Saturday, December 13, 2008

Raptors putting things back together

Last night the Toronto Raptors finished off their romp of the New Jersey Nets – this time there would be no Nets comeback to push the game to OT, no dramatic play at all by V. Carter (no cheers from the sparse crowd at the Izod Center to buoy VC the way the boo’s do at the ACC may have helped), and no fold down the stretch by Toronto. These past 2 games Toronto has appeared the way many expected the team to look this season, and while the start of the season cannot be dismissed in any way beating up on teams they should be beating up on anyways is definitely a positive!

Heading into the game Toronto had the second hardest schedule in the NBA in terms of strength of their competition (based on winning percentages thus far). If there was anything to amplify early season concerns with the Toronto team it would be something like that figure right there. And the blowout is certainly assisted by another awful shooting exhibition by their opponents (Nets shot 31.1% from the field), but the defence on the Raptors part has been pretty decent tonight. If this trend continues, teams shoot poorly when facing Toronto, it will be more a compliment to the defence rather than a fluke coincidence – many will believe that right now the Raps are just getting lucky catching teams on off nights.

There is no “I told you so” in this article beyond saying give the season time to play out. Just a quick glance towards the end of the season it appears to be a cakewalk for Toronto, giving the idea that things should balance itself out in the end. The Raptors still need to make some changes before they can be considered serious contenders and this sudden improvement in play must keep up beyond a couple games, and most definitely beyond the lesser competition within the league. But right now these are very important games that can return confidence to the squad, and for that reason are essential for the team.

Apparently the scouting report going around on Toronto is that their defence is spurred by their play on offence, and over the last 2 games I’d say that point has been emphasized pretty well. The play on both sides of the ball has improved, now it's just necessary to face a real test to see how great the improvement has been.

Toronto plays New Orleans next, which will truly be a test of merit for this squad that appears to be on the mend. A unit nursing its wounds, it appears that both Anthony Parker and Kris Humphries will be available again which will be a nice addition for a tough showdown. After that it is a rematch against the Nets and then squaring off against a Dallas Mavericks side that could potentially go either way with the manner in which the Mavs have played this season.

With the high performance of the past few games it’s now time to look to these games with a renewed optimism, it was only a few weeks back that just about any match-up would be considered with a negative light. But such is the way around these parts, let's be honest that renewed faith could easily be swept aside by a poor showing against the Hornets as Doug Smith sums things up quite well in his daily blog:

I’ve got to say, the populace is in a cheery mood this morning. Jay’s the coach of the year JK’s the apple of everyone’s eye and I haven’t got one note in three days from people dogging Chris Bosh ‘cause he hasn’t had a 30-plus game in a while.

Funny what a two-game winning streak will do to a collective psyche.

Of course, it’s also funny what a five-game losing streak does to the regulars around here.

All in all? I’ll take the winning because you’re so much nicer. And I like nice. A lot.


Anonymous said...

It was sweet to see what few fans there were at the Izod Center giving their hero the Bronx cheer when he finally scored,
especially after watching him strut around like a peacock after pulling out a win at the ACC two weeks ago.
The difference between last night and a fortnight ago was pretty self-evident...Toronto looked like they knew what they were doing during the late stages of the game, not only protecting a sizable lead but expanding on it.
Only during "garbage time' did the Nets whittle down a 30 point Raptor lead to 22 but really that was small consolation.
If this is what a Jay Triano coached team is going to look like, I like what I see.

Mike Radoslav said...

They do appear to be rounding into form recently - even today, with porous perimeter D and no help offensively beyond their "big 3" - Toronto still had a shot down the stretch against a very tough squad in the Hornets, and that would not have been the case a couple of weeks ago.

Maybe it can be attributed to Triano but whatever it is, the play of this team has improved over the past few games that much is clear! The Raps are providing some entertainment value again and it's great to see!