Archive for November, 2007

Raptors vs. Mavericks Preview

Velcro and a little bit of Moonshine.

That’s what the Raptors are going to have to rely on tonight to have a chance at tarnishing Dallas’ perfect home record of 5-0 this season. Chris needs to be like those wallets you used to have in grade 4 that you couldn’t rip open with the jaws of life. His game has simplified into two possible plays – park himself at foul line elbow and make 3 second decisions on whether or not he is going to toss jumpers, or clamp down on the rock and forge straight to the basket with conviction. Most would advocate for the latter, but Bosh has still demonstrated a tendency to get stripped in the lane because he looks for the foul first and foremost, rather than looking to dunk. The key for Chris tonight is to attack early and often, keep the defenders anxious of foul trouble, and draw attention.

As the team’s second highest rebounder, Jamario Moon’s rebounding assignment is going to be tougher than Amy Winehouse’s. Dallas’ rebounding has been less than stellar this year, but Toronto has simply been that much worse. With Rasho Nesterovic out with sprained right ankle and Andrea confused in large crowds, Moon is going to have to prevent the cow from jumping over him and play above the rim for loose balls.

The Mavericks come into this game statistically better than the Raptors in virtually every category. Dallas beat Toronto both times last season, and 13 out of the last 15 meetings. And despite the fact that the Raptors have been playing better on the road, it’s been against teams with losing records. Dallas boasts 3 players in the top 30 scoring leaders this season (Howard, Terry, and Nowitzki) and 2 players (Diop and Nowitzki) in the top 30 rebounding leaders this season. Toronto boasts zero (that means NONE).

The outlook is bleak, but stranger things have happened. Enjoy the game.

Raps vs. Warriors Preview

Call it Return of the Jack. Stephen Jackson is back today from his 8 game suspension stemming from an NBA imposed suspension for a felony conviction, and “Captain Jack” could provide the Warriors with the spark that the 1-6 Warriors need. Here’s the strange thing about Jackson. As idiotic as he is off the court, he really does understand the game on the court. When Don Nelson starts talking about a guy having a high basketball IQ, then you really need to sit up and take notice.

Some people found it strange that Nellie would ask Jackson to be captain, but really, it’s just like back in elementary school when the teacher would take one of the worst kids and make him hall monitor in an effort to provide a position of leadership, a position that would bring out the best in that kid. The exchange between Jackson and Nellie (according to Jackson) has been quoted as going like this, “‘Jack, how do you feel about being a captain?’ I said, ‘I would love to, coach.’ I went out and had some champagne with my friends.'” The good thing is that he didn’t say, “I went out and shot bullets into the sky with my friends.” Looks like it is already working.

So how will Jackson make an immediate impact for the Warriors? Defence. To put it simply, the Warriors can’t play D. At all. I mean, not at all. They give up over 116 points per game on an unbelievable 49.6 FG% that opposing teams shoot against them. 49.6!!! Seeing that the Raptors almost score 100 per game, you would think that this would create a nice recipe for buckets falling from the sky, but emotion is a big thing, especially in the NBA. Anybody who watched last year’s playoff series between the Warriors and the Mavs (and how could you NOT root for the Warriors?) saw how some emotion and athleticism can get you through some tough games. If the Warriors are able to make a few big stops, that emotion could carry over to the other end, where they actually don’t have much of a problem scoring points (they’re actually first in scoring too, averaging just over 109 points per game).

I think letting Jason Richardson go wasn’t the smartest of moves for Golden State, especially when he played so well with Baron Davis. Richardson was also an emotional leader and it just seems strange that after a playoff upset like that, you would alter the team chemistry.

Luckily for the Warriors, there has been one bright spot to the season, the out of nowhere emergence of Kelenna Azubuike. The rookie has a statline that reads like this: 47.8 FG%, 5.6 RPG and 17.1 PPG. Azubuike has provided some energy and boosted the Warriors scoring, making them a lethal threat every time down the court.

