The Toronto Raptors (11-17) have faced a tough start to the 2009-10 schedule. No team has played more games. No Eastern Conference team has faced a tougher Western Conference schedule. Only New Jersey has played more road games.
But, has been noted and should be obvious, this version of the Raptors has little to no come-back ability and once down, games quickly get away from them.
The Raptors are 8-0 when they hold opponents to under 100 points and they look like defensive juggernauts doing it. But these same Raptors have let teams go off for 115 points or more 11 times and are a perfect 0-11 when that happens.
The lack of focus to let teams run up huge scores is hard to explain. But when your star player explains losses with “we’re just not a good team.” Some losses are in the bag before the ball is hoisted at center court.
The Raptors faced their last tough test of 2009 in Orlando on Wednesday night. And in an 118-99 loss, the Raptors continued to prove their inability to handle elite teams.
But starting on Friday the excuses are gone. Team confidence should be high. On Friday the Raptors face the 2-24 New Jersey Nets at the ACC. The softest spot in the Raptors schedule is about to begin.
New Orleans (11-13) are just 2-10 on the road. The Raptors must squish the bugs if they are to maintain any self-respect.
On Wednesday the Raptors travel to play the Detroit Pistons (11-14) for their only remaining road game of 2009.
The Raptors beat the Pistons in November, 110-99, at the ACC with the big three of Bosh, Bargnani, and Turkoglu going off for 63 points. The Pistons had no answers for the Raptors big men but the Raptors couldn’t stop the Pistons guards.
Then on Friday, the Pistons visit the ACC for the rematch.
Detroit is also in the midst of a five game “soft spot” to end the year. The games against the Raptors will likely define both teams seasons.
On Wednesday, Dec. 30, the Charlotte Bobcats (10-14) visit the ACC for the first time this season. At the end of November, the Bobcats pasted the Raptors 116-81 in perhaps the most embarrassing Raptors' loss this season.
If the Raptors can’t get up for a revenge game against a team projected to finish below them in the standings, the Raptors have no heart what-so-ever.
The Raptors have five games over a two-week period spaced out with no back-to-back situations and four of the games are at home. All the games are against teams with under .500 records.
A schedule cannot be any softer than this.
Finishing 2009 on a five game winning streak to bring the Raptors record back to the edge of .500 is mandatory. Anything less, heads should roll.