The Raptors have looked better than expected in their first two games but the real test starts tonight as they kick off a three game road trip. Up first are the defending NBA Champion Mavericks, who have started slow out the gates but are probably salivating looking at their Friday night matchup. It doesn’t get much easier with the Magic & Knicks due up before the team heads home.
With this season being less about wins and losses, rather a learning process, I have broken down 3 issues the team needs to address to deem this road trip a success.
4 Quarters from DeMar DeRozan – 4 first half points through 2 games. It may be nice to pick up your team when they are down but DeRozan would be better served getting his team going early. Both coach and DeMar have addressed the issue and now its up to him to put his words into action. Goal: 2 games of double-digit scoring in the first half.
Rebounding from Andrea Bargnani – 10 rebounds through two games is not what the coach ordered. Even the naysayers can admit Bargnani has looked more active on both ends but the rebounding numbers don’t reflect it. Before the season coach said he wants to see Andrea pull down 2 rebounds per quarter and right now he is falling short. Surprisingly, the issue hasn’t been effort but rather those butter fingers. This trip will have him defending guys who play outside in (Dirk, Amare) and should give him an opportunity to up that rebounding average. Goal: One double-digit rebounding game.
Defensive Intensity – Early stats show the Raptors are buying into Dwane Casey’s defensive philosophies. Sure there have been breakdowns, but for the most part they are greatly improved on that end of the floor (Raptorblog broke down some stats in detail here). Coach Casey believes the team has a grasp on his defensive system, it’s just a matter of time and practice to carry it out consistently. Turnovers have been an issue early on but the guys have been active on the boards and in the passing lanes. Out on the road its easy to fall back into old habits when things are not going well but the Raptors need to stick to the game plan. Goal: Keep opponents under 45% shooting.