Raptors Doing What Raptors Do Against Miami

It is a script that the Raptors have made an all too familiar story that played out again last night against Miami.  Since the big three have come to Miami the Raptors have never beat them. That was not going to change on this night and it looked like with a resounding explanation mark.  True to being the Raptors though they would get down by 20 and go on a furious run to end the third and the effort would continue into the fourth. Toronto would get as close as two points down to the defending champs before they shut the door.

How many times can we praise this plucky “never say die attitude” of the Raptors before we realize it only matters if they win. The Raptors dig a hole and that is how they lose the game. They did the same against a Brooklyn team that is struggling to find wins. It shouldn’t take the Raptors getting embarrassed to get an effort out of them.

DeMar DeRozan seems to be the catalyst of many of these comebacks as you can see his clear frustration with his team being on the losing end. The problem is at many times especially last night he seemed like an army of one. He eventual got some help as the Raptors tried to fight back in this one.

Perhaps the craziest thing of all is the Raptors still find themselves leading the Atlantic with a 6-9 record after this one. The Division and the overall Eastern Conference has become a laughing stock of the early NBA Season. We should just forego the Eastern Playoffs and have the Heat and Pacers play an epic best of 21 series or something.

Want two stats that defined this game that made it unlikely the Raptors would beat anyone on this night let alone the Heat? Let’s start with 8-30 from three point range which is not winning you anything. Why this team is so hard headed in their belief they can make threes is beyond me. Lowry was the best of the miserable bunch going 3-8 from the three. The worst was Terrence Ross who shot all 5 of his attempts from three point range and made none of them.

Second you had the free throw line where the Raptors were 19-32 from the line. DeRozan was 3-7 and Rudy Gay 2-7 from your top two scorers on most nights that is unacceptable. The rest of the team was 14-18 which is much more acceptable. But do not fret; the Raptors will not be aware of this because Rudy Gay banned stat sheets from the locker room.

This team is very frustrating to watch if you care about the ultimate results. If you just like entertaining basketball they provide that most nights. Last time I checked the NBA was not the Sports Entertainment business that is still Vince McMahon’s thing. Maybe we should take this Rudy Gay idea to the next level and just stop keeping score altogether. It would save us all a lot of frustration. 

But if you are still caught up in this silly keeping score stuff the Raptors lost 90-83. Don't tell Rudy Gay but that link will take you to stats from this game.


Will Raptors Learn From The Lessons Of Losing Bosh?

So the Miami Heat make there second and last visit to Toronto of the season. This time Chris Bosh is along for the ride as he missed the first meeting as he was becoming a daddy once again. No doubt he will be welcomed back to Toronto with boos as per usual but they always seem to be half hearted boos at best.

Part of that is Chris Bosh just seems to not have the lasting hatred that a Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady had. It also might speak to the fact that it is really hard to disagree with what Bosh ultimately decided. The way he handled it was another thing and that is where any hate for Bosh comes from.

It is hard to impossible to suggest that Bosh made the wrong decision appearing in three Finals and winning two NBA Championships as part of the Big 3 with James and Wade. The one thing Bosh stated that was correct is it takes being willing to spend money beyond the Tax Threshold to winning an NBA Championship or contend for one. That is something the Raptors have still not done since his departure and you question if they ever will.

The fact they traded for a big contract like that of Rudy Gay is one thing but it still didn’t make the Raptors a tax payer. You only need to look at their lack of a bench of any significance as proof of this.  This is a star driven league at the end of day and that costs money. Still you need to spend money wisely as well and add depth beyond the stars.

The Raptors have been in a tailspin ever since Bosh leaving and when you look at the current roster there is a lesson to be learned from Bosh’s leaving and the others before him. Even if the Raptors can somehow manage to be a playoff team this season is that only a short sited and achievement? Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay can both do the same thing as Bosh and many others have done after this season.

The tanking debate is one thing but that is secondary as to what could happen if the Raptors let talent like Lowry and Gay walk for nothing. The Raptors paid a heavy price to acquire both and to see them leave with nothing in return would be the worst case of all beyond any lottery results.

When you do factor in the potential number one pick of this draft Andrew Wiggins wants to play for the Raptors is another. It has always been my conclusion that the Raptors best path to success is to have some Canadian talent that is good enough to be considered top NBA talent to be part of the solution.

TSN losing Hockey for the next 12 years obviously makes basketball and the Raptors a big priority for Bell the parent company of TSN and part owners in MLSE.

The Raptors need to look at the big picture and not the short term if they ever hope to successful crawl out of the hole they have dug since Bosh turned his back on them. Colangelo gambled on Bosh and lost and the effects of that are still being felt to this day. If the Raptors were to make the same mistakes with Gay and Lowry it would be hard to feel much sympathy for them at all.


6 Years Of The DNB

Today marks 6 years of doing the Dino Nation Blog. It has been an interesting and great experience in my life. It has also been a period in which the Raptors have been hard to love and not really had any kind of real success. Last night was a night like many others over the last 6 years. The Raptors had an opportunity facing a team that was plagued with injuries and failed to take advantage. So many times the Raptors have disappointed over these 6 years it can make it hard to stay motivated to be completely honest. .

I wonder if I have become more jaded and less optimistic over the years. My goal from day one of this blog has been to present a realistic and honest assessment of the Raptors. I think by and large that is what I have done here. I also try to do it way that speaks to what fans are talking about and your concerns and address them. In my writing, interviews and in all that we do in the DNB. I am the first to admit my writing is done in a way that is more of a conversational way than your traditional writing. While I don’t think I will ever be considered the world’s greatest writer in any sense that is fine with me.

I am much more interested in creating audio and video content. That has been an on going struggle to make that happen. It became pretty clear a few years ago that for DNB to be what I ultimately wanted it be I needed to find some people to help with the writing end of things. When you look at other sites they have many contributors and I have attempted to find people to do that here. In large part that has not been the greatest of successes through no fault of the folks we have contributed.

It has been a lot of frustration in not just the way the team has performed but in being able to produce the best content for all of you. I really question how well that has been done in the last year or so. It has been a challenge trying to make this all work and try and generate some income from my work as well. I also have wanted to spend more time with my mother who is getting on in years and don’t want to miss out on moments with her.

I entered this season kind of feeling like that famous wrestling promo where Shawn Michaels tells the world he has lost his smile. I have been feeling that way to some degree at times this year. I for the first time considered the idea of what If I wasn’t doing this anymore. At the end of the day I would really have liked to build to something else by this point.

