The Raptors have had a few “statement games” at various points this season and to be honest, the statement that they have repeatedly made is that they are a sub .500 team. So at this point in the season, calling a game a “statement game” might seem a little ridiculous, especially when you have the record the Raptors do, but for Bosh and co., there is still a lot to be said.
The Raptors have maintained all season that when healthy, they are a good team that should be able to contend in the East. The argument has been made multiple times that not many teams would be able to withstand losing their starting PG and centre for extended periods and then playing with those guys injured when they actually did make returns to the lineup. There is some merit in that, but what also needs to be said is that the Raptors didn’t have a deep enough bench to deal with those problems like most other teams in the league did. Every team goes through injuries, some worse than others, so this argument has never completely held water for me.
With the Raptors waiting until the end of the season to secure their first 4-game winning streak, they have the opportunity to make a statement by beating the Magic to continue the streak. If they are able to come out and put a stamp on things against Orlando, then we might all be able to take the “Eastern Contender” talk a little bit more seriously. The Raptors will need to come out against a team that has almost twice as many wins as they do and make it known that when they are healthy, they are a legitimate team. We’ll see.
The thing that will be challenging for the Raptors is that not only are they facing a strong Magic team, they are facing a strong Magic team that has won six in a row and is fighting for playoff positioning with Boston. The Raptors had better not think that this game doesn’t mean anything for the Magic.
Luckily for the Raptors, there is no Jameer Nelson in the picture as he recovers from his shoulder injury, but please, let’s not see Rafer have a career game against Toronto…please?
3 in the Key
1. I’ve seen Dwight Howard do so much complaining on the court lately that he’s starting to look a little like Tim Duncan. Maybe a little psychological work on him (hard fouls, rough D) could get him to lose focus.
2. Attack Rafer. Jose has shown that he can still get that first step on teams to go in for his “layup and then wipeout” play and we all know that Rafer can’t play D. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
3. Rebounds will be key. This game is going to need some Pops. The Raptors can’t afford to have Dwight getting putbacks all night long.