The Toronto Raptors look forward to the second half of the 2021 NBA season

The Toronto Raptors look forward to the second half of the 2021 NBA season

As the Toronto Raptors near the midpoint of the season, they are currently fifth in the NBA’s Eastern Conference with a 16-16 record.

Though they trail the front running Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets by 5 and 4.5 games respectively, the Raptors are hoping to ride the momentum of their two biggest stars, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet into the second half of the season.

There are several reasons why the Raptors could make a second half surge.

For starters, the Raptors have four players that average over 17 points a game. Siakam (20.6), VanVleet (19.8), Kyle Lowry (17.7) and Normal Powell (17.3) all have contributed to balanced scoring.

And Chris Boucher (13.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg) has emerged as a reliable option off the bench, playing in 32 games with a start.

Of note, following the Minnesota Timberwolves firing Ryan Saunders over the weekend, they immediately hired former Raptors assistant Chris Finch his replacement.

As for the schedule, Toronto was the most travelled team in the NBA to start the year, but in the second half of the season, they’ll be home for 19 of their 35 games.

Home is a relative word of course. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Raptors have not played in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena all year. Instead, they’ve been forced to play in Florida at the Amalie Arena.

They’re currently sharing that home with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. But as the season progresses, they’ve become more comfortable in their new digs, and just recently had a five-game winning streak.

The travel always puts stress on the body, and the Raptors will not need to travel at all from April 13 to 21 as they play five consecutive games in Tampa.

Speaking of wear and tear, the Raptors will still have to play back-to-back games as a result of the NBA’s reduced schedule. Toronto played five of those kinds of games in the first half of the season, and this upticks to eight times after the break.

Finally, the Raptors face 22 teams after the break, and of those, they’ve already played 16 of those teams. The good news for the Raptors are that against those 16 teams, they have a winning record against all but five of them. Though one of them is against former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony and the Portland Trail Blazers.

It’s because all of those reasons that the bet picks & odds have the Raptors at a +1700 to win the NBA Championship this season, which ranks eighth among all NBA teams.

In the eastern conference, only the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat have better odds, which bodes well for Toronto.

As for the favorites? Well, that would go to the Los Angeles Lakers, who are looking to repeat as NBA Champions. They are at +400, which is about a 1 in 5 chance of winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy.