A little later than expected but people in the United States will get their first chance to see the Raptors nationally. The Raptors recent game vs Knicks was suppose to be broadcast on ESPN, but it got the booted based on the Raptors and Knicks poor starts to the season. So on a smaller stage against a tougher opponent the Raptors will make their debut nationally in the U.S. Tonight's Raptors game vs the Cavs in Cleveland will be broadcast in the U.S nationally on NBA TV. The Raptors 1st half of their season began with an impressive win over the Cavs. Some were already writing the Cavs off for dead after an 0-2 start. While I personally was sweating buckets as I picked the Cavs to win it all. After that start the Cavs have got on track and are battling among the elite in east. While the Raptors after that impressive win would go on the road and lose to the Grizzlies. Just one of many high to low moments in this first 41 games of the Raptors season.
What happens tonight will only count for 1 game in the standings but for a lot of folks that are not hardcore b-ball fans in the states this will be their one impression of the Raptors. Will it be a good one or a bad one? Playing the Cavs at the Q is a much different task than beating them at the ACC. Cavs are an impressive 14-3 at home and 31-11 overall. Not to mention they have that Lebron James guy. He has had his career high in scoring vs the Raptors and in the past has had a ton of success vs Toronto.
Oh and in case you missed it with MLK day south of the border the Charlotte Bobcats had a win and leapfrogged the Raptors and Heat and now sit in 5th in the Eastern Conference. I know a few people like laughed when I said the Bobcats would make the playoffs in the East. Not looking so funny anymore is it. What makes it all the more impressive or depressing, depending on how you look at it is the fact Charlotte is a dreadful 3-15 on the road. That makes the Raptors 8-14 record away from the ACC look impressive.
The Raptors head into this one of the impressive win over the Mavericks and are 10-3 since December 18th. If this was another team you would say wow that is mighty impressive. However with all the talk in Raptor land at times you sometimes lose sight of that fact. It is much easier to see a point guard controversy on the horizon or the fact that Hedo Turkoglu continues to underwhelm us all. However the positive tip has been the play of for lack of a better nickname the killer B's. Bosh and Bargnani are making the impressive duo. The Raptors had made a trade for Jermaine O'Neal to have a form of twin towers like the Spurs. If they only had waited they had one in the making already.
Both the Cavs and Raptors head in winners of 7 of their last 10 basketball games. I seem to be on a role at figuring out some X-Factors for games of late. If you have been checking out the Live Blogs on the Score you can vouch for me. Tonight for me the guy is Mo Williams who I admit is not much of an X-Factor. However he is a solid 3 point threat and if he gets hot from behind the 3 point line that could cause problems. For the Raptors I will go with the guy that has is popularity on the rise on Twitter even though he isn't on it. Amir Johnson. He can be a big factor on the glass and help the Raptors out. Shaq, Big Z and Varejao are not exactly world beaters on the glass. Fear Amir and hope he can stay out of foul trouble and contribute his max minutes available.
If I take away my Raptor pom poms for this game it would appear this should be an easy home win for the Cavs. That being said I fully expected Cleveland to come in and trash the Raptors of an opening night loss the the Celtics. Win or lose though this is yet another test against a "elite" NBA team and the Raptors of late have done a good job in these match-ups. However the Raptors are just 10-17 all time vs Cleveland and have lost 9 straight there. What has happened in the last 4 or 5 years to cause that I wonder? Oh yeah that Lebron James guy.
To expect a Raptors win would be a bit foolish. However to expect a hard fought close contest is not. The Raptors have earned enough respect for that have they not? Whatever the case this is there big moment to shine south of the border. Well as much as anyone can shine on NBA-TV. I wonder if Sam Mitchell will be in studio. If he was that would make hunting down the NBA-TV feed of the game worthwhile. Win, Lose or Draw the Raptor Rewind makes it's return as unless I get late word I am not doing this game for The Score.
Just A Final Thing
Just wanted to say I finally got to watch the 500th Episode of The Basketball Jones. This show broadcast via the internet has become part of my daily routine. J.E Skeets , Tas Melas and the crew that put that together Monday through Friday do a great job and are highly entertaining. If you are a fan of the NBA beyond the Raptors and have never checked them out...you should. So you missed the first 500 episodes who cares. It is well worth it from whatever episode you start watching you will keep watching it from that number on. Congrats to them on 4 years of hard work and it sounds like the party they had in Toronto on Friday was quite the event. If there is a party for show 1000 I will be first in line to be there.