North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Sleepwalking in Seattle

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Jet lag is a terrible thing. It confuses the mind and screws up the body. You get tired when you shouldn’t and find yourself awake at odd hours of the night. There’s no real way to combat it, you just have to let your body adjust and tough it out.

Hopefully, that’s what the Raptors can do on this road trip.

They opened this four-game swing to the west coast with a close win over the LA Clippers. Then came two straight losses to Portland and Seattle, the two teams with lottery picks last year.

In each of those two games the Raptors were leading fairly late in the game, and although they kept it close, they tired down the stretch and lost.

Take the Seattle game, for instance. The Raps for most of the game, until halfway thorugh the third quarter took the lead on a 6 point run. By the end of the third, they had scored 36 points and led by nine.

Once again, the Raptors made a run, scoring 15 and holding the Sonics to just two points. And a late three by Carlos Delfino would have made it a two-point game with 31 seconds left.

But he had stepped out of bounds, and the shot was reversed.

It was typical of this Raptors road trip, which has seen two leads trickle away late in the game, and another they barely held onto. And while it’d be easy to blame this on such maladies as jet lag, it’s perhaps a sign of a Raptors problem: depth.

The Raptors are missing two key players from last season’s division championship: Jorge Garbojosa, who is out for the season, and TJ Ford, whose career is rumoured to be over. And now that players such as Andrea Barngani and Chris Bosh aren’t playing well, there’s nobody on the bench who can step in and replace them.

This means that players like Kris Humphries, Delfino and Kopono are coming off the bench for major minutes and Joey Graham and Juan Dixon are suiting up.

However, give the Raps some credit. In his replacement of Ford, Jose Calderon has been great, perhaps even better then Ford. Jamario Moon has come out of seemingly nowhere to become a core part of the Raptors, showing skill at both ends of the court.

But that might not be enough to make the playoffs this year. Teams like Boston and Orlando are much, much better then last season. In the absence of Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards are staying a .500 team and can sneak up on somebody when he comes back. Both Detroit and Cleveland are obviously playing well.

While they are not likely to beat Boston, Toronto needs to start beating teams like Seattle, Washington and Milwaukee if they want to see the postseason again.

Of course, beating New Orleans, San Antonio or Houston would be nice, too.

Call it a late Christmas present.

Or an early taste of late April.


Written by M.

December 22, 2007 at 6:03 pm

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