Things didn't go so well against Boston's big three but the Raps will be a little better armed for Houston's big two.
One can't say for certain but it's a good bet that the smile on Sam Mitchell's face yesterday following practice had a lot to do with the news that Chris Bosh is expected to make his return today after an absence of 51/2 games.
"We've got our big guy back," Mitchell said when asked how he would deal with Yao Ming this afternoon. Mitchell wasn't asked about the Rockets' other big gun, Tracy McGrady, but it's safe to say Bosh's return will help there too. In fact, Bosh's return, no matter what he's able to contribute after a week's worth of rust has built up, will help across the board.
While Bosh is only one guy, and Andrea Bargnani's hyper-extended left knee will continue to keep him on the sidelines for at least one more game, Bosh is the kind of difference-maker none of his teammates can be.
"What people don't understand is just having Chris on the floor makes our other players better," Mitchell said. "You have to account for him. I don't care how bad he is playing, you have to account for him. You know he can do something to beat you at any time so as a coach a good player can be having an off night, but you know it's just a matter of time. (You know) he's not going to keep missing. In your mind, you feel that way. He just makes us a better basketball team.
"Now the guys who have been coming in for him are not playing 38 minutes a game. They're playing 22 minutes and that 22 minutes they are playing they can give more."
Bosh has had to watch two of the poorer displays of basketball by the Raptors this past week and he has a firm handle on what he believes makes the Raptors go.
"I have seen that when we are more aggressive on offence and defence, we are one of the best in the league, but if we're passive, we're one of the worst," he said.
Mitchell said a lot of that passivity can be traced right back to Bosh's absence.
"I think a lot of it is when you start getting your better players back, that mentality changes," Mitchell said. "Now you know what is going to happen. We know there are certain shots that we are going to get now that Chris is back. When it goes in to him, they are either going to double him or take their chances and let him go one-on-one. He's either going to get fouled or he's going to score. Now they're stuck. When to come and when not to. That opens things up."
Listening to Mitchell yesterday, one was left with the distinct impression that the worst is over, barring another run of injuries, of course like they're just getting through. Mitchell is convinced that once he gets his guys back healthy and operating at top speed, which still will take a few games, they will have a chance, which is something they didn't have in either of the past two losses to Phoenix and Boston.
" I told our guys We're 10-10," Mitchell said. "We're very fortunate to be 10-10. The East is like (a roller coaster). So we haven't gained any ground but we haven't really lost any. If we can get healthy and then make our push that's what you need. We're capable of doing that if we're healthy."
Bosh's return is a good start.