The Raptors crushed the Suns the first time these teams met in pre-season, and the HQ talks about what fans will need to see for a repeat performance...
So here it is.
In my books, the first litmus test of the season for the Toronto Raptors.
Of course the regular season hasn't begun, but considering the mood after Toronto got its "ass-kicked" by Boston,Jay Triano's exact words post-game, it's hard not to say that fans will learn quite a bit based on how the Raptors respond today against the Suns.
And not just learn about the players.
We hope of course that after the shellacking they received through three quarters Friday night, that these professional athletes come back with a vengeance.
No, I'm hoping to learn a little more about Jay Triano, especially in his second season as an NBA coach.
Will he back his post-game criticisms up with roster changes, or at least give fewer minutes to those who aren't putting forth max effort?
And with that, we have our first key...
1) Effort: It's pretty pathetic that "effort" has to be the key to a game played by a team of professional athletes. But after Friday night's loss, and the ugly L to the Bulls earlier in the week, well, here we are. The frustrating thing is that we've seen a Raptors team give max effort. In fact, they did it in their first pre-season match against these same Suns! In that game, Toronto's trapping defence, pesky double-teams, hard-nosed play in the paint, and tactical disruptions made life miserable for Phoenix, and it was greatly due to team effort at both ends of the court.
I'm hoping to see that again tonight, no matter which line-up combinations Jay Triano rolls out.
2) Points in the Paint: Phoenix has struggled a great deal from long range so far this pre-season and has had to rely heavily on their inside play. The problem is, they haven't been great in that respect either, especially in terms of rebounding the basketball.
Toronto has the bodies to match up with the Suns down low, and I'm hoping to see guys like Amir Johnson and Joey Dorsey giving Robin Lopez and Co. fits. If the Raps can protect their own paint, and force the Suns into a jump-shooting contest like they did in their first pre-season game, it bodes well for the W.
Oh...and getting under Lopez' skin wouldn't hurt either. There's not a lot of big man depth on the Suns, and we've seen how temperamental the former Stanford forward can be...
3) The Suns are playing Matt Janning: This isn't a slight against Janning, I watched him live as he lit up Summer League in Vegas this off-season and hoped he'd make the Suns roster. However the point of this "key," is that Toronto needs to show that they can beat teams they are supposed to beat, be it now, or when things count for real.
Yes, any team can beat another NBA team on a given night, but sometimes the talent just isn't there and like we saw Friday night with Boston, the "better" team wins because it knows it's going to win.
Never mind then but in all seriousness, the Suns have been playing guys like Janning and Earl Clark heavy minutes in pre-season while resting studs like Nash and J Rich.
The Raps need to take advantage of this, plain and simple.
If they can't, Hedo Turkoglu won't be the only player getting booed tomorrow...