Taking a look, the Raptors are facing a Wizards team looking to reintegrate their #1 offensive option from two years ago. The Raptors on the other hand are trying to get bodies back in the lineup and get their defense set.
Most "experts" are looking at the Raptors and Wizards as two teams that may be battling it out in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings this season . In some ways the teams are similar. Both teams greatly underperformed last year thanks to a combination of injuries and perhaps a stale playing style. Both teams underwent major coaching changes during the year. Both teams have made some large changes to their personnel with their core players largely unchanged.
However, for myself, pre-season is pretty much a time for us to just get back into the swing of things. We at the HQ need to brush up on our writing skills and the Raptors have their own set of "to do's". Jay Triano so far has up held his end of the bargain, distributing minutes evenly amongst everyone and trying to instill certain defensive policies. This should be applauded. It's also important for us to see that the team's bench can change the tempo of a game and has their own unique flare that they can bring onto the floor. All of our successful Raptors teams of the past had a Keon Clark who could come in and provide some extra punch every once in a while.
It's for that reason that I'm interested in seeing that the team continues with their development, regardless of wins.
Here are three keys that I think the Raptors should focus on later today:
1. Out Rebound the Wizards
39-39, 46-37, and 45-36. These are the rebounding stats of the opponents-to-Raptors for the first three pre-season games. We can talk all we want about better defense and team rebounding, but the fact of the matter is, the Raptors are not off to a good start. There has to be a conscious effort to get after the ball. We've known it for months now that this team has to rebound as a full unit because there's just no Matrix around to gobble up 10 rebounds per night. Against the Wizards, the Raptors should have an easier time, as they will probably be without the services of Brendan Haywood. So if there was ever a time to practice out rebounding a team, today would be the day.
2. Clean up the Free Throws
Sure, we can expect Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, and Hedo Turkoglu to get and make their share of free throws over the season. However, Reggie Evans, DeMar DeRozan, and the rest of the supporting crew have to continue to get to the line and score. The only way Evans or DeRozan are going to get significant end-of-game playing time is if they both improve their free throw shooting. Triano, otherwise, will be hesitant to play them in fear that teams will simply hack away on both of them. To stay on the court when it matters, both have to continue to increase their shooting percentage from the charity stripe.
3. Athlete vs Athlete
Going into last year, the big worry was that the Raptors simply were not going to have the athleticism or smarts to stay with the best players the league had to offer. This year, there's an influx of new talent that is hungry to prove themselves. The Wizards had lots of young talent and most are fairly good athletes including Nick Young, Randy Foye, Javaris Crittenton and JaVale McGee. It will be interesting to see if the Raptors are able to continue to finish hard and yet come back on defense against a fairly athletic second unit. Just the fact that the Raptors have an athletic unit tells you a lot about the club's makeover.
Don't forget about the love game day thread that will open at 3 pm today!