Thursday December 18 2008 – 9:15am Eastern
Right here. Right now. The next two weeks.
Two weeks from today, the Raptors will be in 2009; their 6-game west coast trip and their New Years Eve home game against the Denver Nuggets will be in the rearview mirror. At that point, we should know how the season is going to unfold.
To be fair, it’s not looking good right now. There have been a few positive signs, however, the negatives (blowing big leads, rebounding, consistency on the wings, and so on) have festered and persisted all season. To try and paint a different picture would not be honest.
But as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, if Toronto can be within 2-3 games of .500 by the new year, I think they’ll be alright.
They’ve got a ton of work to do to reach that goal though – and that wasn’t exactly a lofty goal to begin with!
Currently sitting 5 games below .500, the Raps have 7 games remaining until the calendar flips to ’09 …
@ Oklahoma City
@ San Antonio
@ LA Clippers
@ Goldent State
Going 4-3 over that stretch would put Toronto at 14-18 when January rolls around. They’d have to go 5-2 (or better) to reach my water-mark of “2 or 3 games” above or below .500. That is going to be TOUGH to say the least!
The way the Raptors are playing, you can’t say there are any “gimmies” on the sked. If this team were playing at its top level right now you might be able to make a case for at least 4 if not 5 of these upcoming tilts. But the way they’ve been sputtering, the outcome of any of the next 7 – including @ Oklahoma City – is anybody’s guess.
The Thunder may be the worst team in the league, but they’ve played better than their record indicates and they have a few solid, young pieces. Remember, this same team – in Seattle last year – beat Toronto. This is a game T.O. has to have but it’s certainly not written in stone yet.
At San Antonio will be a challenge – despite the miracle to the Raps pulled off against the Spurs last year.
With rebounding being a major issue for Toronto, you’ve got to figure dealing with Camby and Randolph (and Kaman?) will be a BIG test for the Raps. On paper, it’s a tilt that Toronto could get but, again, their inconsistency haunts them right now. Oh, and there’s that guy Baron Davis too – who will certainly attack Jose Calderon off the bounce.
Following the Xmas break, the Raps have to deal with the Kings. Again, on paper, you could make a case for Toronto having a solid chance in this game but their fate in Sacramento could be determined by how they’ve played in the previous 3 games and what kind of momentum they have (or don’t have) going. Plus, no matter how good or bad the Kings may be, Arco Arena is still one of hardest places in the NBA to go into and win. The fans are nuts.
Playing on a back-to-back in Portland looks pretty daunting.
The long journey on the road ends in Golden State … against a Warriors team that is in a world of hurt as well. But they can FILL IT UP on the offensive end and if you don’t match their tempo (or miraculously slow them down) they can run you out of the gym.
And 2008 closes with Billups and Anthony at the ACC. And you remember what happened to Toronto the last time they played the Nuggets (Sam Mitchell on Line 1).
Entering ’09 eight or nine games below .500 could be too deep to overcome.
Oh, and the new year starts with Houston and Orlando. Ugh.
That’s why THIS is season; these next two weeks.