The 2017-18 season could turn out to be the best in Toronto Raptors' franchise history.
After beating the West-leading Houston Rockets and the lowly New York Knicks this weekend, the playoff bound Raps hold a 49-17 record and have a 3.5 game lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference.
Their best regular season in team history came two years ago when they went 56-26 before making it all the way to the Eastern Final where they lost to LeBron James and the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
With 16 games remaining on the schedule, Toronto just needs to go 8-8 to pick up their best win total ever. There's a very good chance the Raptors could have home court advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs as some basketball pundits believe Toronto is the team to beat in the East this season.
Let's take a look at some of the best wins Toronto has put together so far in 2017-18.
The Rockets have been the best team in the Association this season with 52 victories and just 14 losses. Two of those losses have come by the hands of the Raptors.
The first came in an early-season clash in Houston on Nov. 14.
All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who was acquired in the summer, did not play in this game for the Rockets and the Raptors took full advantage with an impressive 129-113 road victory. James Harden dropped 38 points and 11 assists but the 27 scored by DeMar DeRozan and a solid bench effort from CJ Miles (19 points) and Delon Wright (14 points) was more than enough for Toronto.
The November victory was nice, but the Rockets were short-handed. The real test came last Friday night when the Rockets came to the Air Canada Centre on a 17-game winning streak.
Some were calling this game an NBA Finals preview as the top teams from each conference were going head-to-head.
The Raptors came out firing with a 32-point first quarter and a 15-point lead going into the second half. Even though the Rockets made it close thanks to 40 from Harden, the Raptors held on for the 108-105 victory, ending the Rockets' terrific streak.
If the Raptors were not being taken seriously before, they surely were after Friday's victory.
Comeback in Philly
The Raptors gave their fans an early Christmas present on Dec. 21 with a 22-point comeback victory against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center.
DeRozan scored a career-high (at the time) 45 points, including a career-high six three-pointers.
Kyle Lowry added 23 points with nine rebounds while Wright had a dozen off the bench.
It marked Toronto's fifth straight victory.
DeRozan scores franchise-high on New Year's Day
DeRozan broke in 2018 in style with the highest scoring game in Raptors' franchise history.
The four-time All-Star dropped a career-high 52 points to lead the Raptors past the Milwaukee Bucks 131-127 in overtime on Jan.1 for Toronto's 12th straight victory at home.
The 52 points broke a franchise record for points in a single game, previously shared by Vince Carter and Terrence Ross with 51.
"Tonight, DeMar DeRozan played like a superstar," head coach Dwane Casey told the Canadian Press after the game.
"He was playing with a lot of juice, oomph," Casey said. "You could see the bounce in his step in the first quarter, the force he was playing with coming off pick and rolls, bouncing up and he maintained that throughout the whole game, which was huge for him."
The contest was also the first between the two clubs since their six-game series (won by the Raptors) in the opening round of last year's playoffs.
The Raptors take down The King
It's fair to say the Cleveland Cavaliers have had the Raptors' number the past two seasons in the playoffs.
In the Eastern Final two years ago, the Cavs took out the Raptors in six games in a series that was much more lopsided than it seemed. They met again in the second round last spring and Cleveland wasted no time with the four-game sweep.
Going into their first clash this season on Jan. 11, the Raptors were without two of their best players in Lowry and power forward Serge Ibaka.
Despite the injuries and the fact that DeRozan only managed 13 points, Toronto found a way to hammer the Cavaliers on home court 133-99.
The substitutes - AKA bench mob - were the story in this one. Fred Van Vleet scored a career-high 22 points, Jakob Poeltl had 12 points and 12 boards, Norm Powell dropped 14 and Pascal Siakam scored 16 points with eight rebounds. Lowry's replacement, Miles, wasn't bad either with 16 points.
The Raptors still have two dates with the Cavaliers left on the schedule (March 21 and April 3) plus a probable playoff matchup for a third consecutive time this spring.
Will the blowout victory in January be an indication of what is to come in the playoffs or will LeBron and the Cavaliers reach their championship level once again against the Raptors?
Raptors blow out divisional rival Celtics
The Celtics edged the Raptors 95-94 in their first matchup this season in November, but the Raptors got some payback on Feb. 6.
Toronto held Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to 17 and two points respectively as the Raptors claimed a 111-91 blowout victory.
Once again, Toronto's bench was a major factor in the win with Miles pouring in 20 points, Wright with 14 and Van Vleet with 10 points and eight assists.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had some high praise for the Raptors' second unit after the game.
"There's not many groups I enjoy watching more than their second group," Stevens told the Canadian Press. "When they're all on the floor together, the way they play, the way they move the ball, the way they cut — it's a fun team to watch play."
The bench scored 28 of Toronto's 36 second-quarter points.
"I think we literally have two separate teams and that's a great thing to have," said Lowry. "We've got the bench guys that can come in and play as starters with pace. It's just fun to have a good team that overall in general can mix it in with each other."
Raptors become first team to clinch playoff spot
Toronto became the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff spot with a dramatic 121-119 overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons on March 7.
DeRozan had another massive game with 42 points, including a devastating slam dunk in the dying seconds which gave the Raptors a two-point advantage. Blake Griffin would go on to tie it with a nice post move to send the game to an extra period.
Van Vleet, the 24-year-old sophomore, ended up being the hero in overtime as he nailed a three-pointer with just over a second remaining to seal the victory and send the Raptors to their fifth straight playoff appearance.