Pretty much the title of this says it all. I said about 2 months ago when looking at the standings at the time that this would be an important point in the schedule for the Raptors. Back then I did not realize just how right I would be. The Bulls beat the Nets last night who have just 9 wins on the season. So heading into the most important 2 games of the season the Raptors only sit a game and half in the playoffs. They will play the Bulls on April 11th and depending on what happens between now and then that could be the game that will decide the Raptors playoff fate. But if they would like to avoid that do or die situation they need to win these next 2 games on the road. While the Raptors face the Heat the Bulls will be playing the pathetic Pistons at the same time. A Raptor loss in Miami and Bulls win over the Pistons and Raptors are just a half game in front of the Bulls. Raptors if the do not look in their rear view at the charging Bulls will see Miami 3 games in front. That is who they play tonight. tomorrow they move on up the highway to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats. Who sit 2 and half games in front of the Raptors in 7th in the East.
Raptors with a win over Miami would take the season series. They won both contest vs the Heat at the ACC. That is the good news. Here is the bad news in the Raptors only trip to south beach they got smashed and lost to the Heat by 20 with Heat taking it 115-95. Some more bad news the Raps all time in Miami are only 8-19. Add in the fact the Heat have recently been playing some good basketball with a win over one the leagues hottest clubs in the Bucks. Heat are riding a 4 game win streak and if they are looking forward and not backwards they see the Bucks just a game in front of them for 5th place. The Bobcats are also streaking winners of 3 in a row themselves.
Raptors come in off a heart breaking loss to the Nuggets in which they let a 9 point lead slip away in the 4th quarter as a Carmelo Anthony last second shot would complete the comeback. The Raptors can not afford to get caught feeling sorry for themselves. While people continue to start saying that Bosh is a goner, the one thing that almost everyone would agree on is if Raptors miss the playoffs it is almost a guarantee. If Bosh is going to stay it will take him being a big part of this close to the season. Even the odd comparison to Vince Carter I have seen out there of late. I find that to be sad. I refuse to believe that Bosh is anything like Vince. Yes he clearly frustrated with the effort of the team around him. But he is not giving plays to the other team, he is not smiling after losses and saying oh well I am out of here in a month. He wants to win and has not given up on this season. At least that is what I feel.
Actions are bigger than words. So it will take Chris Bosh having a huge effort down the stretch of this season. He wasn't the guy sitting out a game with a stomach ache ether by the way that was the guy making 53 million dollars. If anyone has acted like Vince Carter it isn't Chris Bosh it is Hedo Turkoglu. Might just be time that he stepped up and showed why the hell we are paying him that big wad of cash. Andrea Bargnani did have a good bounce back the other night but he to must keep the ball rolling in the right direction.
Jay Triano's shuffling of the line-up for my money is an act of desperation. This love affair some folks have with Antoine Wright puzzles me. He has talked a good game but played very few. Thankfully at least in the short term Triano's decision has not seemed to impact on Demar DeRozan. DeRozan is part of the the team's future...Wright isn't. Sonny Weems getting a chance to start is nice Sonny has played his way up the Raptors food chain and passed a lot of folks along the way. He has earned everything he has got. He talks as well but more in terms of having fun and loving life. Not acting like a team leader that he isn't. As for Jay's first change to the line-up out of that same desperation. It would appear that Jose Calderon is still who we thought he was. Which is a terrible defender that despite is offensive skill can not be a starter in this league without making his team a mess on the defensive end. Jarrett Jack should still be the starter and if he had worked a bit harder on the defensive end of the floor he would be. If the Raptors fail to make the playoffs is it really not time to say this is on Jay. I mean his record as a head coach is not exactly glowing and this team's failure to defend is on him. Yes the players need to execute the system but he needs to be accountable if they don't.
Raptors have a lot more than a playoff spot to play for. There at least SHOULD be people's jobs and futures on the line here. Raptor fans have reached a level of frustration that personally I can not remember in 15 years of being a fan of this team. The mood is flat out ugly. It will ether get uglier or turn around real fast with wins over the Heat and Bobcats. But can the Raptors do it? They can if they play with the effort and fight they showed for most of the night vs Denver. Basically the room for error and second chances is done.
The Playoffs for the Toronto Raptors start today.