Chris Bosh turned 26 yesterday. The Utah Jazz crashed his party at the ACC and they trashed the place. In doing this I always try to be optimistic heading into any game the Raptors play. However at the same time I always have a realistic idea of what I expect. Heading into last night's game I expected the Jazz would win. The simple reason that the Jazz execute what they do on offense so well. A good defensive team is challenged to stop the Jazz. A bad defensive team can be taken apart. The Raptors clearly are that team and the Jazz went to work on them. Williams took a part Jose Calderon and proved once again why Jose Calderon is just one of the worse defenders starting at his position in the league. Deron Williams line was a thing of beauty with 18 points, 16 assists, 8 rebounds and 4 steals. He was just one of 7 Jazz players that got to double figures in terms of points.
Chris Bosh was left after this one begging for some help as he had 20 points and just 5 boards and did cut down on his turnovers with just 2. Hedo Turkoglu was not much help he only made an appearance in first half and left with a upset stomach. He had just 4 points prior to leaving. Bargnani did play the whole way but only had 12 points and 4 rebounds with a couple of blocks. Raptors with Bosh included in this got killed on the glass. it was 38-28 on the glass in favour of the Jazz including 14 on the offensive boards for Utah.
The Jazz got so many open looks it was embarrassing. The playoffs are about defense, rebounding and valuing every possession. The Raptors are doing none of that and are in serious jeopardy of not even making the playoffs. The Raptors are having to hope for help from others to handle their business. The Heat, who now sit a game and a half in front of the Raptors, tied with Bobcats for 6th take on the Bulls who are now just 2 games back of the Raps for the final playoff spot. Given the way things are going for the Raptors you have to hope the Heat get the win.
The Raptors play the Nuggets next and given this performance vs the Jazz, which ended in a 113-87 loss if you could not bear to watch the whole thing. Anyway it seems highly unlike to expect the Raptors some how pull it together enough to beat the Nuggets who are battling for 2nd in West with Mavs. This Raptors season will be defined by games Sunday and Monday on the road vs the Heat and Bobcats. If the Raptors walk away from those 2 road games without a win they can pretty much forget about 6th or 7th and will be hard pressed to hang on to 8th.
Regardless of how the regular season plays out the Raptors for yet another season, have fallen short of the expectations that people had for this team. There is lots of blame to go around for that but the ultimate price the Raptors could pay is losing Chris Bosh. If you listen to his comments of late he sounds like a guy that is just begging for someone to give him some reason to believe in this team. Bosh's personal performance has gone down but the play around him has dropped even further. In 7 years in Toronto the one thing that has remained constant in what Chris Bosh has said is that he wants to win. Looking around at the cast around him it is hard to point to anything that helps him do that going forward.
While this season on it's own is important the future of Chris Bosh is more important in the long run. If Chris Bosh joins that list that includes Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and others that have left town it will be a crushing blow to this fan base. Sports is not as complex a business as it sometimes gets made out to be. It really comes down to this, if you can give fans a reason to have hope you generally will be successful as a franchise. There are exceptions to that rule in teams like the Leafs in NHL, Cubs in baseball that have fan bases that continue to support those teams despite very little signs of hope in their histories. But the Raptors with just a 15 year history do not have that kind of support behind them. Raptors fans have been incredibly loyal but Bosh should he leave would be a devastating blow to that fan base and to that hope. It sounds like a broken record at this point, but if the Raptors do not wake up and do it quickly, they are in danger of losing more than just another season of failing to meet expectations. They could lose much more.