I entered this season just saying let’s see how things go for this year. That remains my feelings to get to the end of this season and see where everything is at. In some respects I feel like I have accomplished a lot and do not just want to give that up. But at the same time I am not sure I can continue to invest the amount of time I have and keep things going the way they have in the past.

Bottom line is that so many people over the years have reached out to be a told me how much they enjoy the work I am doing. It is what has likely kept this thing alive for as long as it has been. It has been heart warming to me that some people that have read this blog for years consider me a friend and I consider them a friend. I never starting doing this to build relationships but I have in fact done that. Being completely honest this blog is the longest relationship I have had in some ways.

I don’t have any idea for once of what the future holds. What I can say is that this blog has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life. It has made me find a whole bunch of people that share my passion for basketball and to a lesser extent the Raptors. I have had many experiences with broadcasters like Jack Armstrong and players like T.J Ford and others that I will cherish forever.

This all sounds like a good bye but it might not be. I rarely share my struggles or frustrations with my life and how things are going. You come here to hear about basketball not about my personal issues. Hopefully brighter days are ahead for me and for the Raptors. It has been a struggle for them as well.

In any case it has been a pleasure to serve you all with my thoughts, opinions and hard work for these 6 years. 


Forecast For Raptors Season Could Take A Turn Tonight.

DNB has been on a little mini-break as I got a year older and Ti-Cats being in Grey Cup. Prior to both of those events I was back at the ACC to watch the Raptors take on the Wizards. Much like a couple games prior the Raptors blew a lead but rallied to take home the win the game. Keeping them on top of the Atlantic Division and they still are entering tonight. A full game ahead of Philadelphia and three games in front of both the 3-10 Knicks and Nets tonight’s opponent.

That is the biggest thing that has thrown the Raptors outlook upside down. It’s based on the fact that both teams in New York who were suppose to be battling for division title.  The Knicks are banged up and injured with Chandler out and Felton too. The Nets have there key player in Deron Williams battling with a bad ankle. Garnett and Pierce who came over from the Celtics look suddenly much older in black and white after trading in the green and white.

The Raptors entered this season without a clear defined goal in terms of what they were looking to do. Philadelphia and Boston had clearly taken an approach to build through the draft and get as many lottery balls as possible. The Raptors now find themselves in a position that I would venture to say no one expected them to be.

If they were to even their record at 7-7 and beat the Nets it will make things interesting to say the least. The important date now becomes December 15th when trades can be made with all players under contract will be key. Where the Raptors stand at that point and how far New York and Brooklyn are behind them. It seems fairly clear the Nets and Knicks will look to try and turn their fate around. However both will have a tough time making deals to improve at this point.

The Raptors will embark on Western Conference trip that if they were successful would be a bit of a game changer. It makes you think the Raptors short term outlook could be better than expected but the long term outlook maybe taking a major hit.

The Raptors have no guarantees that Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay would be Raptors a year from now. They both contract wise will have the chance to be free agents this summer. The Raptors miss out on the lottery in the best draft in many years which could spell disaster for the long term future of the franchise.

Even if both re-sign how really good is this group at the end of the day. Are they any better than Raptor team that won a division title and lost in the first round to the Nets?

Masai Ujiri has himself in a situation similar to the one that Colangelo had that year. Colangelo was forced into sticking with Sam Mitchell and things never would be better than that season for the Raptors. Ujiri has Dwane Casey in a contract year and could see him take this team to the playoffs and perhaps a division title. None of these things seemed like possibilities entering the season.  Like the Raptors bully Kevin Garnett said to the world “Anything is Possible.”

It makes for a lot of tough choices as the season rolls along. The decisions get much easier if the Raptors were to fall from their lofty and unexpected perch a top the division. A win against the Nets will make a lot of this talk become justified as the Raptors would along with being in first have a perfect 3-0 record in the division. 


This Week In Raptorland: That's So Raptors Edition

We missed last week but we are back at it with podcast. John Chick is back to join me to talk about the Atlantic Division leading Toronto Raptors. We talk about the issues facing the various parts of this organization going forward making the decisions for the future of the franchise.

Here is the boxscore from last night's win in Philly:

Raptors 108 Sixers 98

I will be heading down to the ACC on Friday to cover the Raptors next contest against the Wizards. Should be interesting to see how the team is feeling about things right now. Not exactly playing great basketball overall but winning their division. 


Raptors Face A Crossroads Moment In Philadelphia

If you had said the Toronto Raptors would play Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Atlantic Division on November 20th you would have been laughed at. The Sixers who were pegged as an early favourite to win the Wiggins lottery ball race. The Sixers 3-0 start was the most shocking story of the NBA season this year.

Michael Carter-Williams the Sixers rookie taking the place of Jrue Holiday who was traded to New Orleans in the off-season was the star of this unexpected start. He averaged 20.6 points, 9 assists and shooting 46.8% (22-47) in the first 3 games. Carter-Williams scored double digit points in his first seven games as a pro.

Since the hot 3-0 start the Sixers are 2-7 and fallen back to their expected reality. The fact they still lead the Atlantic Division speaks to how horrible the division as a whole has been.

The other Philadelphia player that has risen to take advantage of the Sixers depleted talent pool has been Evan Turner. Turner is averaging over 20 points a game and his stats have improved across the board. He gives credit to former Sixers’ coach Doug Collins for his improvement in an article on Philly.com.

As inconsistent and terrible as the Raptors have been it seems almost crazy to think after tonight they could lead the Atlantic Division. It really puts the Raptors in a strange position in what they should do with this season moving forward. On the other end of the spectrum the Raptors are just one game out of last place in the Eastern Conference.

Perhaps a good result from this game tonight will be at least a starting point to the Raptors establishing some kind of direction for this season in a positive way. In the next few games the Raptors will challenge teams that are in similar situations as they find themselves with games against Washington and Brooklyn coming up. If the Raptors can sweep all three of these games it could hold off the talk of tanking and deconstructing this roster for at least the short term.

In terms of tonight’s game Thaddeus Young has had a solid history against the Raptors. He has only averaged 14.3 points so far this season. Heading into the year some might have expected Young to be the guy to step up to the plate and lead this team in scoring. He has 29 point performances against lesser teams like the Wizards and Cavaliers.

At the end of it all this will be measuring stick game for the Raptors in some ways for the Raptors. The Raptors schedule becomes very difficult after this stretch of three winnable games. If they fail to win at least 2 of the next 3 games the Raptors will really have no legit reason to play for this season any longer from management's perspective.


Another Predicatable And Frustratiing Season For The Raptors.

