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It’s back to the road again starting tonight with stops in Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Clipperland, Sacramento, Portland and finally Golden State before we come home to face the Nuggets on New Years eve rounding off 2008. The road trip starts and ends with 3 games in 4 nights and in between is a three day Christmas break. We could very well finish something like 12-20 by the end of 2008 requiring us to go 29-21 the rest of the way just to get to .500. That would likely mean a playoff date with the Celtics or Cavaliers, which is worse than not making the playoffs. Ideally we would’ve liked to be .500 at the end of the year but that would mean going 6-1 in this upcoming stretch which isn’t happening. So what’s the next best thing to aim for? Wins against OKC, Clippers, Sacramento and Golden State and a revenge win against the Nuggets. In other words, lose to Portland and San Antonio but that’s about it. If we go 5-2 here we’ll end the year at 15-17, not great but still enough time to set the ship sailing in the right direction.

We haven’t beaten the Kings in Sacramento in a decade and haven’t had success in Golden State in four years so even the “winnable” games are going to be challenges. On the other hand the Raptors have had a knack of pulling out a weird win when you least expect them to, like last year in San Antonio. As unlikely as 5-2 seems it’s not impossible.

Much has been made about Chris Bosh’s play of late and it is in every sense of the word, unacceptable. We rely too much on him for him to be anonymous for quarters at a time, I commend the Raptors’ scrubby supporting cast for their play against the Mavericks, they kept us in it until the half and were counting on a push from their big players which never came. Joey Graham pitched in with the scoring, Jamario Moon sliced and diced his way to getting points and rebounds and even the aggravating and hot-cold-mostly-cold Parker chipped in with some hustle. We’ll need all of that on the road. We usually end up going 0-5 or 1-5 on these Western roadtrips but the team should see this as an opportunity to regroup and come together. Last year’s Raptor team seemed to always get off to better starts on the road than at home, they were surprising competitive in their road affairs and there were many positives, even in the losses. Here’s hoping the chemistry clicks and Bosh and the Raptors can come through.

The Raptors had a “light practice” because of the back-to-back coming up where they looked at a “quick video session on how to rebound the ball”. Triano says that the team played well for the first 22 minutes of the Dallas game and they need to get that 22 to 30, 36 and 48 and that he feels good about where the Raptors are headed. Despite the recent results he believes the team is heading in the right direction and in theory I do agree with him, our X’s and O’s under Triano have been much improved, it’s the individual performers that aren’t delivering. Maybe they need more “gel time” so everyone can be on the same page and get their individual games on track within the system. Under Mitchell, Chris Bosh was too used to getting the ball in the elbow area and doing whatever he wanted with it. Under Triano, he’s got more responsibilities not limited to recognizing help, finding flashers, controlling floor spacing, not to mention improving his own rebounding due to the helter-skelter nature of our new defensive scheme. Does all this take time? Of course, but time’s running out and we can’t be coming back from this trip 8 games under .500.

I’m not questioning the Raptors’ or Chris Bosh’s effort in the last three games, I’m questioning their basketball sense. Settling for jumpers doesn’t mean lack of effort, it shows that they’re opting for the wrong basketball decision on the court. Perhaps we should let Jay Triano brainwash Jose Calderon and Bosh and convince them that what they’re doing in the early possession is what’s grinding the offense to a halt. Give Triano till the end of the month to start getting results out of his two star players, after that if he can’t get them to drive and do the right thing, it’s probably a lost cause. Some say that Triano’s coaching can only be evaluated if he’s given a proper training camp but that’s hogwash, in the fast-moving world of the NBA you have to deliver within ASAP. I don’t even know what his plan for Bargnani is, I think he’s about as confused as we are when it comes to that. Not really related by Brandon Roy had 52 last night.

Nathan Jawai practiced yesterday and anybody expecting anything significant from the poor chap should take heed to his words (video):

I think it will take me a month to get back in shape. The speed of the game will take me another month. Probably toward the end of the season I should be 100 per cent….next year, that’s when I’ll be back.

Lovely, so he’s basically a write-off this year. Oh well, get better Nathan, it’s not like we were relying on you to do anything. We have trouble getting Humphries minutes so even if he was healthy the chance of him playing meaningful minutes would have been almost zero. The DNPCD – a heart’s best friend.

Jose shooting has gotten better lately but he’s still not leaving his mark on the games as he was last year. Last year he could be relied on to be the go-to guy in that third quarter when the team was struggling or in the fourth when Bosh was hesitant. So far this season he hasn’t been looking for his offense and when he does, he ends up taking contested jump shots. His scoring is +2 this season but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his play. He’s saying that this team needs a win bad and is dropping all the cliches before heading out. The subtitle of that article is Raptors hit road with purpose. Huh? As opposed to not hitting the road with a purpose?

Now everyone’s making fun of the Thunder and their 2-24 record but check out their roster: Desmond Mason, Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison. If only they had a decent point-guard they’d be much better. I think the Raptors will be in tough today, they know how we’ve been playing and will be smelling blood more than us. The Thunder are also dreaming about the 2010 free agent class. With Chris Bosh coming to town there’s an anonymous “Eastern conference scout” wondering whether he’ll stay or not. Hey, you won’t have to wait that long, put Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Chris Wilcox on the table and we’ll talk deal.

Here’s Thunder coach Scott Brook’s take on the keys to stopping the industrious machine that are the Raptors:

The challenge is to stop Bosh and O’Neal from getting easy buckets. Their point guard is really good. And they have some shooters. They haven’t played particularly well as of late, but that’s a very talented team. We’ll have to step up and play an entire game because that’s a team that can really score. And they get stops.

Ha, don’t you love it when opposing coaches make you out to be better than you actually are.

We do catch a break today, Chris Wilcox will not play tonight because of a dislocated finger, he had 28 points in that blowout win in Seattle last year against us. Maybe our luck is turning.

Doug Smith is wondering whether we’ve hit rock bottom. No, if we lose tonight we’ll hit rock bottom.

Join us at Philthy McNasty’s tonight at 8PM EST, they have TSN2. Since I’ll be at Philthy’s there’s not going to be live blogging, the live chat will still be there and we’ll try to post a stream. Somebody in the chat usually has one too.

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