Battle for the Atlantic Division

With the recent good play by the Raptors and the struggle for the Celtics, there have been talks among Raptor Nation that the Toronto Raptors could take the Atlantic Division.

Before we get into whether this is possible or not, we should look at what has happened so far. The Raptors has a 28-23 record, 5 games back of the Celtics which has a 32-17 record. So base on winning percentage, the Raptors would be a 45 win team while the Celtics would win 53 games (On ESPN, John Hollinger has a playoff Odds page, and it predicted that the Raptors will win 45 games and the Celtics winning 51 games).

Lots of Raptor fans will point out that their team has played a lot better since Dec 4th. They are correct in a way, so I have decide to look at both teams record from December 4th.

Celtics: 17-12
Raptors: 21-10

Basically, the Raptors are winning 67% of their games while the Celtics winning 58%. So if these numbers are sustainable, the Raptors will end up winning 49 games and the Celtics 50 games.

We will look at if it’s possible for the Raptors to win 67% of their remaining games a little later. But first we should look at the factors that could have an effect on the race.

1) Schedule.
Celtics, 33 games left. 16 of the road. Will face top 6 teams (Dal, LAL, Cle, Orl, Atl, Den) 6 times. Have 8 back-to-back games.
Raptors. 31 games left. 15 games on the road. Will face the top 6 teams (sub BOS to Dal) 6 times as well. 9 back to back games left.

On the surface, it looks like it’s pretty even. But when you look closer, the Celtics has a harder schedule. They have 17 games in March, which is quite a bit for an old team. They are going on a West Coast trip playing Portland, Lakers and Denver. Plus they still have to play Dallas and Utah on the road.

The Raptors will also have a difficult month in March. But their west coast trip isn’t as difficult, they will face the Lakers, Portland, Sacramento and Golden States. And that’s the most difficult stretch for them.

2) Trades. The trade deadline is Feb 18. I am pretty sure the Celtics will make a move to improve their roster. It’s a ‘Win-Now’ team that isn’t winning right now. Danny Ainge has enough trade chips to make things happen, starting with Ray Allen and his expiring contract. In fact, the Celtics do have a lot of expiring contracts including Tony Allen and Eddie House.

As for the Raptors, I don’t see them making major moves at the deadline. I could see them tweak the roster a little bit, but I don’t see them making a big change. The coaching staff seems to be very happy with the roster, and the players look happy as well.

Now I have no idea how a trade would affect a team. Things may look good on paper, but a complete disaster on the court. However, if either team can get a guy that fits in perfectly with the team, then things could get interesting.

3) Injuries. Injuries can happen at anytime, however the Celtics do have a disadvantage of having aging players who are not 100% health wise. Garnett is not looking all that good, Pierce is playing on one foot. The Raptors do have a healthier roster, as they really don’t have any major injuries. So they are lucky in this aspect, but the luck can turn at any moment.

- Can the Raptors continue to win 67% of their remaining games?

I really don’t think so. That’s a very difficult thing to do, and when you look at how many back to back games left in their schedule, and knowing their history, it’s pretty much mission impossible. In order to sustain their winning ways, they would have to:

1) play better defense, especially with the first 3 quarters.
2) No dropoff with their offensive production.
3) No major injuries.

#1 is the toughest one. This team still hasn’t shown they can play solid defense for 48 minutes. But in order to win more than 2/3 of the remaining games, this is the most necessary.

- Can the Celtics continue to win 58% of their games?

I have no idea. Two years ago or even last year, I would have said yes. But the Celtics are really laboring right now, and seriously needs someone to give them a spark. If the Celtics go .500 the rest of the way, then they will win 47 games. The Raptors would need to need to go 20-11 the rest of the way to claim the division. I really don’t see the Celtics doing worse than .500 for the next 33 games though.

Summary: Base on the above, it will be an uphill battle for the Raptors to win the division. Also the Raptors have already lost 3 games to the Celtics, thus losing the season series, and they have only 1 head to head match up against the Celtics left. So there is very little margin for error. Each loss will make it that much harder for the Raptors to win the division. Even if the Raptors win 70% of their remaining games, the Celtics will still be the favorite to win the division. So the Raptors really need some luck here.

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One Response to “Battle for the Atlantic Division”

  1. JYD18 Says:

    Great read. Summed it up perfectly

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