I feel like I have seen every bad movie the Raptors have produced a thousand times at this point. In the past I would have deeply regretted and likely never missed a Raptor game for almost anything. When I started doing this over five years ago watching games never felt like work or I was missing out on something I would rather be doing. These days I don’t feel all that emotionally invested in games anymore.

Yesterday I would peek in on the Raptors from time to time. It seemed like one of those typical Raptor games where they would dig into a huge hole, climb out of it and get thrown back in it as soon as they got out. What I was watching instead of the Raptors worked out much better in the end with Hamilton Tiger Cats winning an exciting CFL playoff game. Hamilton has not been to a CFL Grey Cup in 14 years so it was pretty exciting to see them make it.

Which is getting back to the Raptors makes me wonder what is that exciting moment for this team that makes it all worth it in the end? I just can’t be excited about this group or its future to any degree. I think the way they are going about playing basketball is flawed on more nights than it isn’t. They are 4-7 to start the season and it should surprise no one based on how they have played with such little consistency from moment to moment forget about game to game.

The lack of ball movement and team play is noticeable almost every night they hit the floor. Just 17 assists yesterday in a game that went past regulation. While Rudy Gay does have an ability to make that big shot to tie or win a game realistically his play for the other 47 minutes of a game makes those opportunities not all that frequent. Gay and DeRozan combined for 59 points yesterday but took 54 shots to achieve that total making only 23 which work out to a percentage of 42.5. This by their standards is actually not bad.

I read Phil Jackson’s book over the summer “Eleven Rings” which in it he talks about team building. The Raptors are a bunch of individuals hoping to winning and trying to do it as individuals. Jackson in his book talks about the idea of getting a team to understand that it is about the sum of the parts that makes a team great. Now Jackson had some of the best individual pieces you could hope to have. Still even with less level talent the principals in his book still apply.

It is about making the right play and having faith in someone else to do the same. The Raptors clearly lack this and it becomes evident when you see DeRozan trying to will a team that was lifeless against Chicago. Same as when you see Gay forcing up a shot rather than making a pass out of a tough situation.

The Raptors are like that stubborn kid that wants to do things his own way because clearly he knows what is best.  What some older person says just doesn’t apply to them. One day that kid will wake up and say why didn’t he listen to that advice. In the case of the Raptors that realization will likely come far too late for this group to remain together going forward.

I am tired of expecting the worst and seldom being disappointed. Some would say well your jaded and negative but in reality I am just realistic about the history I have seen. I often find that I always look at the bigger picture rather than the individual event. While the Raptors often make the individual event interesting and exciting in the larger scheme of things they are not getting it done. A lot of teams would never have got that game to overtime yesterday but in the bigger picture it still winds up a loss for them at the end of the day.

We all finally have some time to take a breath with the Raptors off until Wednesday. I think after this start to the season we all could use it. This is not to say I am personally surprised by this start at all. I have expected it from pretty much the time the schedule was made public. It is more about the way the Raptors have been playing that has been frustrating to me than the actual win-loss record.


Raptors with Several Familiar Cliches In A Loss To The Bulls

So many things that have become almost clichés to describing the Raptors lack of success over the years in this one. It starts with the news that Derrick Rose would not play in this one. This gives the Raptors in theory a better opportunity at winning. This is responded too with a flat and awful start from the team. The Raptors could not buy a basket in the first half of this game for the most part.

Down 45-31 at the half to one of the best defensive squads in the league is pretty much like being down 28 to someone else. As the Raptors hit rock bottom in this game DeMar DeRozan seemed to rise up and tried to refuse to allow this team to lose.

In a sense that is part of the problem with this team in a way. DeRozan was fantastic in his effort, tying his career high with 37 at the end of it all. It is people trying to do things as individuals and not as a group that is the major problem with this team. That may be a simple answer but a correct one and it applies to both sides of the ball. Rudy Gay was decent in a “Robin Role” to DeRozan’s “Batman” effort.

The frustration with this team was evident both on social media and in the building last night at the ACC. It was referenced by those in attendance the Raptors were booed coming off the floor on man occasions last night. Those same boos turned to cheers with DeRozan’s effort in the fourth. Even when it is logically impossible to comeback fans will rally behind effort.

I find myself watching this team make the same silly mistakes I have seen past versions of the Raptors make. I have grown very tired of these clichéd and predictable performances.

The Raptors are who I thought they were and even though a season of dismantling and waiting for the NBA Lottery is not fun it makes the most sense. This team is not even close to good enough to be and more importantly grow into a contender. The collection is a group that lacks the team skills it takes to be successful. Liking each other and getting along is one thing but playing like a team on the floor is another.

Bulls won this one 96-80 as they had it on cruise control from most of the fourth quarter. Up next is Portland on Sunday. I might miss this one with Ti-Cats playing at the same time. I really want to spend time with my mother and share that experience with her. Will I miss much with the Raptors against the Blazers? I would guess probably not if they perform anything close to how they did on this night.

Here is what DeRozan and Casey had to say after a very poor effort for the Raptors:

DeMar DeRozan:

Dwane Casey:

The Raptors 4-6 record is a lot better than 4-19 but this team is still significantly flawed and not heading in the right direction. Casey said that game "Wasn't us" well I respectfully disagree that is exactly what the Raptors are and have been.


Raptors Look To Build On Win Memphis

The Raptors return home after their most impressive win and performance of the season in Memphis. Now they face the returning Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls at the ACC tonight. Rose is still very much working off the rust from a year plus away from the game with an injury. He is averaging 14.7 points, 4.5 assists and has a field goal percentage of just 33.3%.

The Bulls as a team are 3-3 but have yet to win a game on the road as they are 0-3 entering the ACC as the Raptors look to even their record and become .500 on the season. If the Raptors want to start to be taken seriously a win over the Bulls would be a place to start.

Rudy Gay comes in off the heels of his successful return to Memphis. Where he was by his standards as good as it gets, going 8-18 and 4-6 from 3 point range to lead the Raptors with 5 steals and 23 points on the night.  Raptors as a group had perhaps their best shooting night of the season going 46.3 % from the field and 8-15(53.3%) from behind the 3 point line.

The Bulls are considered one of the better defensive team’s in the league so it will be interesting to see if the Raptors can produce these kind of numbers tonight. The Raptors on their side of things played perhaps the best defensive quarter the have produced this season allowing the Grizzlies just 16 points in the final quarter in Memphis.

Been a tad bit disorganized this week so didn’t get a chance to record a This Week in Raptorland. We will get it back on track next week.


