The Raptors continue to be hard to figure this season. It is hard to know what to expect from quarter to quarter from this team. It makes for interesting viewing that is for sure. It would seem that Jay Triano may have lit up the Raps at halftime. It was well deserved as Raps had been awful for the last 2 games and came out in 1st half with more of the same defensively. Chris Bosh said in his post game comments he was glad the first half happened. If you take the positive angle maybe it took that first half to finally force the Raptors to take a look in the mirror. It may have been turning a corner and getting on the right path. Others will say that the Bulls were spent both mentally and physically and the Raps benefited from it. A caller on the post game show on the Fan 590 correctly stated, the Raps have 3 of their 4 wins facing teams on the second night of a back to back with the Raps having the prior day off. It is not to take away from what the Raps have done and what they did in the second half last night. It is important to take advantage when the schedule shines in your favour. The Raps have a though west coast road trip that will tell us if they really have turned a corner or not. They start with Clippers on Friday after that it gets rough facing the Suns, Nuggets and Jazz. The Nuggets and Jazz on a back to back.
When you break down the trip the game vs the Clippers is the easiest and is the first game of the trip. Which is nice if the Raps can get the win and start off on the right foot. The Clippers are with out number 1 pick Blake Griffin and despite being a surprise playoff pick for some experts seem like the same sorry Clippers. That being said they are playing better of late after a brutal 0-4 start. Chris Kaman has looked good for them and has taken advantage of the Griffin injury to use it to his advantage. No matter how the Clippers are doing for the casual basketball fan a lose to the Clippers would never be acceptable. It would be like losing to the Lions in the NFL.
The next stop is in the valley of the Suns in Arizona. Prior to the season many felt the Suns were in trouble heading into this season. The traded Shaq for very little and people felt that Steve Nash might be on the down turn and perhaps off to New York or maybe even Toronto in free agency. Nash would sign an extension and has been putting up numbers that rival the ones he did in his M.V.P seasons. Jason Richardson also has been looking more like his former self. Perhaps not the jaw jacking dunks that made him a slam dunk champion. However he looks more like star player than a star getting old. While the addition of Channing Frye has been much more seamless than that of Shaq. Frye has fit into the Suns run and gun system and looked good doing it. I personally got to work the game that the Suns knocked off the Celtics and they looked very impressive in doing so. Given the way the Suns play and Raptors can score this should be like a throw back to the ABA. The Suns continued their impressive start with a win over the Hornets.
Denver after a hot start has cooled off as of late. Carmelo Anthony in the early season was getting M.V.P talk that is how good he was. Chancey Billups since coming to the Nuggets has really taken them from being just another team in a tough Western Conference and made them one of the top contenders. They are always tough to play at home as well in that thin air of Denver. While the Jazz have struggled out of the gate and are just happy to get wins where they can get them right now. The Jazz are just 3-5 and that includes a win over the sorry Knicks in that.
Things may be a little tougher for the Raps as Fan 590 is reporting that Hedo Turkoglu has a hip issue heading into this trip and will see if he is able to play in L.A on Friday. After a slow start that has been below the expectations of most everyone, an injury is likely the last thing he needs. The Raptors would perhaps start Antonie Wright at the 3 spot if Hedo was not able to go. It would also likely mean more playing time for both DeRozan and Belinelli. However the Raptors will be hopefully that Hedo can go and not have to go down that road. Not that Hedo has been very good but the Raptors already down Reggie Evans could do with out more injuries as they still try to get everyone on the same page.
How the Raps come out of this trip may tell us if they truly have turned a corner or if they will continue to be the same Jekyll and Hyde act. In the past West coast trips have always been tough and have always told us something about this Raptors team. Let the learning experience commence on Friday.