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3 in the Key – Toronto Raptors Game-Day Preview vs. T-Wolves

Sometimes I wonder if this is the most frustrating team in the league to watch; beating San Antonio and New Orleans one night, losing to a Philadelphia or a decimated LA Clippers team the next.

Yes, if you haven’t guessed it, I’m still mad about Friday night’s loss.

I too was at the game like Howland and while not courtside (in fact I was about as far up as you can get,) saw many of the same things he did.

I’m not going to drone on and on therefore as Howland did a great job touching on most of my concerns but I will say one thing; Toronto’s collective basketball IQ at times equals that of a baby squirrel.

How else can you explain the horrendous defensive decisions in terms of guarding Corey Maggette? Or how about waiting to foul as time is running out for your team thereby forcing your star player, who is saddled with five fouls, to take the foul and foul out?

And best of all? How about being in the bonus with about four minutes remaining in the game thereby ensuring that by drawing fouls, your team can put points on the board with the clock stopped. Only instead of looking to draw fouls, your team takes jump shot after jump shot en route to the loss.

Words can’t describe the frustration I feel after a loss like that and I just hope Bryan Colangelo feels the same way.

So let’s try and move on shall we?

Toronto has a chance to take out its anger on another sub-par opponent tonight in the Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves have played better basketball of late but make no mistake – this is not a team that should be able to hang around with the Raptors. And therefore I’m hoping Toronto disperses with them quickly, our first key:

1) Jump on Minnesota early. Toronto failed to do this against LA and as a result, the Clippers hung around. In a game that should have been full of energy due to TJ’s return, the Dinos came out flat and allowed the Clips’ streaky shooters to warm up by game’s end. Minnesota has some similarly streaking shooters as the Clips and if the Raps don’t put this away early, they could find themselves biting and clawing just to get the W, especially on the road.

2) Rebound, rebound, rebound. Not sure how much more clear you need to be in this light as the Raptors just aren’t getting the job done in this department. And it’s not just the fault of the bigs, no, in fact it’s the wings in particular that need to do a much better job of face-guarding and boxing out. Minnesota has some athletic slashers like Gomes, Green and Brewer and the last thing Raptors’ fans want to see is Al Thornton Part II tonight.

3) Bench play. Fans have been clamoring for the return of TJ to help give Toronto’s bench a boost. However TJ obviously still isn’t back to 100 per cent and on Friday night the bench was up and down with Ford at the helm. The Wolves bench is a mixed bag of rookies and journeymen and Toronto really needs to take advantage in this area.

I don’t want to say this is a must-win game but let’s get real here. There’s no way Toronto should lose this match as long as they come out and compete. And a loss would mean two straight against two of the league’s worst (the Clippers couldn’t even beat the woeful 76ers last night) – not exactly a ringing endorsement in terms of Toronto’s playoff hopes. With the San Antonio Spurs looming and a Nets team that you can never count out, a W in Minny would go a long way towards righting the ship and trying to build some momentum towards the All-Star break just around the corner.