It is finally coming to an end. The Raptors will conclude a long road trip that even in watching it seems like it would never end. Maybe it was that awful start in Oklahoma City that just made it seem to take longer. There was also a 3 day break for Christmas in there as well. For the Raptor to be in decent shape at the beginning many folks myself included said this team at worst would need to go 3-3. Well heading into the last game against the Warriors that is still possible. But the Warriors are flying high after an unexpected win over the Celtics. The two teams met already this season in the Raptors home opener. It would take overtime for the Raptors to come away with a win. A lot has changed since then. The Raptors after that 3-0 start to the season have not been able to put 3 wins in a row together since that time. They had a chance to do that in Portland only to watch Brandon Roy take over the game and secure a win for the Trailblazers.
The Golden State Warriors are a little different looking than the team that visited the A.C.C for trick or treating. They made a trade with the New York Knicks that saw Al Harrington go to New York and Jamal Crawford come to Oakland. Crawford has been one of those guys that has had the Raptors number in the past. He once scored 50 points as a Bull against the Raptors and he has looked to be much more engaged since the trade. They also still have Steven Jackson and he is a talented guy as well. The Warriors are team that you never know what you are going to get. But what you can be sure of is that they are going to run and they are not likely going to be able to play very good defense. That being said down the stretch they did hold off the Boston Celtics who were on the second half of a Christmas and Boxing Day back to back.
The Tough Home Schedule Ahead
When you look at the 3 game homestand that awaits the Raptors when they do finally return to Toronto. It makes a win tonight almost required. The Nuggets, Rockets and Magic are the next three teams and all of those will be a tough challenge for the Raptors to find a win. Those 3 teams combined have a 64-27 record. Nuggets and Rockets are 20-11 and the Magic an impressive 24-6. While the Warriors are only 9-23 but are a decent 5-7 on their home floor. It would make sense that Warriors may have a bit of a letdown after a big win over Boston. So if the Raptors can get off to a good start it may help their cause. However the Raptors starts to basketball games have not been the issue this season as it has been in the past. The ability to hold leads they have built has been the problem. Also with the Warriors style of play they can both lose a lead quickly or gain one quickly. The Raptors will do their best to play at their pace and not the Warriors. They should have a big advantage on the inside with Bosh and O'Neal. Jermaine has been playing well of late and the Raptors will hope he can keep it rolling in this one.
Trade Winds Always Blowing
The Raptors and Warriors have also been rumoured to be likely trading partners as well. Marco Belinelli and Corey Maggette have been names that the Raptors have had interest in previously. But Maggette has a contract that he signed that he has not lived up to with Golden State. But he is a player that would serve a glaring need for this basketball club as someone that has the ability to slash and get to the basket and draw fouls as well. Belinelli open eyes in summer league after he was drafted but has not been a huge factor with the Warriors to this point. Maggette is averaging 19.1 points and 5.7 rebounds. He is also labeled with a tag of being a black hole as far as passing the ball. His 1.8 assists per game would confirm that. Belinelli has averaged just 9.2 points per game. The major sticking point is that it would seem that if any move between these two teams were to happen that deal would have to included Andrea Bargnani. Some Raptors fans would not have a problem with that. However Bryan Colangelo just might. If he is going to move Bargnani he has to be certain of what he will get in return and Maggette and Belinelli do not offer that kind of security. But those are just rumours and there is a lot of those flying around. The latest is the Raptors have interest in Joe Smith on the OKC Thunder. He is said to be on the move because the Thunder are planning to sign former Net and restricted free agent Nenad Krstic. New Jersey is not likely to match the offer sheet for him given they seem happy with their first round pick Brook Lopez and the other young big men they have on the roster.
So To Quote Al Davis " JUST WIN BABY"
I am not friends with Chris Bosh or anything but I do know we both love the Dallas Cowboys. So obviously we both are not exactly happy with yesterday and the result. So for all Cowboy fans I encourage Chris Bosh to take all that angry of a season gone wrong and take it out on the Warriors. I mean Chris Bosh can likely relate to Tony Romo, T.O and the rest of the Cowboys. The Raptors have had their struggles just like the Cowboys. They had big expectations as well that they have not lived up to. But unlike the Cowboys there is still hope for the Raptors to turn things around and make it to the playoffs. But it will take a commitment to excellence and a just win baby attitude the rest of the way. Here is hoping it can happen for Chris and the Raptors. But for that to happen they have to start beating the better teams once in awhile and never have another blow up like they did in Oklahoma City.
Calling The West Coast Later
So that is a wrap for this morning. I am suppose to be talking with Matt Devlin today. The funny thing is I am not sure if we will be talking at 1pm my time or his time. So if it is his time, that will likely be for the blog tomorrow. But we will see it is funny how you can forget your time zones when you are e-mailing on the west coast. Oh well it will be good to talk with him regardless of when it is. Over on Raptors.com you can catch his latest game preview from on the bus with Jack Armstrong it is informative and comedy all at the same time.