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3 In the Key - Toronto Raptors’ Game Day Preview vs. Kings

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Up next for the Raps Ron Artest and the Kings of Sacramento.

Up next for the Raps Ron Artest and the Kings of Sacramento.

I think how we felt about Friday night’s loss was accurately summed up in the few paragraphs we had our close friend Big Chips post on the site. The three of us had gotten together to watch the Raps and by the end of it Franchise and I looked at each other and were both short on words for describing the debacle we had all just witnessed.

Big Chips stepped up and said "Let me do the recap". So we did. It was short, sweet and to the point. Hell he put more effort into it then the Raps players put into the game.

Many of the readers have differing views of what we have all witnessed over the past three games. Some are calling for Sam Mitchell’s head. Others are placing more of the blame on the players. There is more criticism being thrown at this point of the season then the rest of the season combined. Is it fair? Yes and no. Here are a handful of facts:

Offensively

They are scoring just over 106 ppg.

Calderon has scored 14 points TOTAL in three games but has only taken 18 shots.

Ford has taken 48 shots.

Parker has taken 38 shots.

Bargnani has taken 26 shots.

Defensively

They are allowing almost 124 ppg.

Their opponents are shooting almost 55%.

Overall

The Raps are 0-3.

So what do I garner from this? Well first off, even without CB4 the Raps are scoring the rock. Albeit the teams they have faced are far from defensive juggernauts the Raps are getting theirs. That being said I am far from satisfied as to how the Raps are getting theirs. Obviously the first thing I noticed when I looked at the box scores was the difference between Calderon and Ford’s stats. It’s uncanny.

It’s true that Calderon has looked like a shell of his former self without Bosh on the floor. He is having a tougher time finding open looks and has not found a way to the rim as often. One thing is for certain however, he has not forced the issue. On the flip side there is TJ Ford. No one can accuse him for not being a change of pace. He is coming in and getting his. Even if you add up the number of shot attempts as between Bargs and Calderon combined Ford still has more attempts.

Speaking of shots, everyone has been praising Anthony Parker for stepping his game up. He has. Although he is only taking 12.5 shots per game he is averaging just shy of 21 ppg. Those are impressive numbers. It’s even more impressive considering he is only taking 2 more shots a game than his season average while scoring 9 points more.

On the defensive side of the ball things have been terrible. Look at that shooting percentage for the opponents. Look at the points per game. It’s hard to believe that Bosh’s absence is the sole factor leading to this mess. When you evaluate the guys on the floor on an individual basis it’s hard to believe they are playing so poorly. Rasho is a solid defender and so are Parker and Moon. Bargs has been better as of late. Sure the defense provided by the PG’s leaves a little to be desired but they can’t take all the blame.

Nevertheless this has all led to an 0-3 start to this five game road trip.

So knowing all of this and seeing the results I can’t help but think the following could help the Raps grab a win.

First, Calderon needs to step up and shoot more. He shoots a very high percentage from the floor and is a good option on the offensive end. For Ford it is a different story. It’s not that I have trouble with Ford shooting. It’s the number of times he shoots and the times when he shoots. Maybe Sam Mitchell needs to pull out the first half tape of the Sonics game when Earl Watson’s ability to get into the lane caused big problems for the Raps. Once in the paint he would either wait for the defense to collapse and then kick it to the open man, or get to the rim. What he didn’t do is not pass the rock and take fade away’s from outside the free throw line.

We need more of this....

We need more of this....

Second, more AP. The guy is the hottest guy on the floor for the Raps. Please get him the ball off the screens, the curls, and the kick-outs. You know it really doesn’t matter how he gets the ball just get it to him.

Third, the boys need to start playing as a team again. They only way I can explain the huge number of lapses on the defensive end is the lack of communication and team play. Guys from the other team should never get behind the WHOLE TEAM for easy buckets. Guy need to close out and trust each other than when they rotate people will follow. There seems to be a general lack of cohesiveness on the defensive end which is horrible to see at this point of the season. These guys have played together for a while now and rather than showing how they have gelled it looks like they need to go back to training camp and start with the fundamentals. Yes, fundamentals. It’s come down to that.

When I first saw this five game road swing on the schedule if there was one game I thought the Raps could get without Bosh it was this one. It’s not that the Kings aren’t a solid team, they’re simply just not as good as the other teams the Raps were to face. Although it looks like I have detailed the three keys above those are more big picture issues. For this game I am looking for the Raps to do the following to give themselves a chance.

1. Toughen Up - The Kings are tough. Artest, Miller, and Salmons are all rough and tumble guys. They like to man up and push their weight around. The Raps absolutely cannot back down. It’s just not an option. The Kings will be coming off a game the night before against the Suns and the Raps need to take advantage. Can anyone on this roster step up here? After being blown out there has to be someone on this team that is going to take offense to their own bad play and rise up. I’m just not sure who.

2. Play Fundamentally Sound D - Remember when you were a kid and your coach would tell you to stay down, move your feet, get back, box out and get a hand up? All of those things still apply to NBA ballers. Sure the game is more complicated but the fundamentals don’t change. The Raps have to get back. They have to close out and they have to communicate. If they don’t expect a lot of Kevin Martin at the line, Artest grabbing key offensive boards and the Raps getting hammered again.

Sam Mitchell should take a page out of this.

Sam Mitchell should take a page out of this.

3. Adjust - Things just have not been working lately and as a result the heat is on the players to step up but also on the Coach to make adjustments. Yes Sam, this means YOU! With all those assistant coaches with you someone must have an idea. It doesn’t have to b earth shattering, it just needs to be something different and/or new. Coach Mitchell needs to show that he has something up his sleeve here.

It will be interesting to see how the Raps come out.

HOWLAND