If the Raptors can manage to stay away from falling into playing Nellieball, avoiding that running game, they should be okay, but I think this one could be close and could come down to the final seconds. Saying that, I don’t like when it comes down to that for the Raptors, since we all know Sam’s problems drawing up plays down the stretch.

Garbo Minutes!

If Jose doesn’t hit that big 3 with 45 seconds left, the Raptors lose that game. Plain and simps. Coming out and having a good second half, especially a good third quarter would have gone to waste. Right now, there is a lot of talk in the Pacers organization about falling apart in the second half of games (that has been a trend for them lately), but the conversation was nearly the Raptors falling apart down the stretch with a lead or even their inability to come out of the gate looking like they want to play.

I’m not sure what it is that is making the Raptors come out so flat almost every game. You can’t continually allow 30+ points in the first quarter and expect to come back all of the time, because the good teams aren’t going to let up and even if they do, they will probably still have a little more in the tank to seal things down the stretch.

What I did like out there was that Bosh has started attacking a lot more, taking the ball hard inside. The only problem is that he is doing it after he starts with some disastrous shooting, forcing him to mix it up. Bosh is taking far too many mid to long range jumpers, especially for a guy who is so good from the line. He is only starting to attack the rim when he has missed about 5 or 6 jumpers. He also still needs to be a bit more decisive when he gets the ball, moving quickly and using his agility to catch players flat-footed (which will send him to the line even more). His turnovers come when he gets that pass in the post, hesitates and then either does not protect the ball or tries to put it on the floor. That’s a dangerous place to start putting the ball on the floor, because it has a long way to go back up and there are a lot of hands in stealing distance.

How about Garbo getting some PT? Over 24 minutes! It’s like Sam looked down the bench and said, “Hey wait a second, Garbo, when did you get here? Get in the game son!” 6 rebounds, a couple of assists and 8 points, not a bad night at all. Also, there was an interesting article about his situation lately in the Star, where it is suggested that his leg may still be broken. So considering that Garbo played some pretty good D down the stretch, is it safe to say that Garbo on one leg is playing better D than a lot of Raptors on two? He wasn’t fantastic, but I’ll take that night from Garbo on a consistent basis. That was a solid contribution.

I’ve got to hand it to Sam for how he handled TJ and Jose last night. That was about as good of a job as he has done with them. TJ was having a good game and Jose was working in well, with both guys looking like they had recovered from that hangover the other night. What was nice to see was that TJ came out in the third quarter and didn’t force anything. Dribble penetration led to some good looks for his teammates and heading down the right side of the floor and turning for what is becoming a patented stop and pop jumper led to a lot of good looks for himself. With Jose coming in for the fourth quarter and playing the entire thing, it had to have made a statement. Jose was great in the fourth, just like TJ was in the third, but Sam didn’t feel the pressure to put TJ back in to close it out. Sam continued with Jose, because he was playing well, but even more importantly, because TJ had been sitting down for a while. It is a lot to ask for a guy to come off the bench after sitting for so long and have him finish a game where the opposing team is trying to mount a comeback. The end result? A combined 30 points, 17 assists and 4 turnovers. Both guys come out of the game not being exhausted and ready for the Warriors. Can we say again how lucky the Raptors are to have this luxury?

Maceo sighting! Maceo sighting! Imagine you’re Maceo Baston. You are sitting around, enjoying the NBA atmosphere and then all of a sudden, your coach tells you that you’re starting at centre. Hilarious. So you just come out, play 18 minutes, go a perfect 3-3 from the floor, pick up a couple of blocks and then sit down and tell everyone, “I’m Maceo Baston.” That was an example of how deep the Raptors bench is.

