Back in August when Toronto's schedule was first revealed, we fans knew this was quite likely.
Yes, a rough start to the season looked almost inescapable thanks to the slew of tough match-ups and we discussed how tough it would be for the Raps if they got too far behind the 8 ball early.
The team's opponent tonight is the surprising Golden State Warriors, a club that early on looks to be a sleeper threat to make the playoffs in the West.
However they are 0 and 2 on the road, losing yesterday to a Detroit team that hardly looks to be contenders for anything other than a top lottery pick.
Tonight therefore might represent TO's best chance in a while to get a W therefore, and they've gotta seize it considering Miami and Orlando loom in the near future.
There's not much to talk about right now other than getting that W, so here are our 3 keys:
1) Drink a 5 Hour Power. Seriously Raps, do it. This isn't a plug for the product, although I am a huge fan, but instead I simply mean that against tonight's opponent, Toronto can't come out playing a half speed or with little jump, like they did against Portland. The result of that lack of zip was a collective team that didn't have enough lift on their shots, made lazy decisions with the ball, and who therefore couldn't make a bucket to save their lives.
The Warriors can score, score and score some more, love to get up and down the court, and present many match-up issues so sleeping through this Monday-nighter is not an option.
2) Match-Ups. The one thing I was quite happy with for most of the road trip was Jay Triano's use of players in particular situations. It was partly his mixing and matching I thought that helped the team get back in some of the games that looked to be over after the first quarter.
Tonight he faces a G State squad that can score of course (one of the top 10 in the league) but also one that has gotten after it on D better than they have in years. They are actually allowing their opponents to score a fewer number of points than they themselves put up, again, not your typical Warriors bunch, and have the personnel to really cause havoc for teams. This is especially true with their Ellis-Curry backcourt, an extremely dynamic duo that is running through most of the league at present.
Toronto has to find the right match-ups tonight to shut this duo, and others like David Lee, down. Perhaps it's not even individual players either, maybe Triano looks to the zone again to try and force the W's out of their comfort zone.
3) Rebounds Please. The one area that Toronto has been incredibly improved in this year is rebounding the basketball. Reggie Evans plays a huge part in this obviously, but Kleiza is an upgrade over Turk in this department, and other guys off the bench like Joey Dorsey and Julian Wright are boosts too.
The problem is, while the Raps have the 9th highest rebounds per game total in the league, Golden State has the fourth. In fact the rebounding story was one of the big reasons the Warriors grabbed a W from Utah this past Friday night and for the team's 4 and 2 start.
Toronto has to get after it on the glass and in the paint therefore and even though I expect Reggie Evans to lead the charge, I'm hoping the whole team follows suit.
One thing Toronto can't do tonight is afford to give such an offensively powerful team like G State, second looks.