Grizzlies Get To Welcome Back Rudy Tonight In Memphis.

Guess what we are not the only ones that talk about if a guy will get booed or cheered when he comes back. Grizzlies fans are getting ready to welcome back Rudy Gay for the first time after the big trade last year. Gay has been just terrible for the Raptors so far this season when you look beyond his scoring totals.

Gay is shooting 57-160 (35.6%) and just 10-30 (33.3%) from three point line this season. He has just 13 assists in 8 games so far for the Raptors this season. He just really is not performing like the top level star that his contract suggests he should be.

The Grizzlies have really not missed him at all to any degree. They had their best ever playoff run without him in the line-up and that made the idea of trading him a realistic option for them. Much like the Raptors getting rid of Andrea Bargnani it was addition by subtraction for the Grizzlies in getting rid of Gay.

Facts are Gay is coming off his worst season in many categories last season for field goal percentage to points scored aside from his rookie season. Things don’t seem to be trending in any kind of a positive direction for Gay. This makes his future really uncertain with a player option at the end of the year. Gay still has a solid reputation around the league but seems to be starting to be exposed for his short comings as a player. But there will be teams with money that may be willing to pay him close to top dollar as a free agent.

In the end the Raptors have both him and Lowry with no contract that they control beyond this season. Which makes the Raptors planning a future with this group seem risky even if they were performing well this season. However at 3-5 with a good chance of losing their next 3 games could be 3-8 by the end of the week. It makes the idea of changing direction to getting in the lottery mix seem the right way to go.

The Grizzlies were the only team that beat the Raptors in the pre-season when people were a lot more optimistic about this team. Kyle Lowry at least looked healthy in the game against the Rockets despite the fact he could not make shots like everyone else in the starting line-up.

Terrence Ross was the one guy that came out of the Houston game looking good. He played some solid defense at times and was the only Raptor to shot above 50% on the game.

As for tonight you have both Lowry and Gay played for Memphis and will be looking to impress. This could mean a lot of hero type ball being played by the Raptors.  Hard to have more than what we saw against Houston with only 10 assists in a game that went 58 minutes which is close to 5 quarters of basketball. At the end of the day you want to know why the Raptors are struggling it comes down to two things. Ball movement on offense has been absolutely terrible this season.  The second is terrible defense in which the Raptors did finally show some promise to close out the game against the Rockets. Still I hold out little hope for the Raptors improving to be a good enough team to play consistent enough on both ends to win on most nights against teams that are of the same level or better than them.


Raptors Had An Effort Without Execution In Houston.

Last night the Raptors game against the Rockets was going to script until about the 8 minutes in fourth with Raptors down 14.The Raptors made a push and actually got this game to overtime. The Raptors in general had a lousy night shooting but were able to make some shots when it mattered. The effort of the Raptors was great in this game.

To use a mixed martial arts analogy the Raptors were always fighting from the bottom. This would continue into the overtimes as the Raptors kept trying to scramble and steal a win. Rudy Gay was a big reason why the Raptors were able to hang around with clutch plays late. Scoring 29 points is great but when you have 37 shots to get that amount of points that is where it becomes a problem. But if not Gay taking the shots who was going to last night? The only Raptors' player that shot over 50% last night was Terrence Ross. The Starters shot a combined 31- 97(31.9%)  DeRozan was in the same boat with 22 points on 25 shots in 52 minutes and 53 seconds of action.

What was even worse with 10 extra minutes the Raptors had a total 10 assists. When you look at the stats of this game it makes almost no sense the Raptors could take this game as far as they did. They also faced losing players to fouls as this game dragged on. First Jonas was gone before this game ever got to overtime. Lowry, Gay and Ross would all get 6 fouls as the double overtime battle rolled along.

In the end the Raptors did do a decent job on D when it mattered to keep them in this game. Lin and Harden still were able to put up numbers and Howard did his thing on the glass and boards. When things come down to it Houston was the better team and cream finally came to the surface. Rockets took this one in double overtime 110-104.


Raptors Will Have A Hard Time Matching Up With Rockets

The Houston Rockets took the pick from the Kyle Lowry trade and made that part of the James Harden trade last season. This off-season they land Dwight Howard and suddenly have one of the better one-two punches in the NBA. They also spent a ton of money on Jeremy Lin. Rockets have been a tad inconsistent to start the season at just 4-3.

The Raptors had their rare Saturday night home game against the Jazz which turned into a blow-out fairly quickly to move to 3-4.This starts a tough week for the Raptors with games at the Grizzlies before returning home on the weekend to play the Bulls and Trailblazers.

James Harden did play with a bruised left foot on Saturday and according to Jonathan Feigen in Ultimate Rockets did not look at 100 percent. Chandler Parsons also missed part of practice on Sunday. In this scouting report on the Raptors from the Rockets point of view it is mentioned the Raptors lead the league in offensive rebounds. This is great but two things about that I would mention about this fact. One if you are leading the league in offensive rebounds you must be missing a lot of shots. Which the Raptors have been so far this season Second and more importantly for tonight Dwight Howard who is always among the NBA’s best at rebounding will be on the floor.

The Raptors really will be hard pressed to deal with Dwight Howard in this one who has a solid history of giving the Raptors fits by playing out of his mind. You would suspect this will be an Aaron Gray night as he will be dressed and likely logging minutes to give Jonas some breaks from having to deal with larger Howard.

Obviously keeping Jonas out of foul trouble will be a key for the Raptors. Another key will be DeRozan or Gay trying to match-up with Harden and in general guarding the three point line will be a key in this one.

I don’t like the Raptors chances in this one. Will have to see how it plays out tonight in Houston.


Raptors Give The Jazz More Blues

The Raptors started last night on 10-2 run and let things slip allowing the Jazz to close to 14-12 which prompted a time out. After that point this game was a one sided smack down  in favour of the Raptors. But the end of that first quarter the Raptors led 30-16 and never looked back from there.

It wouldn’t be the Raptors with just all sunshine and rainbows though as Kyle Lowry turned his right ankle and did not play in the second half. Casey ran with Dwight Buycks for the majority of minutes with Lowry out of the fold in the second half.

Tyler Hansbrough led the scoring list with 23 points for the Raptors in this one. Despite the blowout 115-91 win the Raptors really never had any monster lines to help your fantasy squad. After the loss of Lowry if you had any hope of seeing a starter in the fourth quarter of this game it went away.

This was a win that you can almost credit back to loss against the Bobcats on Wednesday. It seemed pretty clear the Raptors learned something from that game with how they started this game and responded when the Jazz  tried to make it competitive.

Raptors shot 48.8% from the field and had everyone adding to the three point total going 10-25 for 40% from long range. Raptors when they were still playing the best player they had to offer was very good holding the Jazz to just 36 points in the first half and shooting just over 41%.

The biggest thing coming out of the game is the health of Lowry and if he will be able to go playing against his two former teams in the Rockets and Grizzlies. If he is out an already tough night for the Raptors becomes a pretty much next to impossible task.

But according to Dwane Casey had Lowry had to play he could have which is a positive sign for the Raptors. Even if that is the case a banged up Lowry with something to prove might be cause for concern in hurting himself further.


Raptors Return Home In Desperate Need Of A Win

The Raptors lost to the Pacers last night who moved to 6-0 on the season remaining the NBA’s only unbeaten team. The Raptors return home for a rare Saturday home date with the only team that remains winless in the NBA in the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz lost to the Bulls last night and are the front runners to draft Andrew Wiggins number one as he debuted last night for Jayhawks with 16 points and win.  The Jazz are a mix of young unproven players and older vets trying to hang on for a couple more seasons. In other words the perfect roster to make a run at the number on pick in the draft. John Lucas III who was with the Raptors last season as the third point guard challenges to start at that position on the Jazz illustrates where the Jazz stand in some respects.

The Raptors have lost 3 in a row entering this one and already saw what happens when you over look someone earlier in the week losing to Bobcats on Wednesday. If that is not motivation enough to get a victory in this one they only need to look to their upcoming schedule. Check out the Raptors next 4 games next week:

Monday: At Houston
Wednesday: At Memphis
Friday: vs. Chicago
Sunday: vs. Portland

It seems tough to see a win for the Raptors in any of those especially the first three games against playoff teams from last season. The simple fact is though that the Raptors have not been able to play a complete game this season. Each loss the Raptors pick-up makes the chances this team will remain looking to play for this season a less likely scenario.

In any case a loss to the Jazz is almost a certainty of an extended losing streak and comparisons to their less than spectacular 4-19 start last season. It also ramps up the pressure on Dwane Casey who is coaching to try and keep his job this season in the last year of his contract. The problem might be getting a team with players in the same position like Kyle Lowry, Rudy Gay and a few others looking for contracts to play together as a team on both ends of the floor.

If he can’t those players to do that Casey could be out and those players could be on the move along with others. Masai Ujiri has a long term deal and the firm control of all basketball decisions for this franchise.

In any case the heat is already on the Raptors to get a win at just 2-4 on the season. It has not been the start the Raptors were hoping for after getting out of the gate 2-1. The main problem is not too many chances like this game against the Jazz exist on their schedule.


Pacers Cruise By Raptors to Remain Unbeaten

See Miami post game from Tuesday night... But really, this game essentially followed the same script. The Toronto Raptors raced to an early lead - as many as 12 in the 2nd quarter - only to squander it when their opponent dialed up the defensive intensity. This time it was the Indiana Pacers, the league's sole remaining unbeaten, and concurrently, its top defensive unit.

That top ranked defense looked pedestrian early on. Led by Rudy Gay, who, finally found his shooting touch early on, the Raptors converted at a 56% clip for 32 points in the first quarter. Did they discover a weakness in the Pacers juggernaut defense? Or were they merely the beneficiary of a lethargic first quarter by the Pacers? The rest of the game suggests the latter. And how!

After trailing by two at the half, Indiana held Toronto to 34% shooting from the field for the entire second half.

Coming into Friday night's affair, Pacers man in the middle Roy Hibbert was averaging 5.2 blocks per game. The Raptors were well cognizant of Hibbert's shot swatting prowess, rarely challenging him the paint. Demar Derozan was perhaps the most obvious casualty of the Hibbert effect, shooting just 2-15 on primarily jump shots. Hibbert recorded 20 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 0 fouls. Paul George led the way with 23 points, 8 rebound and 6 assists. But perhaps George's biggest contribution was on the defensive end, where he locked down a red hot Rudy Gay. After starting 9-13, Gay floundered down the stretch, shooting just 3-13. So did the Raptors as whole, falling 91-84 to the now 6-0 Pacers.

Gay finished with 30 points, while Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson were the only other Raptors to finish in double figures with 12 apiece.

Tomorrow night the Raptors will look to end their 3 game slide at home against a Utah Jazz team searching for its first win of the season.



Raptors Face NBA's Last Unbeaten Squad Tonight

The Raptors after a humbling loss to the Bobcats now face the lone remaining undefeated team in the NBA in the Indiana Pacers. This seems like bad news for the Raptors despite having some success on the road last year in Indiana. It begins with figuring out how to deal with Roy Hibbert on both ends of the floor. After a slow start to last year Hibbert is back to his usual form basketball wise for the Pacers.  If you figure that out if you couldn’t guard Gerald Henderson on the Bobcats have fun trying to deal with Paul George.

Getting back to Roy Hibbert unlike the Raptors he is talking D on Tiwtter and bringing that effort with him to the floor. Also a note for all you cyber bullies and trolls don’t go looking to mess with @Hoya2aPacer because he will fire back. All of this got some attention in the Indy Star where Hibbert proclaimed himself in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.

Pacers are coming off an impressive 17 point win over the Bulls and sit as the NBA’s only undefeated team as mentioned at a perfect 5-0. The Raptors in their first 5 games have given no reason for us to think the Pacers will not be 6-0 after tonight.

Raptors after this game will fly home to face the Jazz with a rare Saturday night tilt at the ACC. Will Fifer will have the re-cap of this one tonight with Pacers and Raptors.


TWIR Episode 4: Bobcats Crisis Edition

The Raptors continue the tradition that is losing to Charlotte Bobcats and sit 2-3 on the season. I am tried to fend off a sore throat but while I still have a voice was able to get in this episode of the program. Filling in for John Chick as my co-host is Stephen Brotherson from the Pro B-Ball Report.

Thanks to Stephen for filling in and doing a great job. The Raptors take on the Pacers who are off to a great start to their season on Friday. It is already looking like another long season ahead for the Raptors. Time will tell but good or bad TWIR will march on.


A Very Familiar Experience For The Raptors In Charlotte.

Raptors for whatever reason struggle with the Charlotte Bobcats. They have not won in Charlotte since 2010. I am not exactly sure what the reason for the Raptors struggle with this team that for 9 years and been an NBA bottom feeder for most of their existence. 

The Raptors would do little to think a change in their luck would happen as the Bobcats looked better than the Miami Heat the night before. The Raptors defensively were taking a cat nap to start this game. Bobcats were shooting a scorching 8-10 to start the game as the Raptors struggled at just 4-12 in the early going. Gerald Henderson was lighting it up at the hands of DeMar DeRozan as he was 5-7 in the first 7 minutes of this one. It would only get worse as the quarter dragged on the Raptors were getting completely torched. In the end Cats shot 75% for the quarter and had a 32-18 lead. Just completely unacceptable and awful are the only ways to describe this first quarter.

Raptors would get their heads out of their butts in the second but not really improving things if that makes any sense. They would get rolling on offense which allowed them to tie the game at 51 late in the quarter on back to back DeRozan threes. It almost makes up for DeRozan’s brutal D of the first quarter but not really. The Raptors were not exactly doing things that you could see lasting in the long run.  The Bobcats went away from things that were working for them more than the Raptors D was playing significantly better. Whatever the case maybe the Raptors found themselves tied at the half at 53 which coming into this game would be labelled a disappointment still. 

Raptors were playing like individuals in trying to will themselves in front. To start the third that worked for awhile but a 5 point lead quickly became a Bobcats 6 point lead thanks to an 11-0 run with some fantastic ball movement by the Cats. Bobcats built the lead back to 73-66 and were looking good again. Rudy Gay would air-ball a three point attempt to end the third that summed up my thoughts on this game and his play in it. Cats took a 76-70 lead to the fourth.

Amir Johnson continues his bid to make the NBA three point shoot out as he drains a wide open three to get the Raptors back to within two. Sure that is nice and all but more a statement of how the Raptors were getting very few easy looks in this game. In the end the Bobcats would get things back under control and not allow the Raptors to sniff a lead at least at that point of the night. Raptors would again creep close to 4 points down in the final 3 minutes. Raptors would have a chance to tie but Rudy Gay got tied up as he tried to force it up in the lane leading to a jump ball. Raptors had another chance to tie it up and DeRozan was blocked in the lane. It was just one of those nights for the Raptors. Raptors would not get a third chance as Bobcats would hang on to beat their favorite team in the NBA the Toronto Raptors 92-90.

Looking at the schedule ahead things could get very bad very fast for the Raptors. If that happens expect the watch to begin for the Raptors to hit the self-destruction button on this season. In order to earn a lottery ticket and a shot at a saviour for a franchise that is in bad need of one.

Raptors Try To Avoid Their Less Than Stellar History In Charlotte

On paper the Raptors starting five is far superior to the Charlotte Bobcats. It has been the case in many years in the past as well. Since Charlotte returned to the NBA they have been a thorn in the Raptors side. The Raptors have a losing record playing in Charlotte going 7-9 against a team that has been terrible over the years.

The Bobcats are coming in off big win in New York knocking off the Knicks with a big performance from Kemba Walker. He finished the night with 25 points 6 assists and 5 rebounds in the 102-97 victory. Walker was banged up in the game as he was in a collision and banged up his shoulder. He had X-Rays but they were negative and he returned to the game. It will be something to look out for tonight if Walker is feeling the effects of that a day later.

While the Cats were upsetting the Knicks the Raptors were trying for their own upset over the Heat. While the Raptors gave a game effort through the first three quarters of the game eventually the cream would rise to the top. It seemed like a lost cause in fourth and despite the Raptors not rolling over and dying it might have been wiser to live and fight another day with being on the back to back.

The Bobcats have a win over the Cavs as well as the Knicks and have the same record as the Raptors at 2-2.

Raptors have a clear advantage with Gay and DeRozan matched up with Henderson and Kidd-Gilchrist. In fact you could argue the Raptors have advantages at all five positions which is a rare event for them on any night. That likely wouldn’t be if Al Jefferson was playing he has yet to be ruled out of this one as he is suffering from an ankle injury.

This is one the Raptors can’t afford to give away. Yet history suggests it is far from a lock that they will.

Heat Flex in Fourth Quarter to Outlast Raptors, 104-95

Through three quarters the Raptors dangled within striking distance of the two time defending NBA champs. Toronto raced out to an early lead by employing a size advantage down low - most prominently on the glass,  snatching 11 offensive boards in the first half. Miami kept pace with disciplined execution and ball movement, routinely leading to easy looks in the paint or open 3-point shots, registering 49% from the field overall and 10-23 from deep. The two teams traded buckets for most of the night.

But with the deficit at just four points heading into the final frame, the Raptors were looking to prolong Miami's winless record on the road. The Heat, however, after dropping their first two road contests, weren't going to let another one slip away. And so, they clamped down, defensively, holding their opponents to just 3 field goals and forcing 9 turnovers in the fourth quarter. Lebron James finished with 35 points, 8 boards and 8 assists, while Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen chipped in 20 and 14, respectively. Miami's other all-star, Chris Bosh, did not return to the ACC, instead remaining in Miami to welcome his newborn daughter. 

The Raptors were led by Demar Derozan's 21 points, and Jonas Valanciunas, who posted 18 points and 9 boards. 

Bench boss, Dwayne Casey, opted to match the Heat's vaunted small ball lineup in the second half, despite the success of big men, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. The pair combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds - 5 offensive - in the first half. Johnson only saw 12 minutes of floor time in second half, zero in the final Q, while Valanciunas only logged 10 minutes. 

Rudy Gay continued to struggle from the field - shooting 3-10 - and battle on the boards. After collecting 15 rebounds in Milwaukee Saturday night, Gay clutched another 10 for his second double double in as many outings,

Once again, the Raptors failed to generate consistent ball movement, tallying just 15 assists. Miami countered with 31. Which was the major reason the Heat come out on top 104-95 at the ACC.

Toronto will look to get back into the win column tomorrow night In Charlotte where they will face the Bobcats. The Bobcats defeated the Knicks 102-97 Tuesday night. 


Raptors Get A Heat Check Early In The Season

So, the Raptors chances tonight likely are as good as snowball’s chance in July of not melting. True the Heat have not exactly been on fire to start the season but did seem to right the ship somewhat with a ten point win over the Wizards. The Raptors have not beaten the Heat since Chris Bosh left to take his talents to Miami. Not to say that Bosh has been a big factor in that in most games. Lebron James has clearly distanced himself further from both Bosh and Wade over their time together in Miami.

In past games I have mentioned the Raptors ball movement or lack of it having a huge impact. It is important for all teams even the best team in the NBA. Chris Bosh was preaching about the value of ball movement in the Heat’s last win over the Wizards on Sunday as stated in this quote in Miami Herald’s Heat Check Blog:

Bosh: “It is everything for us, we want to make the game easier for everybody and moving the ball is how we play together and how we take advantage of all the talent we have. A lot of guys made sacrifices to be here and it only works if we play together."

We all shed a tear for the sacrifices the Miami Heat have had to make I know. So, it comes down to ball movement tonight? Well not exactly I would also say that transition defence will be vital in this one. Both teams seem to want to run and get out in transition and obviously Miami is much better at it.

How the Raptors guard Lebron James and are able to defend the other 4 people on the floor should be interesting. Mario Chalmers should get a lot of looks from three point land you would have to figure. Chris Bosh will of course be treated with the jeers that we have come to expect. Will that inspire him to have a big night? There and many other questions to be answered tonight. The answer to who will win seems fairly clear that it will be the Heat.

I will be able to sit back and watch this one as Will Fifer makes his return to our writing team with the recap of this one.


Raptors: The Week Ahead

Let’s take a look ahead at the Raptors schedule on this Monday. It is a week that features to Eastern Conference contenders and two lottery bound teams. In a week such as this it will be important the Raptors focus on the ones they can win.

Tuesday: Home against Miami

The Miami Heat are having a slow start to the season which likely is bad news for the Raptors. Miami evened their record at 2-2 with a 103-93 win over the Wizards on Sunday.  There is talk in Miami already about this team being to comfortable early on. Dwyane Wade in article link talks about being in a long term relationship and how you let things slide. Keeping with the relationships theme Chris Bosh comes to visit his ex-girlfriend more or less in coming to Toronto for the first of two visits in the month of November. Safe to say the Heat will have lots of motivation in the form of boos directed at Bosh to get them motivated.

Miami perhaps in an attempt to change their image or maybe more to just look for some kind of break with a cheap contract have brought in Greg Oden. In the end if he could even become a quarter of the player he was hyped to be when drafted number one that would be a huge bonus for Miami.

Nothing in the Raptors first three games despite being 2-1 suggest that they will be able to hang with Miami if the Heat are firing on all cylinders.

Wednesday: At the Bobcats

The Raptors for whatever reason over the years have struggled to get wins over the team that has been the easiest to beat in the NBA for a couple seasons running. After what you would suspect would be a loss to Miami how will the Raptors bounce back in a traveling back to back situation.

What you almost hope for is the Miami game to be decided early so Dwane Casey can allow his team to rest and live to fight another day. Dropping a game to the Bobcats simply can’t happen if the Raptors are expected to tread water with their schedule that is starting to show its teeth.

The Bobcats did add Al Jefferson in the off-season which gives their line-up a bit of a change. They also drafted Cody Zeller and have Kemba Walker who at one time was the people’s choice in Toronto to get drafted here. Jordan still owns this team and is coming to terms with the mistakes he has made. I looked but you will not find an apology about cancelling the trade with the Raptors a few years back.

Simply put these Raptors are all about no excuses this year well there is none for losing to the Bobkittens.

Friday: At the Pacers

Indiana is sitting a top the Eastern Conference as this is being written with a perfect 3-0 record unlike last year the Pacers are off to a hot start and look ever bit the title contender they hope to be. Roy Hibbert is a year into his massive max deal and looking more like himself again. Paul George is the next big thing in the NBA for a lot of folks coming off an All-Star season last year.

The Pacers have a lot of depth so much so that losing George Hill who sat out Saturday hardly causes them to miss a beat with C.J Watson in to replace him. They also have an allegedly healthy Danny Granger back in the fold. The Pacers have positive problems in terms of depth. So much so that Pacers are struggling to find time for guys. Chris Copeland a free agent signing in the off-season has barely seen the floor.

What this all comes down to is the Raptors second unit could get smacked around pretty good in this one. The Starters will have their own issues matching up with perhaps the second or at worst third best starting unit in the East.

With a long trip to Utah the next night this again might be one of those game where if the Raptors raise the white flag early and accept their fate it is likely to their benefit. 

Saturday: Home vs. the Jazz

John Stockton and Karl Malone are long gone for the Jazz. So is Deron Williams for that matter. This Jazz team is expected to top the lottery standings and early on they have lived up to that billing. However the level of opposition has been higher than the Raptors with games against the Thunder which they lost by 3 and Houston by 11 to the Howard led Rockets. Add in a close lose to the Suns and they are 0-3.

The Jazz starting five is a mix of old vets like Jamal Tinsley and Richard Jefferson mixed with a group of young players led by Gordon Hayward along with Kanter and Favors. John Lucas III is the back-up point guard in Utah after being the third string guy last year with Toronto.

This is a must win for the Raptors, but a game to be careful of, with the Jazz keeping things close in two of their three losses to this point.

So that is a look at the Raptors week ahead. We shall see how it turns out, but on the surface this week screams the likelihood of being 2-2 on the week and if that happens 5-4 on the season for Toronto.


Raptors Get The Ultimate Result They Needed In Milwaukee

What has become clear to me already is this team is just going to be frustrating to watch like past versions of the Raptors. Toronto caught one of those breaks you find in an NBA Schedule with the Bucks forced to start their third option at the point guard. It seemed the Raptors were taking advantage of that fact and played easily their best basketball of the season for the most part through three quarters. This is despite having the starters shoot for a combined 22-57(38.5%). Digging deeper the main three players on this team Gay, DeRozan and Lowry were 14-42(33.3%) from the field.

The Raptors made up for this by moving the basketball with a minor improvement with 19 assists compared to 15 the night prior. However, the major reason the Raptors could hang on for an eventual 97-90 win was rebounding. The Raptors had a 60-38 advantage on the glass and an 18-6 advantage on the offensive boards.

Taking away the numbers of it all there was just some things that stuck out like a sore thumb. Rudy Gay plays like a selfish player far too much. So much so that even with the Raptors blowing a lead in the fourth quarter Dwane Casey decided to give him the hook to perhaps send a message.Though if you listen to his post-game comments below he denies such a message being given.  It didn’t go well for Casey regardless as Ross who replaced Gay immediately got beat for a couple three pointers to make it a tie game midway through the fourth.

If at the start of the pre-season I proclaimed Landry Fields would be the most consistent Raptor three games into the season it would have been laughed at. It is likely the case though after 3 games of the season. In my opinion Landry Fields has just finally been able to mentally trust his body again after his injury issues. He looks a lot like the player that played for the New York Knicks these days. Here is what Landry had to say for himself after this one.

