Our Raptors come home for their second home game! A game where the Raptors probably won't be counted as the underdogs. Kinnon Yee takes a look at tonight's game and looks at how the Raptors are playing "exciting" basketball
I have to say, I've been thoroughly entertained this year so far as a Raptor fan. All in all, it's been an exciting two weeks of basketball and it's been a lot more defensive than I think most of us expected.
And boy, defensive basketball can be exciting to watch.
The Raptors are causing opponents to turnover the ball which leads to fast breaks and spectacular plays. It's a team play that results in a win instead of an individual's grandstanding. Heck, it's the only kind of basketball that make sense for the Raptors to play and remain competitive considering their lack of star power.
And while I still believe it's going to take at least another 2-3 weeks for the rest of the league to wake up and for everyone to play the basketball they can play, the Raptors are the sort of team nobody should want to play right now.
Which begs the question, just what can Dwane Casey do for this team once we get some talent?
After all, there's no doubt that this year's team is a very hastily assembled mish-mash of players who are at the very best, one dimensional players (or "specialists" if you're feeling charitable) on a contending team. Imagine if there was a move or two, a couple of rookies and a free agent signing to shore up some of the scoring weaknesses.
But that's a far away hypothetical for now.
What I like though is that we have a system in place that Dwane Casey is going to undoubtedly push for the entire year. None of our previous coaches had a system down pat. Giving the Raptors this year to learn the system, figure it out, and get the current players buying into it is perfect.
Next year, with a few more pieces of talent, Dwane Casey won't have to sell the entire team on the system. It'll be established and the newbies players will need to simply learn it and our identity will be born from all that work.
I believe that this season could work out that way and that's going to be my driving goal for the rest of this year; to make sure Dwane Casey sticks to his guns. Because that's the only way we can finally identify what type of team the Raptors are.
I want to see a byline in NBA2k13 that says the Raptors are a "tough, tenacious defensive team that has trouble with scoring and turnovers". I can live with that because the scoring and turnovers will fix themselves with an improved roster.
They'll have to continue building on that identity tonight as the Raptors host the Cavaliers coming off a back-to-back win against the Bobcats. As we saw on opening night, the Cavaliers have a lot of bounce on their team and the Raptors will have to match that athleticism with their own. Tonight's game looks to be a pretty exciting affair with lots of guys with springs for legs. To come out with the W, the Raptors will need to focus on the following:
1) Contain the Rooks - Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson decimated the Bobcats the other night and will be looking to exert themselves in a similar way against the Raptors. While the hometown side did a good job on Irving in Cleveland by making him look a third string point guard, Thompson caused a lot of havok against Ed Davis until Davis started playing him smarter. I'm looking at Thompson to make a statement in his home country as his family will undoubtedly be on hand.
2) Production from the 3 - It's going to be a continuing theme, but we saw how just a little bit of scoring from the small forward position helped out the Raptors against the Knicks. I guess if you're on the side of getting a high pick, you're fine with this weakness as this will be a need that the Raptors can easily address in the upcoming draft.
3) Beware the Gee - Alonzo Gee is now becoming a revelation for the Cavs as he's been a consistent thorn in every team's side. The Raptors need to make sure they get a body on him and don't just focus all their energy on Anderson Varejao coming down the stretch. Like Varejao, Gee is an energy player who isn't afraid to mix it up and the Raptors have to be very careful with the ball going inside against a guy like Gee who is averaging more than a steal a game.