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3 In the Key - Game Day Preview vs. Philadelphia

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Are we there yet?

Is this the first one? The first must win of the season? Now on a three game slide and facing two more road games, if it isn’t a "must" win, it sure is a "really need to".

It is starting to feel a lot like the beginning of last season where the Raps had a tough time getting off on the right foot (2-8). The biggest difference was that last season it was essentially a brand new team. That excuse no longer holds any water. Sure there are a few new faces but there will always be a few new faces on a squad from one year to the next. With the training camp abroad and with all of the growth the team had last year, didn’t you just expect more out of the gate? Where’s all the bonding? All the chemistry? Maybe people are too concerned with their money?

Apparently Sam Mitchell is wondering the same thing as Andrea Bargnani has been removed from the starting line-up in favour of Rasho. This season is now resembling last season even more! You can’t really argue with the move as Rasho had a great off-season and does provide more of an interior presence than Bargs at this point and you just get the feeling that Bosh and Bargs simply are not on the same page yet.

Prior to the opening of the regular season and we debated what the starting line-up for the Raps should be. I argued for Bosh and Bargs, principally on the grounds that these two cornerstones of the franchise need to start getting used to being on the court together and learning how to play off each others strengths. For the long term development of the team it simply makes sense but it appears that this development is going to take a back seat for now. So quote Coach Mitchell "It may give Andrea more offensive touches when he goes in the game for Chris." Of course Bargs and CB4 will have time together on the court but there will come a point where these guys will simply have to co-exist in the starting line-up.

Of course debating whether these guys will work well together on the court makes you reminisce about the not so distant past when Charlie Villanueva was drafted. Questions arose about whether it made sense to have both of these guys on the roster as they were both most comfortable at the power forward position. There were times when CV Smooth attempted to play the 3 and sometimes Bosh would slide to the 5...but in some ways it was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Franchise was a big supporter of the Villanueva-Ford trade for this reason. Now based on physique alone, Bargs is much more qualified to play the 5 position than either Chris or Charlie and so the comparison between the situations is not perfect. The point is simply that these two big-men have to learn to play together whether it’s now or later and the only way for them to do that is by spending minutes on the court together.

Can these guys be on the floor at the same time?
Can these guys be on the floor at the same time?

Whatever the game plan is long term, let’s focus on the now - tonight’s match-up against the Sixers. The Raps went 0-3 when it came to the three keys against the Bucks. Let’s hope the performance is a little better in this tilt.

1. Don’t Leave the Shooters: The past two games it has been the long ball that has killed the Toronto Raptors. The Ray Allen three from the corner, Michael Redd getting his groove back and the multiple daggers from Hedo, Rashard and even Jameer Nelson. Now enter Kyle Korver and Iggy both guys who can make the three. In the first match-up of the year Korver was left open and hurt the Raps with 4 threes and 20 points and although Iguodala was far from perfect on that evening, he still managed two long range bombs. The Raps need to stick to these guys like glue and whether it's Bargs or Rasho is irrelevant as the pressure lies on Kapono, Delfino and Anthony Parker. Speaking of Parker, much like last year he is having a slow start. It would be nice to see him have a solid game.

2. Quick-Start: The Raps need to come out early and set the tone. The ball movement, crisp passes and open looks. No one-man gangs. The Raps need to make the game simple from the get go and not let Philadelphia feel like they have a chance. A lot of the pressure will fall on TJ Ford to get the team rolling. How he deals with that pressure is really the key here. Will he try and go mano-a-mano with Miller or create opportunities for others? The starters really need to pick it up.

3. Ride the Hot Hand: One can only assume that Mitchell will find a firm rotation over the next little while as random appearances by Jamario Moon in the middle of a game is doing the team no good. Until he does, Mitchell needs to ride the guys who are playing well. If Calderon plays better than Ford then play Calderon. If Dixon is playing better than Kap-One, then Dixon it is. Hell I don’t care if it’s Zan Tabak, Popeye Jones, Acie Earl, Dion Glover and Ed Stokes out there....just play whoever can secure the W.

HOWLAND