Okay, what is going on with Bargnani? The kid is a mess. He needs what in college baseball we used to call a “slumpbuster.” He needs to get out to a club and pick up a “sub-par” girl and then have a night. Something that will take his shame and embarrassment away from the court and onto another topic. Right now, he looks terrible. Picking up 3 fouls in just over 4 minutes is Yogi-esque. He also managed to take part in the most exciting part of a game, the blocked dunk attempt, but unfortunately, he was on the wrong side of that, making David Harrison look like Mount Mutombo out there. It’s always a difficult thing to judge, but it just doesn’t look like he is into the game out there, like he is concentrating on what he is doing. Right now, not only is he not clicking on the offensive end, he is a defensive liability, with his feet moving too slowly and his arms swinging at anything going by. I think it might be time for some serious 1-on-1 time in practice with Jay Triano, working on his footwork.

We also can’t forget that the Raptors were 12-23 from 3 last night (including AP from Bosh/MoPete territory…that is happening a lot now, isn’t it?), but as they live by that long jumper, they will die by it too. It looks great when you have it going, but when it isn’t, you end up with disastrous games like some of those we have seen this year.

Alright, next up, Golden State.

Raps vs. Pacers Preview

Check the standings. The Pacers are only a game behind Toronto in the East with what I would call far inferior talent. That’s not a testament to how well the Pacers are doing, it is more of an indication of how the Raptors are underachieving. But when you break things down, the two teams have more similarities than one would care to admit.

Both teams score about the same amount of points per game (Pacers 98.12, Raptors 97.75), neither team has awe-inspiring shooting percentages (43.9% Raptors, 41.7% Pacers), both teams have stars who have had their share of injury problems lately (Bosh and O’Neal), both have important players in their lineups who may suddenly go missing on any given night (Bargnani and Granger). That being said, while the Raptors should come out on top in this one, there is one thing that makes me nervous. Rebounds. Indiana is 5th in the league in rebounding…Toronto is 25th.

Now sure, the whole game doesn’t come down to rebounding and it isn’t like the Pacers have one guy out there who just rules the boards, but that is kind of what makes them a little more dangerous: any of those guys can go up and get some boards. Problem for them is, they’re not very tough (thank God for that), so a lot of those rebounded opportunities go to waste as nobody really wants to go up strong. They are also a middle of the pack free-throw shooting team, which doesn’t help.

I’ve never really bought into the whole Mike Dunleavy thing, I just don’t think he’s the big name people try to make him out to be. To me, it looks like a lot of nights he just doesn’t feel like going all out. You can DEFINITELY say that about Jamaal Tinsley, because if this guy starts a game cold, he just shuts it down. If he’s hot, look out, because the guy can stay hot, but let’s be honest, he’s a street baller. He’d have a blast playing against Rafer.

Starting to sound like a broken record here, but this is a team the Raptors can do some damage against inside. Because the Pacers lack toughness, they tend to slap guys on their way up, leading to them giving up 38 free throw attempts per game last year. The problem is, the Raptors only averaged 21 attempts per game last season and aren’t that far off this year, so I guess we’ll see how that whole strategy pans out. Sam needs to get through to the Raptors that they can win games inside. If they sit outside and shoot outside jumpers all night then they will be playing into the Pacers hands.

Needless to say, the whole turnover thing has to be taken care of too. That seriously got embarrassing the other night.

Alright, let’s go.

Humpty and Hump

While the Raptors lost tonight and it certainly wasn’t pretty out there, Raptor fans can at least take solace in the fact that Jamario Moon (Humpty) and Kris Humphries (Hump) are doing exactly what they are out there to do and they are doing it well.

Let’s start with Hump, because I really don’t think he gets a lot of credit for the job he is doing out there. 2 of 4 with 14 rebounds! He was even doing his best JYD/MoPete impersonation, diving on the floor for a loose ball and bumping a guy while he was at it. Here’s a guy who knows what his game is about and is executing his plan. Let’s also give him some respect for that nice little reverse layup. A little bit of mustard for that hot dog Hump? Wha?

There has been a lot written about Jamario Moon and while his story is a good one, let’s not pretend that this kind of thing hasn’t happened before. That being said, let’s also give the guy credit for making the most out of his opportunity and doing what he has been asked to do. He has been energetic, has grabbed rebounds and has only taken shots that have been there for him. He hasn’t been forcing shots, which I was afraid he was going to do as soon as he saw a few go down. Like Coach said tonight, “He’s no spring chicken” (one of my favourite sayings) and he is using his maturity to play smart basketball.

