"Behind Enemy Lines"

13. It is hailed as the unluckiest of unlucky numbers and the Raptors now have it. Thirteen straight losses hurts no matter how you slice it but if we are trying to see the forest through the trees, the Raptors have to start winning sometime and why not this week against Minnesota, Milwaukee or San Antonio. I know this line of thinking hasn't been working for the Cavs who now sit at the bottom of the East with 22 straight losses, but realistically, we have to start somewhere. I have heard every joke under sun about the Raptors and it's viability as the only Canadian NBA franchise and their current losing streak. But just like that other professional sports franchise in Toronto, as long as the team makes money, the team will go nowhere - some say figuratively and literally. If the product is not producing, it will cease to increase in value and profits will take a nose dive just like their record. At the end of the day, the Raptors need to turn this ship around and just like I have said for the past 13 games, it is entirely possible for this to be their week.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Toronto Raptors, Friday, February 4th:
  • The Timberwolves and Raptors have played once already this season. Last Saturday, Januray 29th -Minnesota took the contest 103-87.
  • Minnesota lead the scoring for the first three quarters of this game.
  • The depth of Minnesota's bench was the key. The top three off the Timberwolves' bench combined for 39 points (Wesley Johnson-14, Jonny Flynn-10, Martell Webster-15). The top three off the bench for Toronto combined for 30 points (Ed Davis-15, Jerryd Bayless-10, Julian Wright-5).
  • Timberwolves Inactive List: Lazar Hayward, Luke Ridnour.
  • Raptors need to watch: Kevin Love. He posted 21 points in 24 minutes for Minnesota during their last meeting.
  • Key for Raptors: The Raptors' starters played more minutes but produced less than Minnesota's starters. With Barbosa, Evans and Kleiza on the Raptor's Inactive list, it will be hard not to transfer the bulk of the work and minutes to the current starting line-up. They need to relieve the pressure by scaling back minutes slightly and keep everyone fresh to play. (Easier said than done, I know).

Toronto Raptors @ Milwaukee Bucks - Tuesday, February 8th:

  • The Raptors and Bucks have played once this season. It was last week on Friday, January 28th: a 116-110 loss for the Raptors and still fresh in their minds.
  • The lead flip-flopped over 4 quarters in this game with the eventual tie in regulation forcing it into overtime. OT saw Milwaukee with 12, Toronto with 6.
  • A plus for the Raptors? Their bench was stronger than the Bucks' during their last meeting. However, the Bucks' produced more for minutes played per player than the Raptors - a reoccurring theme for Toronto.
  • As of Thursday, the Bucks sit 4 spots above the Raptors at 10th in the East with 19-28.
  • Bucks' Inactive List: Drew Gooden (out 4-6 weeks, treatment for plantar fascitis, left foot), Andrew Bogut, Michael Redd.
  • Key for the Raptors: Play solid on both sides of the bench and not relying on a few guys to do all the work. This game will be played after a few days off so the rest may help.

San Antonio Spurs @ Toronto Raptors - Wednesday, February 9th:

  • Spurs and Raptors met once this season, a few weeks ago on January 19th. Spurs took it 104-95.
  • The Raptors were leading in the first half but as always, the Spurs regroup and dominate the second half.
  • A plus for the Raptors? DeMar DeRozan had 28 points on the night.
  • In their last game versus Portland, the Spurs lost by 13 points - significant since they have the best record in the league right now (40-8) against Portland's 26-23 (8th in the West).
  • Spurs' Inactive List: Matt Bonner.
  • Key for Raptors: San Antonio is strongest in the second half. Reverse the 'jedi mind trick' on them and do your best work in the third and fourth quarters. (Assuming the Raptors best next Wednesday is enough to take the Spurs).

Thanks for joining me this week. As always, keep your comments and questions coming on Twitter (@ddegraauw) and Facebook (Danielle de Graauw, purple jacket/red microphone). If you have a chance this weekend, visit the Bucks' home page. Their official website is hilarious how they try to entice the Canadian audience by making references to Canadian artists Sarah McLachlan and Men Without Hats. Their best tidbit? Celebrating #99 and "Brantford's Wayne Gretzky's 50th by holding their 9th consecutive opponent to 99 points or less". Nice to know Brantford was mentioned, though I would be more impressed if they could find it on a map.

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