The Toronto Raptors need to bounce back big-time tonight against the Golden State Warriors. 30 games into the season, just past the first-third part of the season, and the Raptors are still searching for a defining moment this 2008-09 season. The Eastern Conference is looking downright scary this year and there should be more urgency in these early games. I have been following the NBA game for years now and one of the few things that is guaranteed in the Association is the mad dash that occurs right after the All-Star Weekend. The Celtics know it. The Cavaliers know it. The Magic (Stan VanGundy) knows it and the Pistons know it. The Hawks, the new kids on the block this year, definitely have enough gamers (Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson) who know what is at stake this year. Somebody has released the Beast in the East Conference and all the good teams are scrambling to position themselves for that mad dash come February. The Toronto Raptors have yet to show up to lay claim to being one of the premier teams in this conference. Here is the breakdown right now for the Jurassic Team eh:
* 12-18 record in the Eastern Conference - good enough for 11th place in the EC only on the outside looking in.
* Ill-advised firing of former Coach of the Year, Sam Mitchell after an 8-9 start to the season (despite what is now looking like a good start to the season for this squad considering all the offseason activities)
* 5-8 Home record (losing games at home is not good for the fans), 7-10 Road record (losing games on the road is the recipe for disaster), 9-9 within the Conference but 2-5 within the Atlantic Division (not good, not good at all), and a -3.6 points differential
* The Raptors are in the bottom third of the Association in a lot of key facets of the game including a shocking 29th in Rebounding
That last state is the most glaring and most revealing of all. 29th in Rebounding! It is hard to imagine a team with Chris Bosh, Jermaine O'neal, Andrea Bargnani and Jamario Moon would be 29th in the league in Rebounding. I have noticed this trend with the Raptors this season and it is not looking good. Anyone that knows anything about basketball knows that Rebounding is all about effort. You only need to search the names, Dennis Rodman or Charles Barkley, to understand this concept. These guys did not lack any effort when in came to rebounding. Unfortunately for the Raptors, they seem to be lacking in that department. Truly disappointing but....its not too late.
The Raptors still have those 4 guys I mentioned above in the line-up! These guys really need to start attacking the boards. The addition of Jake Voskuhl is nice (that is nice) but it does not mean one iota if the team is still 29th in rebounding. Management needs to stop reacting to every single noise that comes from the fans and just zip up their pants because it is only going to get worse as the season progresses. Remember that mad February dash? The fans will talk one way or the other; what will they do then? Trade deadline moves? It might not even matter at that point. Right now is when it matters. The Raptors have a chance now to get together as a team and decide on how to start winning those rebounding battles night in, night out going forward. If they can get up to about 15th (or in the top 10 where they ought to be in this category) there might actually be a chance to get into the tournament once the regular season wraps up. I expect the Raptors to bounce back starting tonight against the Warriors. GSW is just the right team to kick start a turnaround against. They lack the combination of size and quickness that the Raptors boasts this season. Chris Bosh and Jamario Moon need to set it off tonight otherwise brace yourself for a long, depressing season from our beloved Raptors. Look for the Raptors to bounce back big time tonight.