Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Must Win

Before I get into the details of this write up, let me start out by admitting something: I was wrong about this team. Every prediction I made back in July has been completely wrong, and every negative that I thought wouldn't be a problem has been. The Raptors have been a huge disappointment this year (at least in my eyes), and I'm very sad to be a fan. It's like a big budget movie with an ending that goes nowhere--sure the hype was there, but at the end of day, you left the movie saying "Eh". Contrary to my belief a few months ago, I think it'll be a miracle if Chris Bosh stays in Toronto. Based on his post game interviews lately, he seems miserable to be wearing the Raptors uniform, and wants to on a winning team. I've got to give credit to Bryan Colangelo for attempting to revive this team, but he, once again, came up short. But on that note...

The Raptors are in a position I thought would never be possible--on the cusp of missing the playoffs. Their 35-34 record is bad enough for the 8th seed and is just 2.5 games better than Chicago, who is on the outside looking in. But as bad as the Raptors have been, they're only 1 game out of the 6th seed--which is currently vacated by the Miami Heat.

The Raptors face the Jazz tonight, which is a game I consider a "must win". For one, the game is at the ACC, and just like my basketball coach tells me, "no one can beat you on your home floor". The Raptors are 7-4 at home against West Coast teams, and have an overall record of 23-11.

Secondly, the Raptors must bump up in the standings. An 8 seed, even a 7 seed, will mean a 5 game series at best. With the 6 seed, the Raptors at least have a shot of beating either the Hawks or Celtics in a 7 game series (but I'm begging it's the Celtics). And most importantly, the Heat travel to Chicago tomorrow night, which I'm guessing will be a Heat win. The Raptors can't afford to fall 2 games behind. I haven't said this all year, but it now needs to be said: The Raptors NEED this win.

Given how tight the 6-8 seeds are, every game is significant. The Raptors must take advantage of these last 13 games, and move up in the standings.

For once in a very long time, I want a reason to smile over this team. I'm so sick of losing.

Following March 14's loss against the Warriors, Chris Bosh called out his teammates, saying:

"Time is ticking and it's counting down, and if we keep playing the way we are right now, we're going to be on the outside looking in. Guys need to step it up, period."

You heard the man. Let's go Raptors.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I've Been Exposed As a Raptors Fan

About 8 months ago I was the happiest man in the world. The Toronto Raptors were making so many moves, and it appeared they would finally be an upper echelon team in the Eastern Conference. When the Raptors signed Hedo Turkoglu, I was smiling from ear to ear. I'll never forget it. Considering all the moves, I, along with the experts, believed the Raptors would be a 5 seed, maybe a 4 seed in the Eastern Conference come playoff time. I made a bold prediction of a 51-31 record, and possibly an Eastern Conference Finals reach. Yes, maybe these were biased predictions, but nonetheless...I had very high expectations for the Raptors in 2009-2010.

On February 19th, the Raptors defeated the Wizards 109-104, and improved their record to 31-24. Although that's just a so-so record, it appeared the Raptors were turning the corner and would only get better. But since then it's been....well, not what I thought. The Raptors are losers of 8 of 9, now have a 32-32 record, are the 8 seed in the East, and are just 1.5 games away from being out of the playoffs. Could it be? Could the Toronto Raptors really not make the playoffs?  We're not talking about a 4 or 5 seed like I predicted, we're talking about not making the playoffs?? Damn. I was way off. Now granted, the Raptors are only 2.5 games out of the 5 seed, but nonetheless. Having a record of 35-32 and a 5 seed isn't because of talent, it's just because the rest of the conference is so bad.

Last night's loss to the Warriors put me over the edge. Considering how bad the Warriors are (18-47), and how much the Raptors are playing for, it was very upsetting to see how flat the Raptors came out in the second half. Chris Bosh wasn't shy to vent his frustrating following the loss:

Although those are harsh words, Bosh is spot-on right. The coaches can preach all they want, but that means nothing come game time. Chris Bosh can dominate all he wants, but the Raptors won't be successful if he doesn't get the back-up support. It's because of this, along with his obvious frustrations, that I'd be surprised if Bosh re-signs. Bosh is an all-star, and he deserves a lot more than an average, first round playoff exit (if the Raptors even make the playoffs) team. Now, I could be wrong (because as you can see, I've been wrong before), but this team needs to start winning if they have any shot of keeping their superstar.

Is Bryan Colangelo overrated as a GM? While I applauded his off-season moves, they haven't made the team better. Yes, the Raptors have a deep bench. Yes, trading for Amir Johnson was a brilliant move. But his biggest acquisition, Hedo Turkoglu, has been a huge disappointment. Turkoglu is making roughly $10M this year, and he's playing like a pile of garbage. I knew Turkoglu was overpaid, but I didn't think it'd be this bad. Given Colangelo's failures over the past three seasons, could his job possibly be on the hot seat? I personally don't believe so, but just the thought of it shows how badly the Raptors and Colangelo have failed this year. 

You know what sucks about all this? I, as a die-hard fan can't do anything about it. I can throw my couch pillows at the television and curse my brains out, but that's about it. I can't join the team or scream at the personnel--I can only sit back, and witness losses to teams like the Warriors (18-47), Kings (22-44), and Sixers (23-42). It's very embarrassing to be a Raptors fan.

The Raptors west coast trip ends tonight against the Blazers, and I'm guessing their record will slide to 32-33. When's this nightmare going to end?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Raptors take on the Lakers tonight

How ironic--the last time I blogged was when the Raptors stunned the Lakers at the ACC. Going into the night, I thought the Raptors had no shot of winning, but somehow found a way to prove me wrong. I couldn't stop smiling. I couldn't believe the Raptors won.

Now, 44 days later I feel the complete opposite. Sure, the Raptors went on a hot streak and were 7 games above .500 at one point, but now they're on a cold streak at the worst possible time. The Raptors have lost 5 of 6, hold a very average record of 32-29, and have slid to the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. Chris Bosh has been injured during this span, but nonetheless--since the All-Star break, the Raptors have lost momentum when I thought it'd be opposite. The Raptors have let their opponent score over 100 points in each of the 5 losses, and 4 of them have been in front of the ACC crowd. Home is a place you never want to lose--but 4 straight times? Come on.

What I'm saying is, this isn't just another slump--this team has drastically fallen back down to Earth, and it doesn't look like they'll be rising up anytime soon.

I know it's been said and said, but I'll say it (well, write it...) one more time: If the Raptors have any shot of keeping their All-Star (if you don't know who I'm referring to, please stop reading this), they need to start winning now. I truly believe Bosh will stay, but only if the team is successful. I don't want another first round exit, and I'm guessing CB doesn't either. If the Raptors lose 4 of 5 games without Bosh, isn't that a sure tell sign that this team needs him?

And guess what? The Raptors are in LA tonight to face the Lakers. So just like I said 44 days ago, I'll be shocked if the Raptors win tonight.