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Toronto Raptors season update: Signs of promise for Rajakovic

It’s a new era of basketball in Toronto with new head coach Darko Rajaković, and the Raptors are 3-4 after a couple weeks of the season.

There is hope in the air in Toronto, and although it's unlikely that they can beat out the Milwaukee Bucks or Boston Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, a playoff spot is possible for the Raptors. 

Let’s take a look at how the Raptors, +5000 to go all the way, fared in the first three games of the season and who stood out the most.

Not all bad in first loss

Game 2 of the season took the Raptors on the road for the first time, but that wasn’t the only first of the year as Toronto suffered its first loss in dramatic fashion to the Chicago Bulls. 

A one-point win in overtime secured Chicago’s first win of the season as former Raptor DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 33 points. 

But it wasn’t all bad for the Raptors, because Barnes secured the first triple-double of Toronto’s season. 

Barnes finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and his all-around game kept the Raptors in it. 

Six Raptors players finished in double-digits, but missed free throws ended up costing Toronto the game. A brilliant offensive effort was ruined by an overtime loss.

Embiid's Sixers too good for Raptors

The third game of the season took the Raptors back home to Toronto where they played the Philadelphia 76ers, coached by Nick Nurse, who won the NBA Championship with Toronto in the 2018/19 season.

The Raptors no longer had to worry about James Harden since his off-the-court drama led to his trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, but they had no answer for reigning MVP Joel Embiid.

The Philadelphia star finished with 34 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the Sixers’ 114-107 win over the Raptors. 

As for Toronto, they didn’t necessarily play badly, but the inability to stop the main man became too big to overcome. 

The silver lining of the loss was that first-round pick Gradey Dick scored a career-high 16 points while Barnes continued his hot shooting with 24 more points.

The bench production has been good for Toronto, but Poeltl needs help defending the paint, especially against a superstar center like Embiid.

If Anunoby and Siakam crash the boards more, the Raptors could win the rebounding battle a lot more frequently. 

After the first three games of the season, the Raptors were 1-2, but you shouldn’t be too concerned just yet. Once the young team finds its rhythm, the sky's the limit.

Big wins over Bucks, Spurs

Since the loss to Philly in their third game, the Raptors have gone 2-2 with losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and a second loss to the Sixers. But they had a couple of big wins, too.

First, they beat the Milwaukee Bucks 130-111 as three Raptors - Schroder, Barnes, and Siakam - scored more than 20 points while holding both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard under 20 points.

After losing to the Sixers for the second time this season, Toronto bounced back with an overtime win on the road against the San Antonio Spurs and Victor Wembanyama. Schroder, Anunoby, and Barnes all scored more than 20 points, and the Raptors' defense came up big late as they held the Spurs to six points in overtime.

What's next?

The season continues to chug along, but the Raptors' In-Season Tournament schedule begins on Friday, Nov. 17 with a home game against the Boston Celtics.

Click here for all you need to know about the Toronto Raptors in the NBA In-Season Tournament.

Before then, the Raptors' schedule gets difficult.

They have two road games in a row, the first against the Dallas Mavericks on Wendesday, Nov. 8, and the next against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, Nov. 11.

Then they play four home games: against the Washington Wizards on Nov. 13, the Bucks on Nov. 15, the Celtics in the In-Season Tournament on Nov. 17, and the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 19.

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