Andrea Bargnani and the Toronto Raptors are going to be facing some stiff competition beginning Wednesday night when they play the Atlanta Hawks, and this will continue until their final game before the All-Star Break, on February 16, as Chris Bosh makes his return to the Air Canada Centre.
I will highlight three notable portions of this schedule and explain why I think they are key to determining where the Raptors will finish in this year’s standings. The three notable parts of this portion of Toronto’s schedule are as follows:
1. An incredibly difficult four game road trip which will see the Raptors face off against the likes of Chris Paul, Manu Ginobli, Dwight Howard and of course, Miami’s big three.
2. A set of five important games against five sub-500 teams, and
3. One incredibly important game when Chris Bosh makes his return to Toronto.
These three parts of this portion of their schedule leading up to the All-Star break will no doubt go a long way in determining how much momentum the Raptors will have following the break and ultimately will have a huge impact on whether or not they will make the playoffs this year.
I recommend that you mark this week in your calendars because believe me, it will be an important one.
However, I can tell you now that it is not likely to be pretty. In fact, that is an understatement; you can expect this week to be downright atrocious for the Raptors. If you do not believe me, just take a look at their schedule…
Monday, January 17 @ New Orleans (22-16)
Wednesday, January 19 @ San Antonio (31-6)
Friday, January 21 @ Orlando (25-12)
Saturday, January 22 @ Miami (30-9)
Six days, four games, four of the best teams in the league, and a total of FIVE potential MVP Candidates between them.
This will certainly be a difficult, and most likely an extremely disappointing and deflating, week for the Raptors, and as a result, the week to follow this horrible road trip becomes that much more important…
In my opinion, the five games that immediately follow that horrible road trip now become perhaps the most important five games of the season for the Raptors. From Monday January 24 to Monday January 31, the Raptors will play five games in a row against sub-500 teams, and the first three of those games are at home.
It is crucial that the Raptors take advantage of this opportunity and win as many of them as possible in order to rebound from the dreadful week that they will most likely have had the week before. Here is how the schedule looks for this far less difficult week:
Monday January 24 vs. Memphis (17-21)
Wednesday January 26 vs. Philadelphia (15-22) *Currently eighth in the Eastern Conference
Friday January 28 vs. Milwaukee (14-21) Currently ninth in the Eastern Conference
Saturday January 29 @ Minnesota (9-29)
Monday January 31 @ Indiana (14-20) *Currently seventh in the Eastern conference
It is crucial for the Raptors to rebound this week in order to recover from the devastating week they would have just endured. These are five teams that the Raptors can and should beat; therefore, they have no excuses.
In addition, it is also important to point out that the games against Philadelphia and Indiana will be even more important, since they are the two teams that stand between the Raptors and the final Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors need to focus on winning all five of the games. This would allow them to get on a bit of a roll and develop some sort of momentum, which will hopefully hold up until their final big game before the All-Star Break, which happens to be against…
It is almost as if the NBA did this on purpose. In Toronto’s final game before the All-Star Break, Chris Bosh will make his return to the Air Canada Centre for the first time since leaving the Raptors high and dry in order to join Dwayne Wade and LeBron James in South beach.
Speaking of LeBron, much like the way his return to Cleveland turned his season around, the Raptors are going to have to do the same thing when Bosh comes back to town. If the Raptors can somehow win this game, it would give them an incredible momentum boost that they will need to carry over to the second half of the season following All-Star weekend. For that reason, this becomes the key game that the Raptors need to win, since it has the potential to either make or break their season, because it will really influence how they come out and play in the second half of the season
Therefore, it becomes clear that this challenging road trip, the five game recovery period and the return of Chris Bosh to Toronto will all play a key role in determining the fate of this year’s Toronto Raptors, and they will all go a long way in determining whether the Raptors will still be around come playoff time.