But it was probably not expected to be this difficult.
Taking the standings as it was when the season was suspended on March 11, the overall winning percentage for Raptors opponents is 0.638 or, as Tim Reynolds of the Associated press put it, the second most difficult schedule of any team in the restart.
Using this metric – counting only the matches involving the 22 remaining teams – here is who has the most difficult schedule in the ranking round…
… And the simplest
– Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) June 26, 2020
And in case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a glimpse of the glove that awaits the Raptors in Disney World:
• August 1 – Los Angeles Lakers (49-14) at 8:30 p.m. ET
• August 3 – Miami Heat (41-24) at 1:30 p.m. ET
• August 5 – Orlando Magic (30-35) at 8:00 p.m. ET
• August 7 – Boston Celtics (43-21) at 9:00 p.m. ET
• August 9 – Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) at 2:00 p.m. ET
• August 10 – Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) at 6:30 p.m. ET
• August 12 – Philadelphia 76ers (39-26) at 6:30 p.m. ET
• August 14 – Denver Nuggets (43-22), at time to be determined
With the exception of Magic, it’s a real deadly calendar that the Raptors will face when they resume play. And while it sounds great, it’s not like the Raptors were a scrub team.
Remember, not only are they the reigning champions, but they are also currently the second seeded seed at the Eastern Conference with a sparkling record of 46-18. So instead of thinking about what the Raptors will face on reboot, just remember that these teams must face the Raptors as well, and they’re probably not too excited about that either.
That’s not to say Toronto won’t be in a fight during these ranking matches, however.
Looking at the calendar more closely, there are two games in particular that stand out and are especially those that the Raptors can hardly afford to give up: August 7 against Boston and August 12 against Philadelphia.
Indeed, looking at the standings right now, Toronto has a 3.0 game lead over the Celtics for No. 2 and the 76ers are currently tied with the Indiana Pacers, but because Indiana holds the break tied, Philly is currently sixth.
Right now, at No. 2 in the east, the Raptors are set to take on the Brooklyn Nets on a shorthanded finish or, if they can climb, the Magic or Washington Wizards. No matter who from this trio ends up at # 7, it would always make a first-round opponent much easier than the Sixers or Pacers.
That’s why it’s important for Toronto to beat Boston and Philadelphia when they meet in classification matches.
What seeding game are you most excited for? pic.twitter.com/bfD6Kc6u0f
– Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 26, 2020
Mathematically, it is quite difficult for the Raptors to take a 3.0 lead, but it is possible and one of the best ways to ensure that they do not suffocate would be to deal with business against Boston.
As for Philadelphia, the Raptors would probably want to keep them in this No. 6 seed to give Boston as much trouble as possible in the first round. This season, the 76ers are 3-1 against the Celtics because their size seems to bother the smallest C.
There is no way Philadelphia can go below No. 6, so a victory for the Raptors over them could go a long way toward having a bad game all around for what would be their second round playoff game.
In the end, however, while the Toronto game with Boston and Philly seems fairly large, in only an eight-game schedule before the playoffs, every game will matter. The Raptors will want to get all of them and can reasonably be expected to be with the exception of their Milwaukee Bucks game – their only game on the second day of a consecutive game in the reboot that occurs against the best team in the league.
It is certainly a glove in front of them, but a championship has never been given, it must always be won. This is only the first obstacle on the way.