Much had been made about how difficult the early schedule was for the Raptors, but as the new year begins, it's now time to take advantage of the turn in the schedule.
It starts now, and in the next month, we'll be able to see just how close the Raptors are to getting into a playoff spot, or looking at the outside of the draft without a pick.
However, in the last little while, it's been pretty rewarding as a fan. Besides seeing an optimal lineup that we've been clamoring for all year, the Raptors now are focused on defense; something they should have been doing all spring training.
The team has just been a lot more entertaining to watch, and it's not only simply from a wins perspective. This is the style of basketball that has always been the best to watch in my opinion.
A team that lives off of forcing turnovers and gaining additional possessions from their opponents.
A team that doesn't cough the ball up when they are making their plays.
A team that can score from everywhere on the court.
And above all that, this is a team that has budding talents that are showing more and more what they can do every single day.
Terrence Ross is exciting and makes me want to wait to see what he does every single game. The stuff we knew about with regards to his defense and his shot were what drove the Raptors to select him. The fact that he dunks with vigor and force, is able to shoot off the dribble with accuracy, and has fairly solid ball handling skills are what make his fans excited to see him on the court every game.
It's refreshing, and it's a good time to be a fan.
Hopefully, the Raptors will keep those good times rolling tonight as they face the Kings.
Sacramento has an identical record to the Raptors, but are a horrid 2-13 on the road, with their second road win coming the other day against Cleveland. Tyreke Evans is out with an injury, but the Raptors need to put up a great effort against the Kings' bigs.
1) Thompson and Cousins - The Raptors will win if they shut down the Kings' two big inside presences. It's incumbent that Aaron Gray, Amir Johnson, and Ed Davis win the inside battle and punish the interior of the Kings. The Raptors let too much of the Kings' offense flow through their bigs in their last encounter, which led to the Kings getting an extremely easy win against the Raptors.
DeMarcus Cousins in particular, had 25 points and 13 rebounds and Jason Thompson had 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Raptors are fielding a completely different front court this time though, so hopefully we won't see a repeat.
2) Take advantage of the Point Guard situation - No Tyreke Evans? Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry need to take advantage of Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks. If I'm Kyle Lowry, I must be licking my chops seeing that I am facing off against Aaron Brooks for the majority of this game. We should see it all from our point guard combo.
3) Keep winning against those who you should win against - I mentioned it at the start, but the Raptors need to make sure that this month is their time to shine. Getting off on the right foot the other day is how they needed to start. Continuing that trend against the likes of the the Kings is what will get them rolling. We haven't seen any let up from the Raptors recently, but this is the kind of team where if the Raptors are careless, it could come back to bite them.
I hate to say it, but there's no reason for the Raptors to lose against this team.
It all comes down to playing smart and playing effectively. If they can do that, they'll have their fourth win in a row, and their sixth win in a row at home.