Toronto Raptors: A Team for Whom Winning Is More Than Half the Battle

Jeffrey RobertsCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 06:  Jose Calderon #8 of the Toronto Raptors makes a shot around David West #30 of the New Orleans Hornets on February 6, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Hornets defeated the Raptors 101-92.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

What if Shakespeare had only written half of Romeo and Juliet ? It would be a nice story about falling in love with no consequences whatsoever; no one gets poisoned, stabbed, or has a thumb bitten at them. Boooooring.

What if Coppola only made the first half of The Godfather ? We'd all be wondering why the Corleones were softer than a marshmallow in heat. Hm, that's slightly inappropriate...

But what if the Hokey Pokey was never completed? We'd never know what it's all about. It would be chaos, pure, PG-Rated, chaos.

So let me tell you what I'm all about (I swear to God it's not the Hokey Pokey): If the Toronto Raptors need to improve on one thing, it's finishing games and winning the second half.

We've almost closed the book on the NBA preseason (Sonny Weems: A Man For All Preseasons is definitely making the bestseller lists); and the premature season hasn't treated the Raptors kindly thus far. They've compiled a 2-5 record and have had fans everywhere wondering what this means for the upcoming season.

It could all just be preseason hyperbole, or it could be some ominous foreshadowing, at the moment it's improbable to tell (that improbable was for all you time travelers out there, I got your back Doc and Marty).

One thing that needs to change for the Raptors to win is the fashion in which they play the second halves of games.

Last season the Raptors had the tendency to mail in (or more accurately, blow) the second half. Of their 49 losses, 16 came with Toronto leading, or tied with their opponents at halftime.

If you take half of those leads and convert them to wins, the Raptors are a .500 team and playoff bound. If you convert all 16, the Raps are 49-33 and third in the Eastern Conference. Big ifs, but Toronto had the opportunity to win these games.

This season, if the Raps want to win they have to reassert their killer instinct.

So how do you go about that (and it's not by killing people, you psychos)?

Too often the Raptors had possessions that featured five guys standing around doing nothing. It was like an episode of Entourage, sans the sunglasses, and casual homophobia.

The easy answer is that the Raptors didn't have a lot of options. Their trio of Bosh, Bargnani, and Calderon was the driving force behind their offense; and injuries to Bosh and Calderon limited them severely.

Teams could lock on to the threesome and derail the Raps' offense. Shawn Marion wasn't much for creating his own shot, and beyond him Toronto had no real tangible threats to keep teams honest. Like how the New Jersey Nets lied about stealing those cookies. I SAW YOU DEVIN HARRIS. THAT WAS MY PEANUT BRITTLE.

That's why the Raps and Bryan Colangelo swiped Hedo Turkoglu. He's a guy who can drive and drum up some offense on his own.

Last season the lowest net PER from a Raptors position was the small forward spot (-3.8). Enter Turkoglu, the big man will give the three a much needed shot in the arm, by providing matchup problems on the offensive, and to a lesser extent, the defensive end.

Having Turkoglu (and Jarrett Jack too for that matter) allows the Raptors to have playmakers on the court at all times. The lull periods that came to the Raps last season can be reduced, hopefully.

In this preseason the Raptors have dropped one game (to the Houston Rockets) while leading at the half. Not too shabby, but the fact that they're still 2-5 doesn't inspire confidence.

For reference though, the Cleveland Cavaliers went 3-5 last preseason, Minnesota was 6-2, and Sacramento was 1-7. Okay, the last one wasn't that crazy. But it's just something to note, that preseason successes and failures don't always dictate regular season results.

One thing that's for sure though, is that if the Toronto Raptors don't learn how to finish games, fans are in for a long seasons. And it's already like six months, so you might want to buy some canned goods or something.

(And if there's one thing for sure, it's that I say there's one thing for sure a lot. That's for sure.)

Are you in a sporting mood? Then head to The Chirp Show . It's got everything you need, except for food, shelter, money, and love. Now with poorly edited podcasts! Suck it Survivorman.  


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.