The Toronto Raptors have reclaimed the best record in the NBA at 30-12, following statement wins over top teams in the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers on the weekend.
Toronto was missing All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry in Milwaukee on Saturday, but he returned for Sunday's game vs. Indiana. On the flip side, Kawhi Leonard played Saturday but was rested in the second game of a back-to-back. The Raptors still prevailed.
No matter who's on the court for the Raptors, they always seem to find ways to win games. ESPN's Tim Bontemps shared this interesting stat that shows how dominant the Raptors are - whether their two superstars are on the court together or if one of them is absent.
One interesting stat about the Raptors thus far:— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 7, 2019
In games Toronto has both Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors are 15-6.
In games one of them is missing, Toronto is also 15-6 (8-2 with Lowry playing, 7-4 with Leonard playing).
Leonard has been inactive for 10 games this season, due to either rest or foot/hip injuries. Lowry was sidelined with a back injury and has missed 11 games. But yet, the Raptors are getting by when their two stars aren't on the court together.
The Raptors have also been without starting center Jonas Valanciunas since mid-December, as he continues to recover from surgery on his thumb. But no matter who's injured, the Raptors are finding ways to win games. A lot of that credit must go to first-year head coach Nick Nurse.
Pascal Siakam (15 points and 6.6 rebounds per game), has also endured a breakout year, while veteran Serge Ibaka is enjoying a resurgent season with 16.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
The Raptors are doing a phenomenal job in surviving the losses of key players, and they have all the makings to be a legitimate NBA championship contender this season. It's been "next man up," under coach Nurse, and most players have answered the call when needed.
What This Means
With tremendous roster depth and an elite starting five, the Raptors look like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. As long as the bench and role players continue to produce, this team will seriously challenge for the NBA Championship.