Turn on the lights.
Get that scoreboard working.
Light up the night with tightly held secret opening video.
Yes, the Raptors begun their season with a win against the 76ers and hopefully managed to get back to their hotels before the massive traffic jams after the Phillies won the World Series. In a battle against their divisional and conference adversaries, the Raptors managed to show some grit and toughness that seemed to be missing last year. For one night at least, the Raptors' twin towers worked to full effect, there were no more questions about the backup point guard spot, and Jason Kapono proved that it didn't matter what kind of athleticism Jamario Moon or Joey Graham had as long as he could get open for just a moment.
Heck, even Matt Devlin started showing some regular season form by injecting the right amount of subtle excitement that built the game into a proper crescendo.
Oh yeah, some guy named Roko Ukic managed to make me look like a genius prophet for just one night.
Nevertheless, that's just one out of 82 and the Golden State Warriors will prove to be an entire different beast to wrestle with. With a new contract in his pocket, Don Nelson's Warriors are ready to proceed with life after Baron Davis. Featuring a roster that is almost as international as the Raptors and some of the other "bad boy Pacers" who were traded long ago, the Raptors will be looked upon to use their size to slow down a much more accurate shooting team than the 76ers. Now granted, the Warriors are coming off of a loss in New Orleans to swing all the way over to the East Coast to play the Raptors, so they might not be their sharpest. Nevertheless, if the Raptors hope to pull out a win, it'll be up to these three factors:
1. Shooting Guard and Small Forward Defense -
We are all very sure about O'Neal and Bosh anchoring our middle, but let's just say the 76ers could have hit a few of their 3-pointers. We'd be talking about a very different game. Part of the reason the 76ers had so many rebounds is that they're just such a horribly inept jump shooting team. For all his athletic prowess, Andre Iguodala is not a guy that has inspired fear with his outside shot. The Warriors, with one Corey Maggette who has always given the Raptors trouble, have much better outside shooters from their bigs to their smalls. Add to the fact that Jamario Moon has still yet to give any indication that he's capable of playing decent defence, and you have a recipe for trouble. Let's also not forget that it's a Don Nelson-coached team which means that the Warriors have the green light to bomb and keep bombing from the outside. It'll be a test on Parker and our Gramoopono combination of forwards and guards to play their man properly. The one positive is that the Warriors have some injuries including one Monta Ellis which is a weakness that we hope the Raptors' point guards will exploit throughout the game. Just ask the bloggers at Golden State of Mind about their first game and point guard troubles.
2. Keep Moving, Keep Aggressive -
One of the great things that we got to see in the 76ers game was the development of an aggressive scheme where the Raptors chose to attack the heart of the 76ers using their bigs. Without having the same front court depth, the Raptors should have a relatively easy time with the Warriors. Bargnani in particular, will need to look for opportunities to keep attacking throughout the game in order to make sure that a tempo can be established. He should definitely take a queue from Joey Graham who looked like an absolute beast at times in his season debut. Playing smart and aggressive has always been a large problem for the Raptors as they often do one or the other, but not both, and with the addition of O'Neal, the hope is that the collective basketball IQ of the team will be that much better. So far, it seems to be developing at a steady pace as we've seen O'Neal and Bosh attack pick and roll situations aggressively, knowing that their other is waiting behind them to back them up and hold the fort in the post. And on the offensive end, both have looked comfortable both in the post and shooting from the outside. With only Turiaf, Biedrins, and Harrington to guard them, the Raptors should be able to establish that inside game often, and by keeping the ball moving, the Raptors will be able to get the ball to the proper outside shooter if the guards decide to double team the bigs. Should also tire out the Warriors as well.
3. Managing Minutes -
Oh the official mantra has been to never look ahead to the next game, but with the remade Bucks being the Raptors next opponent, in Milwaukee the next night no less, the Raptors will see themselves rushed out of the ACC after the game. Chris Bosh already logged in 42 minutes for the first game, so it will be up to the Raptors to end the game early so that they can give their most important pieces some rest. It's important that Mitchell find some more time for Kris Humphries as he can be looked to relieve the bigs in both games. It's early in the season and no one is rushing to say that the players should be tired at this point, but I'll be interested to see if Mitchell has learned anything about managing minutes a bit better in back-to-back situations.
Finally, it's the season opener, it's Halloween, it's time for basketball to begin in earnest in Toronto for yet another year. We're all pumped up with adrenaline, wishin' and hopin' that the Raptors will just stomp the life out of the Warriors. If there's one thing that we can count on as a group, it's that the ACC will be jumpin', and we'll be there to give our support to the group. It'll be up to the Raptors of course, to feed that flame, and if they can come out to a quick start, I'm sure the crowd will take the through to the end. I'm sure our guys in black will be willing to accommodate. So scream, yell, and make some noise at the game. Whether you have corporate seats, or you're way up in the Sprite Zone, it's time to establish our home court and to show the NBA that Toronto has some of the best fans in the league.
We are the 6th man.
We are the sea of red.
We are Raptors Fans.
Time to put some fear in our opponents.