A Perfect Storm For The Raptors??

By Clinton Hosannah
Updated: November 2, 2008

Toronto Raptors TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors started their season off with three wins and an impressive arsenal consisting of a strong defensive state of mind, a solid shooting game and some bulked up big men, namely Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh.

Their record now consists of a 3 in the left column and a 0 in the right column. The Raptors are feeling great and are first place in the Atlantic Division. A win is a win, but isn’t how you win important?

The game against Golden State went into overtime after the Warriors caught up to the Dinos who were leading throughout the whole game. Against Milwaukee, the Bucks fought through a 13-point deficit after Jermaine O’Neal was fouled out late in the fourth quarter.

The games were exciting and the crowds were going hard in both games.

At one point, the Milwaukee fans stood up and cheered the Bucks on. But those are second tier teams at best. Can those kinds of wins stand up against the likes of Detroit or Boston?

And what about some of the teams in the west like L.A. and San Antonio? Before this writer starts to speculate and prognosticate, let’s praise the hunger we are seeing with this new Raptor team.

Let’s also point out a few deficiencies that need to be addressed. Bargnani and Bosh have bulked up in the off season and are mixing it up more in the paint. That is great for Toronto.

And so far, Bargnani is panning out to be the x-factor.

“I’m proud of Andrea, he had a tough game in the opening night in Philadelphia,” said Raptor coach Sam Mitchell after the Golden State game. “He came back, and his first two baskets were dunks, and he was very aggressive going to the basket.”

“He was giving us another option, shoot the ball [or] drive. He was posting up to guys and he was active defensively.”The question remaining is will the Bargnani who played against Golden State be present at most of the games this season?

That’s not a worry for Chris Bosh. He will play hard every time he gets out onto the court but it looked like the team collectively hit an endurance wall in the fourth quarter against the Warriors and the Bucks.

In the Warriors game, Bosh’s intestinal fortitude brought about the win by getting Ronny Turiaf to foul out. After that it was lights out for the Warriors even with a 26-point game from forward Al Harrington and four other Warriors in double digits.

In the Bucks game, it was two last minute three point shots by Jamario Moon and Jose Calderon that gave the Raptors the W. Some clutch free throws and a rebound from Moon that he described as like holding a baby, also played a major role in the win.

Now for the most telling problem that needs to be addressed, offensive boards.

Where are they?

First off, Moon had a despicable count of zero boards against the Warriors. Given his athleticism, that is terrible. Secondly the team had six offensive boards collectively for the whole game.

As a result, the Raptors had 11 second chance points while the Warriors had 20. Toronto won the game because they were clutch at the charity line, 26 of 30, and held the Warriors to 44.7% from the field.

“That’s something we just got to continue to work on,” said Mitchell speaking about the lack of offensive rebounds by the Dinos. “We’ve got to become a better rebounding team.”

“But that’s a tough team, these first two games against the teams we played. Just at the two and three, the size and speed the athleticism that they have on us, it just makes it tough. But again, we got them when we needed them.”

Despite the daunting task ahead, fans are excited about the new Raptors. Along with the new roster and the new uniforms is a new hunger. Jamario Moon told Eric Smith and Paul Jones of Toronto’s 590 am sports radio show, that the Raptors are greedier this season.

Moon said that the players were very upset about the way they were eliminated in last season’s first round of the play-offs against Orlando. And although Moon hasn’t been rebounding well, he has been ice on the perimeter and like glue on defense.

But it’s arguable that the Raptors need to do more against the likes of Detroit or Boston. That brings us to Jermaine O’Neal. What does the big man bring to the team?

According to Coach Mitchell, O’Neal brings experience, grittiness, and his presence provides options for scoring. For example, double teaming O’Neal is a must.

If a sharp shooter like Kapono can get to the open side, its money in the bank. Fortunately the Raptors have a few good men to play that role. On any given day you can count on Anthony Parker, Calderon and from time to time Moon, for a three ball.

O’Neal loves being in Toronto and says the fans are electrifying.

“I underestimated the crowd presence,” said O’Neal after the game against Golden State. “Obviously I haven’t played in front of a crowd like that in three or four years.”

“It was great. This team is built to the point where you just have to get on to the engine line and do your part. These types of wins are what create great character.”

This season’s Raptors will win more than the 47 games they won last season. This is the time for speculation and prognostication. The team is sound defensively and they are explosive on the transition.

Yes, they do need to be more aggressive in the paint, but they are gelling and playing their positions well. Calderon has an excellent ability to see the court and as a result, the other players are also looking for the extra pass but not hesitating to shoot if they need to.

They seem more mature and there’s an air of entitlement among the rank and file.

This writer thinks they work hard and deserve it.