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As the Association heads into the All-Star break, the Toronto Raptors have moved into first place in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors are on a five-game winning streak and the team has seen the Boston Celtics endure a sudden sloppy spell. Toronto’s recent winning run saw the team blow past the Celtics at home, 111-91.
The game between the Eastern Conference’s heavyweights saw DeMar DeRozan score just 15 points. But the slack was picked up by teammate Kyle Lowry, who sank 23 in just over 25 minutes on the floor.
Before the All-Star break, Toronto will host the Miami Heat on Tuesday night before playing away at the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. It is a back-to-back in which the Raptors could increase their current half game lead over the Celtics.
Toronto has overtaken the Celtics by being consistent. The Raptors’ 23-7 conference record tops the East. The team also tops the conference in points per game with 111.6.
DeRozan is having a career season and averages just under 24 ppg. Meanwhile, Lowry adds 16.4 ppg and contributes 6.4 assists. While other teams in the Eastern Conference have relied on one star, such as the Celtics with Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James, the Raptors have received production from other players, including Serge Ibaka.
While Toronto’s main rival is currently Boston, it can’t be overlooked that the real team to beat in the Eastern Conference is Cleveland. James and company have been to the last three NBA Finals, and until the Cavs’ dominance is ended, they will be the kings of the conference. Toronto has a six game lead of Cleveland currently, however, the Cavs have won three straight as of February 13th.
Toronto’s head-to-head record against both Boston and Cleveland has been good this season. Against the Celtics, Toronto has one win and one loss. The teams have both won on their home courts. The Raptors recent 20-point blow out of the Celtics was quite telling. In the teams’ previous meeting, the Celtics won by just a single point.
Toronto has met Cleveland just once this season and defeated the Cavs 133-99 at home. With the way Toronto scores against both teams, it could be the Raptors season to win the East. However, the NBA Playoffs and its seven game series are the great equalizer.
ZCode System’s Playoff Simulator currently loves the Raptors. In fact, the simulator loves the team so much, it predicts Toronto will win the NBA Finals in seven games over the Houston Rockets.
The Raptors finish up the first half of the season with back-to-back games. ZCode System’s Scores Predictor has the team slated to win both comfortably. The way Toronto is playing, there is no reason the team shouldn’t beat Miami on Tuesday night and Chicago on Wednesday.
The good news for bettors wagering on the Raptors is the team’s schedule doesn’t get much more difficult after All-Star Game weekend. The team will play the Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic to close out February.
Toronto should definitely be seen as the Eastern Conference favorite as February ends.
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