The 112-105 victory is just the latest in a season that has featured quite a few signature wins for the Raptors to begin the season.
A Nov. 1 dismantling of the then finding-their-way Milwaukee Bucks, then a two-game sweep in Texas that saw Toronto make a big comeback against Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs followed up by a commanding win over the Dallas Mavericks. Then there was their effort last week, outlasting the Indiana Pacers in a shootout on the second night of a back-to-back and, most recently, the shutdown job the Raptors did on Kevin Durant and Devin Booker Wednesday.
These have all been highlights of the season thus far, and, you would think, would lead to some momentum to get on a bit of a roll.
However, as things stand, the Raptors are just 9-10 and clinging to a play-in spot.
So, it’s worth asking, if any of those wins listed above are to be labelled as “signature,” why haven’t consistently positive results followed in their wake? Just how significant are these so-called signature wins?
The cynic will say that those wins, while nice to square off, mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things because the Raptors record is what it is. A win is only a win, and nothing more.
While that is all factually correct, that isn’t necessarily true, however.
As frustrating as it may be to continually watch a team play up and down to the level of their competition, that’s who the Raptors appear to be right now — meaning they can be pretty bad at times, but also really good.
Just look at how the Raptors performed on Wednesday. The Suns entered on a seven-game winning streak, hadn’t played since Sunday and caught the Raptors on the second night of a back-to-back after they had flown back home in the wee hours of the morning.
Wednesday night had “scheduled loss” written all over it.
Instead, the Raptors turned in one of their best defensive performances of the season, moved the ball well, got great bench production, hit their free throws, and, when it mattered most in the fourth quarter, Scottie Barnes came alive, growing his reputation as a big-time fourth-quarter performer with 12 points in the frame.
It’s performances like that on Wednesday — and like the ones against Milwaukee, the two in Texas, as well as in Indiana — where you can see what this core’s ceiling could be that gives one pause.
The significance of wins like the one Toronto picked up Wednesday teases what could be possible with this team.
Unfortunately, because that high level of play has only come in flashes, the team is stuck in the murky middle of the pack, the worst place to be in the NBA. Hence, there’s a lot of logic to the idea that the Raptors should look to unload and rebuild around Barnes.
But when you see the heights that the Raptors are capable of reaching, you can also see why this front office has been so bullish on this group growing together.
Like last season, fans and media alike just want to see the Raptors pick a direction and run with it.
Considering how well the Raptors can play, that direction is increasingly looking like it’ll be trying to make a run towards the playoffs once again.