On a completely separate note, was it just me, or did it look like Rasho kind of pulled a Vince tonight? Yes, rolling an ankle can be seriously painful, but he was up and moving around and when they showed him going down the tunnel, he didn’t even have a limp. I dunno, I just thought that he was going to get taped up or something and that he would be back, because that was a killer. After that, we had to suffer through what has to be the worst performance I have ever seen from Bargnani. Dude just didn’t look like he felt like playing tonight.

Humpty Hump!

The Apparent Coach of the Year vs. Jerry Sloan

Okay, so the Raptors actually show up defensively and hold the league’s top scoring team to 92 points. The Raptors were having more than enough problems from the floor, shooting 38.5% from the field and 31.8% from 3. Which begs the question, when you have a 7 footer on the floor who is struggling with his shot (what the hell is he doing shooting from outside all of the time anyway?), wouldn’t you think that the coach would draw something up to get him closer to the basket or have a talk with him on the bench?

When you have a PG who isn’t on his game and for some reason keeps jacking shots, wouldn’t you sit him down and have a talk with him? Jose wasn’t any better on the floor, I guess it was bound to happen at some point, but that is where Sam has to call a timeout, get things settled and have a serious talk with his guards. There is no reason whatsoever for a PG (especially one who is cold on the night) to be jacking up 23 shots, 6 of them from 3-point range.

If you wanted to see the difference between a Jerry Sloan team and a Sam Mitchell team, all you had to do was watch the plays run after timeouts. Coach and Chuck touched on it a few times, but when the Jazz came out of a timeout, they ran a set play and executed it to perfection. Down the stretch, they also sealed the game with a quick inbounds pass with 6 seconds left, leading to an easy basket. When the Raptors came out of a timeout, we saw TJ make a good break to the baseline, only to continue past the basket, dish out to AP, who then scurried around a bit and another mess ensued.

But if you really want evidence of why Jerry Sloan is a better coach than Sam Mitchell, just look at the last play of the game. With about 17 seconds left on the clock, there is plenty of time to get down the court, score a quick 2 and then foul. Keep the game close and rely on the Jazz to miss some free throws. The Jazz shot just below 80% from the line on the night, about 3% higher than their average. The Raptors have been shooting at just below 82% from the line, third best in the league. It may not seem like that much of a difference, but in those few percentage points, you may get a miss or two down the stretch.

The only way the Raptors should have been jacking up a 3 at that point in the game is if TJ came down the court and before calling timeout, saw Kapono or AP locked up in the corner with a good look. I HAVE NO IDEA IN HELL WHAT THAT HOT POTATO SEQUENCE WAS BETWEEN TJ AND HUMP. Hump kept getting the ball and you could just imagine him saying, “What the hell are you passing it to me for?” Honestly, was it just me, or did it look like the Raptors had ABSOLUTELY NO PLAY DRAWN UP FOR THAT SITUATION?

It is too easy to just blame that sequence on TJ. Trust me, I’m not defending him on it, but it’s not like the rest of his team was moving. A bunch of statues standing around. But what TJ also has to realize is that coming down the court with that much time left on the clock, you have to go for one shot. If nothing materializes, if nobody is moving and it is getting near the end, then sure, put one up. But if you come down and are already leaving your feet, putting yourself in no-man’s land, then things just aren’t going to go well. The funny thing is that his shot didn’t miss by that much, just a bit short, but I think if you bring Kapono on the court and AP is out there, those are the guys you have to look to first, even if you just hit a big 3 a few seconds before.

Anyway, just another example of the Raptors being outcoached. This was an ugly game from a lot of angles, but when both teams are playing ugly, it is going to come down to discipline at crunch time and sadly, the Raptors don’t have it.

Raps vs. Jazz Preview

Be afraid. Be very afraid. The Jazz are a very good basketball team. They are well balanced, they are aggressive and they are well coached.