Fields brings up the fact the Raptors were pushing the ball up the floor. It was something they did for the majority of this game and used it to great effectiveness. The Raptors were getting to the line as they got there 38 times only making 28. That has been an under the radar problem the Raptors shooting at the line has been poor and Kyle Lowry has been uncharacteristically bad.  While Rudy Gay was shooting bricks from the field he was good at getting and making from the free throw line going 8-10. Actually he was active on the glass as well with a team high 15 rebounds (a career high). It all got lost in his selfish decisions on offence but in the light of day with an extra hour to sleep he did actually do a lot to help the Raptors get this win.

I am sure Dwane Casey is more than happy to be 2-1 on the season despite his team likely making his hair go grey like he was a President of the United States. Perhaps being the only job that guarantees more grey hair than coaching the Toronto Raptors.

While the Raptors have been extremely frustrating as they always seem to be at the end of the day they are 2-1 and that is what will remember down the line the wins and loses. The Raptors next play Tuesday against a Miami Heat team that is 1-2 on the season so far with loses to Brooklyn and surprise of the NBA the 3-0 Sixers. So safe to say the Heat will be a motivated group before anyone boos Chris Bosh at the ACC on Tuesday.


Hawks With A Team Effort Smack The Raptors

Toronto Raptors only have themselves to blame for a pretty bad performance in Atlanta. It was no secret what the Hawks were going to do to try and score in this game. They were going to shoot it from three and mix that up with going inside to Horford and Millsap. Hawks are a classic inside and outside attack that has become common place for many NBA teams. Just to drive home the point Kyle Korver had made a three in 75 consecutive games coming in. It would take less than a minute for him to extend that streak as he was abusing Demar DeRozan on the defensive end of the floor. DeRozan would eventually go on a furious run in the second half to try and bring the Raptors back but far too little and far too late. Where this game really slipped away was late in the second quarter where the Raptors went to sleep and allowed the Hawks to build 12 point halftime lead primarily in the final three minutes of the half. In the end the Hawks took this one 102-95.

The final score was quite flattering to the Raptors to tell the truth. Atlanta was the team that was moving the ball on the offensive end of the floor and the Raptors were not. The Hawks had a 24-15 advantage in assists to emphasis that fact. Raptors were playing as individuals more than as a team and no player illustrated that more than Rudy Gay. He was a one man black hole shooting 6 for 23 with 14 points and was 0-3 from three point range. To illustrate is me first attitude he had 14 shot attempts in comparison to the rest of the Starting 5 having just 16 at the half.

Hard to remember but this game started with a lovely drive and score for Jonas Valancuinas. He would only see four shot attempts the rest of the night. He was also left hanging trying to defend Al Horford which was a tough task for the second year player as Horford led the Hawks with 22. It is not like the Raptors were sticking to three point shooters to be unable to help him out as Atlanta was 10-23 from long range.

In truth the Raptors reserves did a better job on the defensive side of the ball but combined only produced 15 points. It was a dejected DeRozan and Gay that addressed the media after this one

The Raptors face a Bucks team that came back from 22 down to beat the Celtics 105-98. The Bucks have some real injury concerns early at the point guard as they are already down to their third string option at the position with both Knight and Ridnour out of the line-up. If you’re concerned this game will not happen tomorrow night after the mess in the pre-season with the Bucks floor no need to be. The Bucks are going to use their old floor while they figure out why the new one leaks.

In the end if you want to talk about being a playoff team, games like last night simply can’t happen on consistent basis. Talking about being a playoff team is nice, but two games in the Raptors look nothing like one at this point. The scary thing is it only gets tougher from here. The Raptors can ill afford to drop another winnable game on Saturday against the bucks.


Raptors Travel to Their Personal House of Horrors Atlanta

Before we get to your regularly scheduled preview of the Raptors vs Hawks; a little left over Halloween fun with Amir Johnson. We mentioned on This Week In Raptorland about Johnson being a part of the zombie walk for the second year last Saturday. He stepped up his game this year though with a complete set of Zombies and a choreographed dance number with the help of Amberley who runs the Raptors Dance Pak. Check out the video of the behind the scenes:

Now on to business, as the Raptors play their first road game of the season against the Hawks. It is the first half of a back to back as the Raptors will be in Milwaukee tomorrow.The Hawks will be without Lou Williams re-rehabilitating a right knee injury and Gustavo Ayon is out with a right shoulder injury.

The Hawks in recent years have said so long to some long time fixtures on their roster like Joe Johnson and now this season Josh Smith who is with the Pistons. Who the Hawks still have is Al Horford who should be a great challenge for Jonas Valancuinas to deal with on both ends of the floor. The Hawks also added Paul Millsap from Utah in the off-season and should make it an interesting battle in the paint all night long.

Where the Raptors should have a clear advantage in this game is at the wings where DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay will be matched up with Kyle Korver and Demarre Carroll. Both Gay and DeRozan were at less than their best against Boston in the opener on Wednesday.

The Hawks come in after dropping their season debut to the Mavericks 118-109. While all signs would suggest the Raptors should win this game beware of the Raptors strange past in the ATL. This is the place where scorekeepers and timekeepers have cost the Raptors games. It is also the place where Al Horford took out T.J Ford and created the point guard controversy that would rage after Ford's injury.

Atlanta is not the luckiest place for the Raptors is safe to say. Also the Raptors did not exactly look like world beaters in their win over the Celtics. Playing on the road is a different animal. Usually that includes a crowd rooting against you but the Hawks arena on most nights sounds like a library. Still you don't have the encouragement of a home crowd to help you rally. Calls that you might get at home might not happen on the road. Basically winning on the road is about battling adversity and still executing through it.

The Hawks are one of those teams that will be in the fight for those final few playoff spots in the East. Raptors if they are able to follow though and compete for the playoffs it will take beating teams like this. The Raptors will need to win the games they are suppose to win. That is really the first and what seems easiest step to becoming a playoff team. Easy it is not though, as winning the games you are suppose to win is all about consistency. Something the Raptors couldn't show on Wednesday against Boston.

For the Raptors to win it will take Gay and DeRozan exploiting their match-ups and a great effort down in the paint from the Raptors big men. The one other thing to be concern about is close outs on three point shooters. The Hawks if they get rolling from deep could make it a very long night.

Leading that charge you can expect would be Kyle Korver who has made at least one three in 74 straight NBA games which ranks fourth all-time. The record is 89 games held by former Supersonic Dana Barros. Korver has been a late round fantasy basketball pick for years based on his ability to make the three point shot.

The Raptors have their own sharpshooter in Novak but they need to be careful in not getting drawn into a three point shooting contest with the Hawks.