I honestly don’t know what to take from the Raptors first five games.
The thinker in me has me logically saying the Raptors have came out with a mindset predicated on doing whatever it takes to win and it is paying dividends early and it is foolish to attempt to gauge a teams mindset over even a 66 game schedule.
The optimist in me wants to take the Raptors first five games and run with it, after all they could very well could be 3-2 if they didn’t blow that 16 point lead in Orlando on Sunday and kept things extremely close in their other two losses against Indiana and Dallas. This Raptor team has held its own in games against four playoff teams (assuming the Magic keep Howard at least until the deadline) and are sitting at 2-3 in a weak Eastern Conference. Hell even Rick Carlisle was talking the Raptors up as playoff contenders, so what if he was probably throwing Dwane Casey a compliment, the Raps can actually win basketball games,
Then all the years of being a Raptors fan finally kick in and I start to question if Jose Calderon can sustain his brilliant play, if Amir Johnson can actually stay healthy, if Andrea Bargnani can actually stop making me want to punch someone in the face every time I watch him play defense in a meaningless regular season game, the years of watching bad defense, terrible veterans, and just general frustrating basketball have me skeptical about these new “enjoyable” Raptors. These kids who play hard and actually have veterans who aren’t just here to collect a big Bryan Colangelo quick fix paycheque and get traded after one or two seasons. These Raptors can’t be real, there needs to be a Jermaine O’Neal, a Sonny Weems, a Hedo Turkoglu to give me something to hate, something that makes me genuinely not want to watch Raptors basketball some nights.
Then there is the realist in me, who understands everyone came into this season telling me the Raptors were going to finish dead last and spent more time asking me questions about how the Raptors were going to use their top five pick than how their rotation was going to look like or how Dwane Casey was going to improve the defense. No one even expected this start, anything that happens this season is a bonus and I am actually going to try and enjoy it.
Jose Calderon has been experiencing a revival under Dwane Casey this season. Calderon is leading the NBA in assist ratio and has even been playing (gasp) capable defense in addition to distributing the rock at his best clip since the Atlantic Division title season. Jose just might be the secret to the Raptors success this season.
The Raptors showed the blueprint on how to beat the Knicks. By beating the Knicks in the second quarter the Raptors exploited the Knicks lack of depth and showed that if teams can win the rotation battle the Knicks aren’t that tough. Sure it was sans Amare, but the Knicks lack of a solid second quarter rotation looks like it will be a problem throughout the season.
The Raptors have a great chance to climb the standings in their next five games. With Cleveland, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Washington next on the schedule the Raptors have a legit chance to go 4-1 over the next five games. If the Raptors want to seriously start hunting for a playoff spot, wins against non playoff teams (With the exception of the Sixers) are crucial.
Andrea Bargnani showed how good he can be as a closer in the fourth quarter when he responded to a controversial non-call on an Amir Johnson missed dunk that led to a Carmelo Anthony layup to make it 84-83 by hitting a clutch jumper than canning both his free throws in sealing the Raptors win. It is that kind of play that makes andrea Bargnani a valuable player and it was nice to see Bargs get back in that clutch role.
The Raptors host the Cavs tomorrow night.