No matter how good or how bad our Raptors are, there's one thing that they have to keep remembering.
At the end of the day, wins are what matters.
And winning is accomplished by execution. Right about now, the only thing the Raptors should be doing is executing deportation documents for Will Solomon. Sure, I've always been one to harp on the guy, but making excuses and covering for the man who is clearly not doing a proper job is not acceptable. Well, scarily enough, that fits this team's M.O. Yes, we know it's bad to call out your teammates after a tough loss, but it's inexcusable to allow a man such as Solomon to dictate an offense that has him hoist up two three pointers with the game on the line when he's shooting a mere 23% from 3 point range for the season. When he makes that kind of unilateral decision, there has to be consequences.
Proper execution though, is defined by closing out quarters, halves, and games. It means that when you're up 12 points, you make it extremely difficult for the other team because you continue to execute on offense. It means that even if some of your players are not having a stellar night, your defense functions well enough to put you in a position to win.
The Raptors, unfortunately, just don't do it.
And so sometimes, when the Raptors have their game on, they end up out working over the better teams of the league. And when they lose their focus, they lose to clubs like Washington, a team that can also potentially turn it up on any given night. With guys such as Antwain Jameson and Caron Butler, the Wizards have the potential to make life very difficult for the Raptors from the wing position. Luckily, the Raptors themselves outmatch the Wizards in other areas. If they hope to win, the Raptors will have to:
1) Not Let Secondaries Become a Factor -
Andray Blatche, Mike James, and Jarvaris Crittenton all have to be challenged and can't be allowed to become a surprise star of the night. Blatche has always been a difficult match up for the Raptors. Crittenton is replacing an injured DeShawn Stevenson is a player the Raptors have to pay attention to as an unlikely supplier of rebounds and assists. Mike James' mentality to "be the man" has to be exploited properly by both Will Solomon and Roko Ukic. Unfortunately, I get the willies just thinking about Solomon and James jacking up "shats" for the title of "most destructive starting point guard".
2) Control the Interior -
The Wizards shoot about 30.5% from beyond the arc, and have never regained the loss of the clutch scoring presence of Roger Mason Jr. Against the Wizards, the Raptors need to make sure they hold the interior and play the percentages. If the Wizards start making their shots, the Raptors should adjust accordingly, but until such a time, the game plan has to be that the Raptors allow the Wizards to attempt to bomb from long distance. With only Juan Dixon and Antonio Daniels able to shoot above 35% from the 3pt line, the Raptors should be able to use this weakness to their advantage, so long as they manage to get to those long rebounds ahead of the Wizards.
3) Jay Triano's Substitution Pattern -
Newspaper reporters have said it. Commentators on our website have said it. Heck, I've said it. It just simply makes no sense to keep playing Will Solomon the amount of minutes we've been seeing him play lately. Sure, you might be shielding Roko Ukic from the harsh realities of the NBA, but if you're not winning and not developing Roko, then what are you doing anyways? Sam Mitchell required a stern talking to when he first picked up Bargnani, and I'd imagine if Triano continues to give Solomon the majority of the minutes, Colangelo is going to have another talk with his coach.
If the Raptors lose this game, it probably doesn't mean the end of the world for the franchise, but we can honestly say that we have more than a pattern and have something closer to a trend.
In the past, the Raptors used to be a team that surprisingly upset top contenders. Now, they're surprisingly losing to the bottom feeders of the league. One, is the mark of a team that's forging ahead to be the best in the division, the other is a team that's lost its way and is struggling to make the playoffs.
If this year's team is going to turn it around, it can't give away well earned wins with terrible losses. We've already had too many of those this year, and it's just unacceptable to sit through many more of them.