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Toronto Raptors Lose Two Straight But Are the East’s Best

The Toronto Raptors are the surprise of the NBA Eastern Conference in the early going this season. The Raptors are 13-4 and six games in front in the Atlantic division.

Toronto might have lost two straight, including Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, but is a team that will be battling for the top spot in the East all season.

Toronto is playing tough basketball, diving for loose balls, leaving skin on the floor and as Dwane Casey the team’s head coach says, “grinding it out.”

Casey might call it grinding it, but NBA observers call it playing better than your opponent does and Toronto has been doing that at a very consistent rate to start the season.

The Raptors have close to 5 points more per 100 possessions that the Eastern Conference’s second-ranked offense.

The reluctance for Casey to have his team bask in its gaudy numbers on offense is understandable. The Toronto team has reached this point with team defense.

Over the years that Casey has coached, he has become known as one of the most imaginative when it comes to defense in the NBA.

For Dallas, he devised a scheme where the Mavericks floated between man to man and zone during one possession.

The Raptors go against the basketball grain, as defenders force opponent ball handlers to help inside of to the sideline or down, which is the leading trend in the NBA.

However, it is not as if the Raptors are not offensive oriented. The club has had top threats of recent like DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay, but Toronto never received many points for style when they were in possession of the ball.

Kyle Lowry worked hard to find mismatches, was low risk and low turnover grinding it out on the offensive end.

Toronto still has an offense that is guard oriented and programmed to set up good looks for the perimeter players with Lowry handling the ball most of each possession.

They will look to Patrick Patterson a forward or Jonas Valaciunas a blossoming 7-footer to run interference or on the move, but the scheme is still straightforward but it runs like a clock.

The idea behind the offense is to run sets that get the shooters to their favorite spots for shots that are high percentage. DeRozan is deadly from 17 to 18 feet and his teammates look for him at that range.

As the season’s first month closed on Sunday, the Raptors have taken a number of offensive pieces that are not perfect, identified the best of what each one has and doubled down on that one best skill.

The Raptors might not have the flare of other offenses or an innovated defense, but their discipline gives them creativity and at this point after the first month, they sit atop the Atlantic division by 6 games and the Eastern Conference by 2.

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