Fun facts about the Raptors' winning streak
Toronto's 15-game run is a real team effort
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The Raptors have the longest winning streak in Canadian history
Last night's 137-126 victory over the hapless Timberwolves pushed Toronto's winning streak to 15 games. That's the longest ever by a Canadian-based team in the NBA, NHL, CFL or Major League Baseball. Here are some more interesting facts about the streak:
This isn't even close to the longest winning streak in NBA history. The Raptors are less than halfway to the 33 consecutive games the Lakers won during the 1971-72 season. Basketball has always lent itself to long winning streaks, and there are 32 in NBA history longer than the Raptors'. One of those happened back in November and December when Milwaukee won 18 in a row. So Toronto doesn't even have the longest winning streak of the season.
The Raptors are winning games pretty comfortably. Their average margin of victory during the streak is 10.6 points. They won one game by 29, and another by 27. Two wins came by a single point, but those were the only ones decided by a single possession (three points or less).
A soft schedule has helped a lot. Only three of the 13 teams Toronto has beaten have a winning record right now. Those are Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Indiana. None of them are in the top nine in the overall standings. Meanwhile, Toronto has faced four of the five worst teams in the league. The current combined record of Toronto's opponents during the streak is 275-418. That's a winning percentage of 39.7 — roughly equivalent to the Sacramento Kings, who are 21-32 and rank 20th out of the 30 NBA teams.
But the Raptors have overcome some challenges too. Four of the six Toronto players averaging double digits in points have missed at least one game during the streak. Norman Powell has sat the last five with a broken hand, while Fred VanVleet has missed two games during the streak and Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka one each. Luckily, leading scorer Pascal Siakam hasn't missed any. Neither has OG Anunoby. The Raptors' players and head coach Nick Nurse have done a masterful job plugging the gaps from night to night.
It's been a real team effort. This is rare in the NBA, where most of the best teams (and even some of the worst) lean on a go-to star or two to get buckets. Siakam is the Raptors' top scorer, but he's been the team's solo leader in points only three times during the streak. VanVleet, Ibaka and Powell have also led three times apiece and Lowry twice. The other leader was Terence Davis, who dropped 31 on the Bulls despite averaging only eight points per game this season.
The Raptors are shooting the lights out. Over the course of the streak, no team in the NBA is making a higher percentage of its three-pointers, two-pointers or overall shots from the floor. As a result, Toronto is tied with Dallas for the most points per 100 possessions (119.9) in that span. The Raptors also have one of the best defensive ratings in the league during the streak.
It looks like this thing could keep going for a while. Tomorrow is the one-month "anniversary" of Toronto's last loss, which was Jan. 12 vs. San Antonio. If the Raptors beat Brooklyn on the road tomorrow night, the streak will stay alive until at least Feb. 21 — their first game after the all-star break. Toronto is home to lowly Phoenix that night, followed by another home game vs. Indiana, which it has already beaten twice during the streak. A third would bring the streak to 18 games — matching Milwaukee's NBA season high. And guess who the Raptors would play for win number 19? Yes, the Bucks. That's Feb. 25 in Toronto.
Connor McDavid is out 2-3 weeks with a quad injury. Oilers general manager Ken Holland said it's unrelated to the major knee injury McDavid suffered in the final game of last season (the one they made that documentary about). Losing the best player in hockey is obviously a pretty big blow to the Oilers, who are locked in simultaneous multi-team dogfights in both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference wild-card chase. But it's also a big opportunity for Leon Draisaitl. He leads McDavid by four points for the NHL scoring lead, but if MVP voting was held today, McDavid would beat him. The next two to three weeks could make or break Draisaitl's Hart Trophy case. Read more about McDavid's injury here.
The NHL is still cold on the Olympics. Players and fans want back in for the 2022 Games in Beijing after the league refused to let anyone go in 2018. Everyone got their hopes up this week with word that the IIHF (hockey's world governing body) has promised to cover the cost of the players' travel, accommodations and insurance. But everyone seems to forget that the IIHF agreed to do that last time and it didn't matter. What the NHL really wanted was for the International Olympic Committee to treat the league like a top sponsor. That would allow the NHL to use certain Olympic content on its own platforms and gain other marketing opportunities in exchange for loaning out its best players for a couple of weeks. But companies pay a lot of money for that status, so the IOC doesn't want to just give it away — even if it means vastly increasing the quality (and interest around) its own event. Unless there's movement on this issue, don't get too excited about any reports that the NHL might be getting back into the Olympics. Read more about how things stand here.
Canadian track and field athletes called out the national governing body for not protecting Megan Brown. In case you missed it, Brown alleged in a Globe and Mail story published over the weekend that former national-level track and cross-country coach Dave Scott-Thomas groomed her for a sexual relationship that started when she was 17 and carried into her short time at the University of Guelph, where he coached her in the fall of 2004. Brown is now 35 and says she was deeply damaged by the experience. Athletics Canada responded to the story by saying it was "disturbing," but that the organization had not received a direct complaint about Scott-Thomas, who was fired by Guelph in December for unprofessional conduct. Between the time of his alleged sexual relationship with Brown and his firing from Guelph, Scott-Thomas coached for the Canadian team at the 2016 Olympics and two world championships. In an open letter to Athletics Canada, the organization's athlete council said "this inaction and dismissal perpetrated a culture of disempowerment of sex abuse victims." Read the entire statement and more about this troubling case here.
Major League Baseball is considering a plan to add more playoff teams. Baseball used to be the rare sport where the regular season actually mattered. Before 1969, the team with the best record in the American League faced the team with the best record in the National League in the World Series. That was it. Even as late as 1993, when the Blue Jays won the second of their back-to-back championships, only four teams made the post-season. The next year, a new division and a wild card team were added in each league. Then another wild card in 2012, bringing the total number of post-season teams up to 10. Now MLB is floating the idea of going up to 14 — three division winners and four wild cards in each league. The best AL and NL teams each get a bye, and the others square off in a best-of-three opening round. And the twist is that the better teams get to choose their opponent, with the picks unveiled on a live TV show. Read more about the idea here.
Please enjoy these gifs of Matthew Tkachuk scoring another incredible goal. From the man who brought us that between-the-legs one-timer in OT earlier this season comes this variation:
This beauty deserves to be seen from all angles. <a href="https://t.co/HoTUoHHYqp">pic.twitter.com/HoTUoHHYqp</a>—@NHLGIFs
If you want to see a higher-quality video with multiple replay angles, watch this.
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