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

The Raps are in a major slump and need to get their house in order before things hit rock bottom. A win against Washington would be a step in the right direction.

Can the Raps get W number 8 on the season or will they continue to lose important games?

Before getting into this preview I thought it would be a nice break from the doom and gloom to make note of the fact that although the team is no good on the court they continue to be great off the court. The Raptors organization has always been big when it comes to community involvement and yesterday was no different as the Raps and Wizards, along side former players and Billy Hunter took part in the ‘MIRACLE IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL’
event at the DC Armory. The event was dedicated to the Memory of Wizards Owner and DC Philanthropist  Abe Pollin, where they helped feed 10,000 impoverished families. That my friends is quite the accomplishment and we should be proud of the men who represent our city when they take part in such community events.

So that's the good.

On to the not so good.

Prior to the Raps match-up on November 20, 2009 against the Heat I wrote the following in the Game Day Preview:

Now is the time when we will really get a true sense of whether this team is a contender or a pretender. If this team can't secure a W against teams like Indiana, Miami and Washington what hopes do they have of securing a top 6 spot in the East? Probably very little.

Well here we are two weeks later and the Raps have managed a 2-5 record against Eastern Conference opponents. Dare I say the Raps are cementing themselves as a pretender. You can look at the Eastern Conference standings as suggest that the Raps are barely out of the eighth position but their play as of late looks nothing like a playoff calibre team. Nothing.

One of the five losses came against the Washington Wizards earlier in the week. Unlike the loss in Atlanta the game against the Wizards was a closely fought match-up where the Wizards simply outplayed the Raptors down the stretch. In case you forgot what went down the recap is here.

Now apparently the Wizards brass think this could be an entertaining game as tonight is being marketed as "Date Night" for the Wizards and their fans. For $90 dollars you get two lower bowl tickets, 2 drinks, a picture with the Wizards mascot and if you are one of the first 100 fans to order this package you also get a $50 restaurant voucher. It will be a cold day in hell before you can get that sort of value when attending a Raps game (although to be fair I did get an email yesterday for 15% off tickets in the month of December). You can barely get two upper bowl tickets at the ACC for $90. Nevertheless, the real value for Wizards fans is that there's a good chance their team can reel off another W and look damn good in the process.

There is really no other may to describe the Raptors play as of late other than to say they have been getting torched. Consequently, with all the talk coming out of the lockerroom and the dark cloud now firmly hovering over the ACC, the Raps are at a cross-roads less than two months into the season.

So now it is time to put your money where our mouth is. It's either time to bunker down and come together, or start playing for pay-cheques. The players and the coaches need to tow the same line, in particular defensively, or we will, as fans, see rock bottom and likely a remade roster again next year. I have harped about the importance of consistency in an organization for a long time. Right now that seems like a pipe dream unless I take solace in this team being a consistent disappointment.

To me there is only one key to tonight's game. Defense. Pure and simple. The Raps to somehow come together and show they can play defense or at least put up some resistance! Without it nothing else is going to matter.

There are however a few match-ups I will be watching. The first is Bosh against Haywood. Haywood is a giant in the paint and has been solid for the Wizards thus far. He is a good rebounder and creates plenty of second chance points for his squad. Bosh will have to attack Haywood at every opportunity and use his quicks to get easy looks. There is no dout Bosh should be fired up after such a sad performance in Atlanta. Look for him to take out his frustrations on the Wizards frontcourt.

The other match-up I will be watching is Hedo against Caron. Hedo absolutely has to start making his money and tonight gives him the opportunity to make-up for his performance in the fourth quarter in the last match-up. Hedo absolutely cannot just settle for jumpers and he has to take the action at Butler. This team needs more than outside jumpers from its SF position.

It is a winnable game and for some reason I can see the Raps pulling this one out.

If not....well let's just hope they do.