Effort and laziness comes into play for everyone at this point of the year, even us (mostly me) at Raptors Republic. It’s so hard to get up and write a quality post when the team you’re covering isn’t giving it their all. I have to admit that even though they lost against the Nuggets I felt they put in as good as effort as could be expected given how they have been playing recently. Actually, that could be the only game that I can accept when Bosh says:

We just have to put this behind us and move on to the next game. It just goes to show we’re gonna have to give (a strong) effort every night, from here until the season is over; If we do that, I think we’ll be in a better position for success later.

I usually hate when they say you have to forget that one and move on (mostly because they’ve been saying it all year), but when it comes down to it, they lost a tough game to a better team. Nothing more to it. Count me as one of people who would rather go to the playoffs and lose the 1st round pick to Miami, than be perpetually on the treadmill. By the sound of Bosh’s tone, he really thinks that they are really close to turning things around and make a run at something. I can only imagine he’s talking about this season/playoffs since as things stand, I doubt he would be looking past the playoffs at this point.

A few things from the Denver have made me hopeful for the stretch run:

  • Bargnani’s play in the paint: the guy was a beast on the boards and played solid defense. Sure he didn’t have a good shooting night, but that has never been his problem. It’s clearly an issue of effort for Andrea, since he has shown that he can bang in the paint.
  • Weems as a starter: I’ve always thought that his energy off the bench was more important than the lift he would give the starting five, but DeRozan seemed to have responded well.
  • Wright settling in: could have been part of the plan to give the young bucks some run during the season then integrate Wright as a major piece heading into the playoffs, or not…but it’s working. Me thinks Wright will be crucial heading into the playoffs.
  • They can do it without Hedo: yea, I said it. Hedo wasn’t missed at all on Friday (by me anyways). Wright/Weems/DeRozan/Belinelli can all fill the 2/3 by committee as far as I’m concerned, and there will be no drop off. I find it really unlikely that there is an on-switch that Hedo will flip to all-of-a-sudden be a killer in the next few weeks. Now it’s up to Triano to have some cajones and do something about it.

The Heat are 7-3 in their last 10, on a 4-game winning streak and sit a game out of 5th (just behind the Bucks). We all know the Raptors have owned the Heat over the last couple seasons (8-2 against them in the last 10), and we have always looked forward to playing them sine they aren’t really much of a team. Yes they have Wade, but the rest of the guys could be swapped out by anyone random baller, and you wouldn’t have a drop-off of any significance since Wade is just that good.

Basically this game comes down to a couple things:

  1. Stop Wade – easier said than done, but without Wade gunning along, there is nothing on this team that can hurt you (unlike the Warriors who have weapons up and down that bench). Weems will have to be uber aggressive out the gate, and make Wade work on defensive as much as possible. To be frank, as long as Weems just keeps Wade in front of him, and limits his options off the dribble, that’s all we can hope for.
  2. Pound the ball into the paint – Jermaine O’Neal is out with an injury (apparently) so Bosh and Bargnani will have to take it to Beasley and Anthony. No excuses, no laziness, no nothing-just hustle. If Bargnani can give us what he did against the Nuggets (a much better front line btw), and Bosh can limit the turnovers, this wont be close.
  3. Continue the effort – the Carmelo Anthony game winner hurt, but the Raptors played a solid game to that point. They need to continue the effort tonight against the Heat. No exceptions, no excuses.

This is a big game against a conference rival who sits a couple games ahead of us. Can’t let the Bulls get any closer, and have a chance to move up the standings (especially since the next two are against the two teams sitting ahead of us in the standings). Do or die time boys.

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