Now that the 2020 NBA All-Star Game has come and gone, the focus shifts to the final stretch of the regular season.
The Raptors enter the final stretch with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. It will take a lot for them to catch the Milwaukee Bucks at the top - the Bucks currently lead them by 6.5 games with less than 30 games to go - but Toronto will be looking to hold on to the No. 2 seed to secure homecourt advantage in the first and second round and avoid Milwaukee until the Eastern Conference Finals.
There are a number of factors that could prevent the Raptors from finishing with the second-best record in the East, remaining schedule being a big one.
With that in mind, here's a look at Toronto's remaining schedule and how it could impact the Raptors in their pursuit of the No. 2 seed.
Strength of Schedule
Tankathon calculates a team's strength of schedule by combining the winning percentage of their remaining opponents.
Based on which teams the Raptors still have to play this season, they have the league's 11th-hardest remaining schedule. They still have three matchups with the Bucks, two of which will be played in Toronto, as well as several meetings with the Western Conference's elite.
Fortunately for the Raptors, the teams closest to them in the Eastern Conference standings also have a difficult schedule the rest of the way. According to Tankathon, the Bucks have the fifth-hardest schedule and the Boston Celtics have the 12th-hardest.
Two teams to keep an eye on are the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers, as they have two of the easiest remaining schedules in the league - the fifth-easiest for the Heat, the second-easiest for the 76ers.
The Heat currently trail the Raptors by 4.5 games in the Eastern Conference standings, whereas the 76ers trail them by 6.0 games.
Home vs. Away
Of the 27 games the Raptors have remaining this season, 13 will be played at home, leaving 14 to be played on the road.
The Raptors have four more multi-game road trips this season, the toughest coming at the beginning of March. Between March 1 and March 9, the Raptors will play five straight road games against Western Conference opponents. First they'll take on the Denver Nuggets, followed by the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz.
The Suns (22-33), Warriors (12-43) and Kings (21-33) each have losing records, but the Nuggets (38-17) and Jazz (36-18) have been two of the best teams in the Western Conference this season.
After that Western Conference road trip, the Raptors will have three smaller multi-game road trips to end the season - at New York and Memphis (March 25-28), at Houston, Washington and Charlotte (April 5-8), at Miami and Orlando (April 14-15).
To this point of the season, the Raptors are 21-7 at home and 19-8 on the road. The 76ers, Bucks, Celtics and Heat each have better home records than the Raptors, but the Bucks are the only team in the Eastern Conference with a better road record.
Should the Raptors finish the regular season with the same record as the Bucks, Celtics, Heat, 76ers or Indiana Pacers, the head-to-head record between the teams will determine which one ends up with the higher seed.
There's still a lot up in the air in that regard. The Heat have already won the regular season series against the Raptors, but Toronto is 0-1 against Milwaukee with three games to go, 1-2 against Boston with one game to go, 2-1 against Philadelphia with one game to go and 2-1 against Indiana with one game to go.
It gets more complicated when two teams finish with the same record and split the season series - it goes to the division winner, followed by whichever team has the higher winning percentage within the division, followed by whichever team has the higher winning percentage in conference games, and so on and so forth - which is why the remaining games the Raptors have against the Bucks, Celtics, 76ers and Pacers are so important.
Here's when those games are...
- vs. Pacers: at TOR (Feb. 23)
- vs. Bucks: at TOR (Feb. 25), at MIL (April 1), at TOR (April 3)
- vs. 76ers: at PHI (March 18)
- vs. Celtics: at TOR (March 20)
The Raptors have four more back-to-backs this season, three of which consist of two road games.
Here's how the Raptors have fared so far this season on back-to-backs and when their remaining back-to-backs are...
|1||Oct. 25||@ Boston||L, 106-112||Oct. 26||@ Chicago||W, 108-84|
|2||Nov. 10||@ LA Lakers||W, 113-104||Nov. 11||@ LA Clippers||L, 98-88|
|3||Dec. 8||@ Philadelphia||L, 110-104||Dec. 9||@ Chicago||W, 93-92|
|4||Dec. 22||vs. Dallas||W, 110-107||Dec. 23||@ Indiana||L, 120-115 (OT)|
|5||Dec. 28||@ Boston||W, 113-97||Dec. 29||vs. Oklahoma City||L, 98-97|
|6||Jan. 7||vs. Portland||L, 101-99||Jan. 8||@ Charlotte||W, 112-110 (OT)|
|7||Jan. 17||vs. Washington||W, 140-111||Jan. 18||@ Minnesota||W, 122-112|
|8||Jan. 30||@ Cleveland||W, 115-109||Jan. 31||@ Detroit||W, 105-92|
|9||Feb. 7||@ Indiana||W, 115-106||Feb. 8||vs. Brooklyn||W, 119-118|
|10||Mar. 8||@ Sacramento||Mar. 9||@ Utah|
|11||Mar. 24||vs. LA Lakers||Mar. 25||@ New York|
|12||Apr. 7||@ Washington||Apr. 8||@ Charlotte|
|13||Apr. 14||@ Miami||Apr. 15||@ Orlando|
FiveThirtyEight's played-based forecasting model RAPTOR has the Raptors finishing the regular season behind the Bucks (65-17) and Celtics (57-25) in the Eastern Conference with a 56-26 record.
The model gives the Raptors a 10% chance of making the Finals and a 3% chance of winning the Finals.
The site's Elo forecast, which measures "team strength based on head-to-head results, margin of victory and quality of opponent," has the Raptors finishing with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 58-24 and gives them a 23% chance of making the Finals and a 15% chance of winning it all.
March 20 vs. Boston Celtics
The final regular season meeting the Raptors and Celtics.
The Celtics currently lead the season series 2-1. Not only would a win even the season series, it would help the Raptors distance themselves from the Celtics, as there are only 1.5 games currently separating the two teams in the Eastern Conference standings.
There's also a possibility that the Raptors and Celtics will meet in the second round of the playoffs, making this the final time they'll play against each other until then.
April 1 at Milwaukee Bucks
The Raptors still have three games remaining against the Bucks this season. This is the only one that will be played in Milwaukee, where the Bucks are 25-3 on the season.
This could be a statement game for the Raptors.
April 10 vs. Atlanta Hawks
Vince Carter said in the offseason that this season will be his last, so this will be his final game in Toronto.
In his rankings of the greatest Raptors of all-time, our Carlan Gay had Carter fourth behind DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry.
April 14 at Miami Heat
The second-to-last game of the regular season could have playoff implications, especially if the Heat do make the most of having the league's fifth-easiest remaining schedule by closing the gap on the Raptors.
A win would have no impact on the season series, but it could distance the Raptors from the Heat in the standings.
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