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Sports Then and Now



Are the Toronto Raptors the NBA Title Favorites? 0

Posted on December 14, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Kawhi Leonard is averaging a career-high 26 points per game for the Toronto Raptors.

Kawhi Leonard is averaging a career-high 26 points per game for the Toronto Raptors.

When the Toronto Raptors made the blockbuster trade during the summer to bring Kawhi Leonard to the Eastern Conference there was an expectation that it could help them “get over the hump” after getting close in recent years, but even live betting with Novibet couldn’t have predicted that a quarter way through the NBA season they would be the favorites to claim the 2019 NBA Championship.

Not only do the Raptors have a league-best 23-7 overall record, but they have swept the season series from the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. Their 113-93 win at Golden State earlier this week was impressive not just because of the dominant nature, but because the Raptors played the game without Leonard while the Warriors were at full strength with their four All-Stars all in the starting lineup.

With Leonard, who is averaging a team-best 26 points per game, out of the lineup, the Raptors had a balanced attack that proved too much for the Warriors to overcome.

Leading the way for the Raptors was four-time All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. He scored a team-high 23 points while also dishing out 12 assists, grabbing five rebounds and securing three steals.

Another player who has been great all season and continued that trend against the Warriors was center Serge Ibalka. The 10-year veteran is averaging a career-high 16.8 points per game this season and had 20 points with 12 rebounds in the victory.

The other three starters, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, scored 15, 13 and 10 points respectively to give the Raptors five double-digit scorers. The bench also played an important role with 32 points divided amongst six players.

That boxscore is consistent with how the Raptors have been winning throughout the season.

They have five players who are averaging at least 12.8 points per contest and then another six averaging between 5.0 and 9.6 per contest. Read the rest of this entry →

Are the Toronto Raptors Inching Closer to Cleveland Cavaliers? 2

Posted on December 24, 2016 by Tony Samboras
DeMar DeRozan is emerging as one of the top scorers in the NBA.

DeMar DeRozan is emerging as one of the top scorers in the NBA.

After finishing the 2015-16 regular season 56-26 and only a game behind the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference title, the Toronto Raptors loss to the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals 4-2. As both teams were exiting the floor, it was clear Toronto may have been but one season away from catching the Champs in both talent and ability.

With a little more than a third of the 2016-17 NBA season already in the books, the Raptors are sitting in a familiar place. With a record of 20-8, they find themselves 1.5 games behind the Cavs for the conference lead with Boston sitting in a distant 3rd with a record of 17-12. Given the parity found in the conference, it looks like the two leaders will battle it out until the end for home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Finals.

To get a better idea of whether or not the Raptors have made enough improvements to catch the Cavs, one would have to look inside the numbers. For starters, the Raptors are playing an up-tempo offense that has led to a scoring increase from 102.7 PPG to 112.3 PPG from last season to this season. This has also led to a spike in the number of points allowed per game from 98.2 to 103.0. Overall, that represents an improved scoring differential of 4.8 PPG versus a positive scoring differential change for the Cavaliers of only 1.8 PPG. The 3.0 PPG difference between the two teams is quite significant at this level of play.

The question becomes, “is this sustainable?” because if it is, it might be relevant enough for the Raptors to catch the Cavs and earn that all-important home court advantage heading into the playoffs. All of this analysis assumes both teams will stay healthy, and the Cavs have already been bit by the injury bug with guard J.R. Smith out with a fractured thumb and forward Kevin Love having knee issues. To date, Toronto has nothing to report.

With essentially the same group of players on the floor, the biggest improvement has come from star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who has ratcheted up his game up another notch, scoring at a rate of 27.9 PPG, up from 23.5 PPG last season. While he has increased the number of shots he has taken per game, he has also improved his shooting percentage from 44.6% to 48.2%. He has also improved his rebounding and steals, which shows he’s more focused on defense. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Tony Oliva: Hall of Fame Worthy
      April 21, 2019 | 5:18 pm
      Tony Oliva

      Cuba is known for producing great baseball talent and there has arguably been no one from the island better than the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

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