When DeMar DeRozan talked about putting his adoptive hometown Toronto, on the map of the NBA, it sounded like a big “if wishes were horses…” moment given the efforts we had witnessed from the great Vince Carter, but then fast forward to now and the Raptors are looking quite ready to deliver on that dream.

Toronto is first in the East, three games ahead of the second-placed Celtics and nine games ahead of the ailing Cavs who sit in third (who would’ve thought). Eight games to the end of the season and the Raptors are looking very much like the team to beat in the East and that very much makes them outsiders in this NBA postseason that is promising a tornado.

The last three seasons in the NBA have been foregone conclusions and this one was looking no different, teams stacked up and spent big so they could stand a chance against the Warriors and LeBron James, it was a pick your poison game, one which the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, and Toronto Raptors have all in their own way crashed on and taken over. Houston made it no secret they were stacking up to beat Golden State and after three matchups this season and the run they are putting up, it’s pretty much mission accomplished for the Rockets and there is no denying that in many minds there is a clear and disturbing question of whether the Warriors can best Houston this season, because the only thing that seems certain at this point is that the Houston Rockets will make the Conference finals.

Well, that’s the West, always wild and slinging, what we truly didn’t expect was for the Raptors tearing through the East (that’s Cleveland’s role). Coach Dwayne Casey much like every player on the Raptor’s roster stepped up his game, with his defense well-built and sturdy, Casey decided to turn to an offense and especially DeRozan and Lowry, who are both playing arguably the best season of their Raptors lives. The organization stuck to what it knows; grit, grind and faith in its players, a culture that they’ve built over the years and could now be very much on course to bear fruit. The team is looking like clockwork, with Valanciunas, Siakam, Ibaka all looking the perfect compliments to their stars DeRozan and Lowry, while C.J Miles, VanVleet, and Anunoby are having an incredible season coming off the bench. The stats will say just as much, the Raptors rank amongst the top 10 in points per game, offensive rating, defensive rating, and opponent points per game, and are overall second in the NBA just behind the Houston Rockets.

No team in the East can stand up to the Raptors in a 7-game series at this point, which makes them very likely Conference finals contenders and possible winners. If they do make it to the finals, it won’t be such a crazy idea to say anything can happen, though the Raptors have one problem that has been their ultimate Achilles heel every season; producing down the stretch.

That’s a RAP.