The Raptors begin a monster 7 game home stand tonight with just a 3-6 record at the ACC on the season. They are 8-18 overall as they get ready to host the Bucks,Celtics, Lakers, Knicks,Spurs, Bobcats and Pistons. When you look at it on paper the Raptors have 3 games that would appear to be loses with Celtics, Lakers and Spurs. Two games you would consider must wins vs Pistons and Bobcats. So in all likelihood this home stand will be determined by 2 games vs the Knicks and the game tonight vs the Bucks. Which also would be two teams if the Raptors were to every get serious about contending for a playoff spot this year would stand in their way. The Bucks are 10-14 and have to hear the footsteps of the Knicks just a half game behind at 10-15. Milwaukee despite being 5-5 and in their last 10 games they have struggled on the road just going 3-10 on the season so far.
The Raptors come in off a disappoint loss in Washington. Some will say it was disappointing that they could not come back and win in OT. Others will say it was disappointing they got behind 18 points to Wizards in the first place regardless. The loss in Washington is one of those losses that could linger with a team potentially. Tonight marks the two week point from another Raptor overtime game that had it's own impact with the loss of Andrea Bargnani. I mention that only because the last time Bargnani was out this is how long it took him to return. At the time he re-injured it he said it was worse. Indeed it seems so as there has been no news that Bargnani close to ready to return. If I were to guess I would say the Raptors may even hold him out till after the All-Star Break. But as I said that is just a guess.
Bucks know all about injuries as Andrew Bogut has been out since January 25th and has appeared in only half of the Bucks games this season. The latest issue is with his ankle and he could be out for 8-12 weeks. That is a big loss in a season like this. So that leaves the Bucks to look for even more from Brandon Jennings. It has been a nice season for Jennings so far with 19.2 points per game, 5.3 assists and shooting a good % for him at 43.1%. The Bucks seemed to go wrong a couple years back when they had made it to the playoffs and then made a number of moves that off-season that seem to have sent them in wrong direction. Tonight marks the first of 3 meetings between the two clubs on the season.
Identify Shooters : We are not talking shots in a bar but shooters on the floor. Bucks do have a number of them that are capable of getting hot. Being aware of that will be vital. How the Bucks ultimately shoot the 3 ball and how the Raptors defend it could be a huge factor.
Pride In The Paint: The whole aspect of pride for defending and protecting the paint seemed to go missing in first half in Washington. Raptors need a full 48 minutes where they defend their paint vigorously.Lapses like in Washington will almost seal their fate.
Good Start At Home: Raptors need to get this first quarter and first game at home off on the right foot. This home stand is not a walk in the park in terms of opposition as we mentioned. So the Raptors need to get the people behind them early and feed off that late. It is vital the Raptor start showing some pride in defending their home floor.
That just about does it for this preview. Tonight you can catch me on radio in Montreal so the re-cap of this one will likely appear in the blog tomorrow.