The Raps have left the grey and cold behind and are now in South Beach preparing for tonight's match-up against the Miami Heat.
Can the Raps make it two in a row or will they fall back into their old ways...
So being a fan of the Toronto Raptors is now like being in a bad relationship. Things on the most part are pretty bad, but there are moments when it all seems worth while. It's the few good moments that make you stick around longer, in hopes that at some point the good moments will suddenly be more frequent than the bad.
Well one of those good moments was Sunday against the Rockets.
After a pretty low week, the Raps looked like a completely different team and suddenly there's reason to be optimistic once again. This team can play D, can get into people's mugs and can win basketball games.
It's the "can" that gives you hope that this team can start turning things around and play up to their potential.
Of course on a couple of occassions thus far the Raps have, given us fans hope that things will get better. Remember the win at New Orleans, and the blow-out win in Chicago? Both of those games gave fans reasons to be optimistic. Inevitabely however, like the relationship described above, things quickly went sour again.
I am left wondering how things will be any different this time around yet I will stick around to find out...ya know...just in case this time things are different. I am pretty sure things will not be different however, and here's why.
Of the team's 11 wins, only 2 have come against opponents with a winning record, and this includes the Rockets victory.
Just think about that for a second. It's almost mind boggling. The winning percentage of the teams the Raptors have beaten this season is just .427. If you take out the win against Cleveland on opening night it drops substantially to .396. These numbers really paint a somber picture. It's also evidence as to why it's highly unlikely that this team turns things around. I want things to turn around, I will stay around to find out, but in the end I am likely to be disappointed....but of course that's the mantra of a bad relationship, right?
The next opponent for the Raps is a team with a .500 record - the Miami Heat.
The Raptors and Heat matched-up earlier this season and the Raps came away with a 120-113 win. If you recall that game was a bit of a head scratcher where the bench guys helped the Raps build a substantial lead but in the second half Triano shortened the bench which allowed the Heat to get back into it.
As Vicious D discussed in yesterday's recap, it's time Triano just started using the guys who will get it done and forget salaries, egos and everything else. If that means heavy minutes for the starters so be it. If it means heavy minutes for the bench then let it be so. At the end of the day everyone in professional sports is evaluated on winning, so why should this situation be any different? Triano needs to ride the guys who can get it done.
In order to get it done, the Raps will need to focus on these three areas:
1. Get on 'Em Early: A quick start would go a long way to securing the W tonight. The Heat are reeling having gone 2-4 in their last 6 and suffering a humiliating defeat at home against the Grizzlies on Sunday. If the Raps can come out early and set the tone it will plant a seed out doubt into the minds of the Heat players. There is no worse thing for a player to think than "oh-oh, here we go again". On the flip side the Raps can't get into a hole for the very same reason. We all know what happens when this team loses focus and I am sure the Heat would be happy to ring-up 120 on its opponent to end their slide.
2. Stop the Supporting Cast: It's not just all Wade all the time in Miami. Mario Chalmers absolutely lit up the Raps in the last game with 30 points and 5 three pointers and slowly Michael Beasley is rounding into form. This Toronto squad really needs to focus in on keeping the supporting cast in check. If Chalmers, James Jones and Daquan Cook get countless open looks they can hurt you. Wade will get his, it's a matter of how many everyone else gets and how difficult it is to get them.
3. Work From The Inside Out: One thing I have noticed with this Raptors team is that it's feast or famine when it comes to outside jumpers, in particular the three ball. When one guy heats up everyone else seems to join the frey but when a few shots don't fall it's like the team goes colder than Edmonton this past weekend. It's really tough to play winning basketball when relying on the outside shot. The Raps need to start their offense from the blocks and establish Bosh and Bargnani. If the Raps can establish their bigs the open outside shots will come. I would much rather see Andrea schooling Jermaine O'Neal with some up and unders than watch him hoist three's and float around the arc.