3 In the Key: Toronto Raptors Game Day Preview vs. Denver

Things are definitely not peaches and cream in Raptor land. The players look lost and disinterested, the coach is losing credibility by the day and suddenly Bryan Colangelo, the man who in some people's eyes could do no wrong has clearly shown that no-one is far from perfect.

What could help cure all that ails the Raptors? A win against the Denver Nuggets.

So is that it?

Are the Raptors throwing in the towel on the 2009-2010 season and willing let another season go by without a playoff appearance?

If the last game against the Utah Jazz tells us anything it is that the answer to this question is a resounding YES!

Based on yesterday's poll question however, there appears to be a majority of fans who still feel optimistic about the Raps making the playoffs.

I for one voted "no".

The Raptors are in the midst of a major late season collapse. In the past month the Raps have gone 4-12 with their three of their four wins coming against some of the league's worst in the Nets, the Wolves and the Knicks. The only win of any significance in the past 30 days was against the Hawks.

There is also no evidence that anyone can point to that would suggest that the Raps are going to turn things around. Actually, it looks like this team has essentially mailed it in.

There's no fight. There's no fire. There's no life.

It's true that the NBA season is a long one with many peaks and valleys and this season has been no different. Unfortunately for the Raptors the current valley which they find themselves in must feel more like being at the bottom of a well with no way up.

Which brings me to CB4. Of all of the cornerstone's of this Raptors team (which include Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon(?) and DeMar DeRozan) he is the only one that can get out of what seems to be a bad situation. If things continue to go the way they are right now his free-agency is more like a get out of jail free card. Hedo is completely unmovable, Bargnani has not consistently shown he can be the team's number 2 option and professed to being lazy, and everyone else gets a collective "meh".

I ask you - if you were CB4 would you want to stay? I wouldn't.

The idea of playing with D-Wade in South Beach, or with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in Chicago, or even starting fresh with the Knicks has to be more appealing than re-signing with a team that is being weighed down by bloated contracts, bad chemistry and possibly no first round pick. If the Raps do end up missing the playoffs is there any reason why Bosh wouldn't demand a sign and trade? You can't tell me Bosh isn't aware that if he re-signs that Hedo and Bargs are almost undoubtedly the guys he is going to have to rely on to become an elite Eastern Conference team. It's unlikely. We all know that.

The usual wild card in this is that Bryan Colangelo has managed to pull a few rabbits out of his hat but he would have to be Houdini to fix the mess he has this team in now.

As a Raptors fan this is a pretty low moment. For the next few weeks we are likely going to have to watch this team struggle through the end of the season and undoubtedly be left heartbroken when the news breaks that Bosh is taking his All-Star game elsewhere. Losing the best player ever to wear a Raptors jersey, in his prime nonetheless, is going to sting...for a while.

We have all off-season to discuss this, and who knows what happens, but doesn't Bosh's departure just feel inevitable at this point?

Nonetheless there are games left to be played and tonight Bosh and his team face off against Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets who are coming off a loss to Boston and who are missing their Head Coach.

Here are tonight's three keys (for those of you willing to sit through what will likely be another slaughter):

1. Have a Pulse: If the Raps come out like the zombies in the cult classic "Night of the Living Dead" again this evening do yourself a favor and tune into the NCAA tournament where guys actually care about whether they win or lose. Given how bad things have become I am not sure what it is going to take for the Raps to put up a fight. If the Raps come out sluggish you may hear the boo's from the home crowd all the way in Spain. Are you listening Renato?

2. Play Something Similar to Defense: What can I say here? If the Raps don't get their act together Anthony may beat them on his own. Further, given how easily Deron Williams carved up the Raps things could get really ugly with Chauncey Billups running the show. The Raptors have to talk, they have to rotate, they have to do at least some of the defensive things we have been harping on all year.

3. Force Triano's (Colangelo's?) Hand: It's clear that the recent play of the starters is not enough for Triano to make any significant changes to the starting unit. It's on guys like Wright, Weems and Amir to force his hand. If the starters look bad early and the bench guys can match the Nuggets subs it will only put more pressure on the Coach to finally make a change. As much as I appreciate the fact that it's not who starts but who finishes the game that matters, if the Raps continue their less than stellar play the game will be over by half and the "finish" part won't matter.

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