Not many people saw the Toronto Raptors as the 2018-2019 NBA champions coming. Led by Kawhi Leonard (who wanted to be in L.A. more), the Raptors had a bevy of outside shooters and role players that led the Raptors to their first NBA title in franchise history. However, this season is more open, with Leonard getting his wish and going home. However, that doesn't mean the defending champions are going away quietly.
Winners of 14 straight (a franchise record), the Raptors have catapulted themselves up to second in the Eastern Conference. Toronto has done a phenomenal job defending inside the paint, limiting opponents to just 41.9 PPG in the paint (second-best in the NBA). The Raptors are also creating turnovers, generating 8.8 steals per game (second-most in the NBA). The result has been the second-best rating in the NBA (104.9), just behind Eastern Conference frontrunner Milwaukee.
As for the shooting part, the Raptors are still making their shots. Making 40.8% of their three-point shots, with 36.2% of their points coming off the three-point shot, the Raptors have drained their long shots. With players like Kyle Lowry (2.8 3PM) and Fred VanVleet (2.7 3PM) making shots, it helps Toronto keep the offensive pressure on.
Can the defending champions make it back to the NBA Finals? It's certainly possible. The only viable contender in the East is Milwaukee and if they go down like they did last season, it would be possible to see Toronto return. Raptors fans will be just as invested as they were last season for this playoff run if Toronto keeps this up.
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