Putting the Streak in Perspective

By Aaron:

Newsflash: The Toronto Raptors are on an 11 game winning streak, the longest in the history of their franchise. One would think this would be cause for celebration, over-exuberance and unrealistic knee jerk reactions. You would think writers and pundits would be penciling Toronto in to the Conference finals, and debating their legitimate chances against team Lebron. However, from what I’ve read and heard, this is not the case. For whatever reason, there has been cautious optimism about this streak, and for that I am surprised and satisfied.

There is no doubt that the Toronto Raptors’ win streak is something to marvel at but the media is beginning to smarten up for a change when it comes to assessing its significance. In my opinion, the Raptors have been burned so much in the past by promising regular season accomplishments that the media is finally proceeding with caution and putting this streak in its proper perspective. For instance, last year the media practically ceded the Raptors a first round win due to their impressive regular season accomplishments. We all know how that turned out – a first round sweep to the lower seeded Washington Wizards – and I think the media doesn’t want to be embarrassed again. Let’s not forget, their livelihoods depend on having at least a scintilla of vision when it comes to predictions – all homerism aside.

For instance, in the Globe and Mail on Saturday, Rachel Brady downplayed the streak and tried to frame it in a perspective that was extremely objective. Often, writers are quick to praise impressive short-term feats, but her perspective was very thoughtful and unbiased. She writes:

“Those overexcited about the streak ought to consider that while impressive – only three of those victories came against teams in playoff position. They should also take note of the lengthy list of stars the Raptors did not have to face during that time. The Knicks were without Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingas and Jose Calderon. The Wizards didn’t play Bradley Beal. The Clippers were sans Blake Griffin. Dwayne Wade played through a shoulder injury for a heat squad missing Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside”.

How incredibly objective and refreshing it was to hear that from a Toronto sports writer. An 11 game win streak is nothing to sneeze at but when you beat 7 non-playoff teams (including the woeful experiment known as the Philadelphia 76ers) and the playoff teams you face have injury issues, then she is absolutely right to put it in its proper perspective. Well done! Just as a point of order, her article was written before the Raptors beat a playoff-bound Detroit Pistons team later that night.

Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun, through the conduit of Luis Scola, also helped put the streak in perspective. Luis Scola downplayed the importance of the streak, knowing first hand how unimportant it is and how non-predictive it is of future success. He would know first hand, while playing for that unheralded 2008 Houston Rockets team that won 22 straight games and went on to lose in the first round of the playoffs. Luis Scola expressed to Mr. Ganter that winning the most games and playoff success is the most important thing, not a winning streak.

There is nothing wrong with a winning streak. It’s a positive thing and something that should be appreciated. However, take it from Luis Scola who went on a streak more than twice as long as this current one.

“Luis Scola, one of the old heads in the room was part of a 22-game winning streak in Houston in 2008. It’s the fourth longest one in league history and to hear Scola tell it, he barely has any memories of it.”

He barely has any memories of it because it led to nothing in the playoffs. Good on Mr. Ganter for seeking out a player who understands what a winning streak means in the big picture. Winning streaks are not the end goal for this frustrated Raptors squad. A deep playoff run is the only thing that matters, and frankly, the only thing keeping coach Casey’s job intact, in my opinion. In closing, I am very happy that the media seems tempered by this winning streak, even if it’s because of past negative conditioning.

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