Raptors. Following their 2019 NBA championship, the franchise had a magnificent bounce back season, putting themselves right there in the conversation amongst title-contending teams. Then COVID-19 showed up and suspended the season.

The struggles

The Raptors were solid in the bubble where the NBA tried to finish the season under outstanding circumstances. However, they would ultimately come up just short in a game seven loss to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.

2020-21 would bring more challenges; the loss of key big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, a temporary move to Tampa Bay due to COVID-19 restrictions, injuries, big trades and some down right bad luck. The Raptors finished 27-45 and missed the playoffs. The team was not as bad as their record suggested but what a frustrating season it was.

Thankfully, their struggles came with a reward. The Raptors drafted then-19-year-old Scottie Barnes with the fourth overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. He has been one of the great stories this season for not only the Raptors, but the entire NBA.

This season

2021-22 has not been all fine and dandy either, however. The Raptors lost three of four to start the season, then won five-straight, followed by a 3-10 stretch. Some wins were earned, some losses suffered, but they just could not seem to string together enough wins to get over that .500 mark. COVID did not help, nor did injuries. It has felt like the team had been battling the same demons for two year straight and naturally, doubt starts to creep in to one’s mind.

Fast-forward to the present, the Raptors have won a pile of games over the past couple of weeks. Have they finally gotten over the hump?

Raptors have won six-straight

Led by Fred Vanvleet and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors have won six-straight games and are quickly climbing the Eastern Conference standings. They have finally broken through that .500 barrier and now sit at 20-17 on the season. That puts them at seventh in the conference, good for the top-spot in the play-in round. The Raptors are a single game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for sixth, which is notable because each team who finishes sixth or higher is guaranteed a playoff spot, while those seeded 7-10 will participate in a mini tournament where two teams will earn a postseason berth. The Raptors have a two-game cushion on eleventh.

Siakam and Vanvleet playing like superstars

Siakam and Vanvleet have been other-worldly over the Raptors’ six-game win streak. Vanvleet has dropped 30+ points in five of the six games, putting up 31.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.0 turnovers and 1.8 steals per game on 47.0% shooting, 44.3% from three and 96.3% from the free throw line. The 27-year-old guard spoke about how the game is changing for him as he becomes more successful.

“A lot of attention, face guarding, I’ve seen a box-and-one a couple times. It’s ironic, for sure, to say the least. But it’s been fun. It’s been a challenge to learn and adapt… I’m enjoying it.”

Siakam has been every bit as good, contributing in all aspects of the game. He has put up 23.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game on 48.6% shooting and 52.6% from deep. The Raptors have been 20.0 points per 100 possessions better than their opponent when he is on the floor over this stretch.

Raptors have a long way to go

The season is far from over. There remains too much time and room for error to pronounce the Raptors as ‘back’, or playoff locks. However, Raptor fans have some really good reason to be excited and feel good about where they are at right now. And the odds reflect that.

Odds

The Raptors were expected to win 35.5 games heading into the season, and were heavily favored to miss the playoffs (to make: 3.80, to miss: 1.28). Those odds have stayed fairly still for most of the season, until the last couple of weeks.

For the first time this year, the Raptors are now favored to make the playoffs at 1.76 (to miss: 1.86) and are projected to win 41.5 games. You can bet the over/under here.