The HQ takes in tonight's game against the Bucks via media access and hopes that Toronto has a bit of R-E-V-E-N-G-E on its mind.
Tonight's game was supposed to be another brick in the wall for the Toronto Raptors.
It was supposed to represent another sub .500 team for the Dinos to beat up on as the TO squad continued to gel on their way towards locking down at least the fifth seed in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, a frustrating loss Wednesday night changed all that.
Now, Toronto is trying to prevent its fifth loss in its last 7 games, and suddenly this Milwaukee team, Jerry Stackhouse and all, represents a good test on many fronts.
-Can Toronto show the necessary gumption to avenge Wednesday's loss?
-Can Jay Triano and his staff make the necessary adjustments against a team that the Raptors simply don't match up well against?
-And can players like Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu, step up to the plate after disappearing acts on Wednesday night?
In some ways to me, this game is a bit like a mini-playoffs in January.
The Raps dropped a winnable one on Milwaukee's home-court less than 48 hours ago, can they avenge that at home tonight and get back in the series? I'd argue that it's situations like these over the coming months where we'll really see what this team is made of.
That's why partly, despite reader voting preferring we take in Sunday's Laker game, or next week's Miami game via monthly media access, we switched things up and decided to roll down to the ACC tonight.
Oh...and of course our real jobs and an MF Doom/Mos Def concert may also have played a part...
Before we get into the keys then, be sure to hit up the comments section with any questions you'd like asked this evening, or any particular players you'd like us to speak with. We probably won't be able to get through them all, but we'll take a stab at as many as possible.
Personally I'm looking forward to asking Jay Triano a few questions pre-game in terms of changes he'll make for tonight based on Wednesday's final rotations, as well as a bit of one-on-one time with guys like Andrew Bogut, Carlos Delfino, DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, and maybe even Jerry Stackhouse. Antoine Wright is always good for a few interesting quotes, much like Shawn Marion was last season, and maybe I'll even work up the courgage to check-in with my buddy Hedo Turkoglu, despite the fact that it will likely take me 4 hours tonight to transcribe whatever he says...
Onto the keys.
1) Help for CB4.
This is the most obvious key tonight of course. Toronto got 44 and 12 from Mr. Bosh on Wednesday night and still came up short thanks to some pretty terrible offensive production from the rest of Toronto's starters. The game in many ways was the inverse of last Sunday's win over Dallas, where a complete team effort netted TO a big win.
Tonight there's no question that Hedo, Andrea and Jarrett need to step up, and a better game from the likes of DeMar DeRozan, as well as more minutes for Marco Belinelli and Sonny Weems, wouldn't hurt either.
2) Point Guard Play.
As one of our readers pointed out yesterday, while Jose Calderon's offence was fine, he didn't exactly do a great job of putting the clamps on Luke Ridnour defensively and Luke was a key to the Bucks' big third quarter surge. As well, while Brandon Jennings clanked a good many shots, his penetration gave too many open looks to players like Carlos Delfino on the perimeter and even Andrew Bogut inside.
Tonight a re-emergence of Toronto's two-headed point-guard, Jose CaldeJack would be great as well. We saw how tough the Raps can be as a match-up when both of these two are going strong, and against a Milwaukee team with a similar two-headed PG situation, it's even more essential they get the job done like Kane, both on O and D.
Outside of Bosh getting enough help, the other key reason I felt the Raps gave Wednesday's game up was their lack of intensity and execution when it counted. The Bucks showed more poise down the stretch, but from the game's tip they also brought a more ferocious energy to the match than the Dinos, as evidenced by the 17 offensive rebounds in the game.
This Milwaukee team is one that gives Toronto problems and part of the reason why is because they've done a nice job taking on their coach's demeanor and style of play; gritty, tough, clutch, all of those adjectives as well as various others describe the Bucks and tonight the Raptors need to match Milwaukee's level of intensity from the tip.
However aside from the players taking things to another level in this regard, Jay Triano and crew need to ensure the right players who can deliver these intangibles are playing at the right times. I'm hoping to see some Rasho Nesterovic tonight checking Bogut, as well as Sonny Weems and Marco Belinelli running wild just to name a few. This would be a perfect Reggie Evans type of game, but he's still got a another few weeks before we can even think about his return.
In the meantime, the rest of the team is going to have to harness his style of play (although not his dress code) to help gut out what will likely be another grind-it-out affair this evening.