Let’s also remember that the Jazz from last year were a team playing without AK47. Well, they were playing with him on the floor, as in, he was wearing a uniform, but he was terrible last year. From missing open looks to looking uninspired to breaking down and crying, AK47 had one of those years that you just have to throw out the window. Let’s also not kid ourselves, Kirilenko has never been a guy to wow you with his ability, breaking a guy down and then throwing down, but if you give the guy a bit too much room, he’ll nail you with a quick and accurate release. He’s coming in averaging just under 12 points and isn’t afraid to get some boards, averaging just over 7. Shares the ball well too, 6.6 assists per game. Looks like he has already forgotten about last year.

I’m a little worried about how the Raptors are going to match up against Mehmet Okur. He’s a big man who can shoot AND get dirty inside and God knows how much trouble the Raptors have with that scenario. It is going to take a big defensive game from Rasho to keep the Raptors in this one. If Rasho can keep Okur at bay for the first part of the game, bump him a bit and try to wear him down or get him into foul trouble, then Bargnani can have some more room to work. If it goes the other way around, look out.

It just keeps going with this team. Carlos Boozer has emerged as a legit star with great shooting and beastly rebounding. He’s athletic and tough, making that combination with Okur dangerous. The thing that really makes things work for the Jazz frontcourt is that when Okur and Boozer and banging and hitting jumpers, you have to give them that much more respect, which opens things up for AK47. It’s just a well balanced unit up there.

Going into the back court, Deron Williams stepped up last year and let everyone know he was ready to lead the Jazz. He was lights out in the playoffs last year and has carried that momentum into this season, averaging a double-double.

Coming off the bench, Millsap, Giricek and Harpring? That’s not too shabby.

Jerry Sloan will have his team ready to play. You can always count on that. They are going to be disciplined, but that doesn’t mean they are going to be soft. The Raptors have to look for a tough game and be ready to quickly correct any weak spots that emerge early in the game. That will be up to Sam. If he sees something that is being exploited (possibly Rasho’s lack of speed on D), then he is going to have to quickly devise a plan to counteract that.

The Jazz can flat out score. They lead the league in scoring, averaging 111.87 points, but they can also be scored upon, allowing 102.5 per game. I’m convinced the Raptors can outrun the Jazz, which they should try to do, wearing down their big men. Once you start to wear down the big men, their legs get a little more tired, which leads to their shots drifting as they use all arms. The Jazz aren’t particularly a great rebounding team, so the key for the Raptors will be to grab rebounds and push the ball up the court quickly. Transition points could be the key to the game. I know some of you won’t want to hear it, but look for TJ to really be attacking this game (and then look for Jose to come in to give a different look).

Should be an interesting one.

Kobe Reaches New Heights in Bulls Loss

Apparently, Kobe Bryant has such an impact on the NBA, he doesn’t even have to play on your team to make them play like crap. We all know he can suck the life out of the Lakers while he is on the court, but for him to do it to the Bulls while he isn’t even there is truly remarkable.

The Toronto Matadors Raptors handed it to the Bulls tonight, but I seriously have to wonder what is going on in that locker room. Those guys did not look ready to play. They didn’t even look like they wanted to play. Let’s remember, this was a Raptors team playing its fourth game in five nights. That’s not a Scott Skiles team. If there’s one thing you can say about Skiles, it is that he is going to have his team ready to play. They are going to hustle. Not so tonight.

So maybe all of this trade talk really is having an effect on the mental preparation of the Bulls. I’ve never really been a fan of all that kind of talk, I think you should be able to block things out and get ready to play, but man, the Bulls looked terrible tonight. Terri-bull. Whooooaaa—thank you, thank you! Look for that headline on a Chicago paper tomorrow. The Chicago TerriBulls. Anyway, back to the Kobe thing. Is the trade/no-trade/trade/no-trade scenario really taking its toll on the Bulls lineup? Well, who really knows. But if Kobe ever does end up in Chicago, his teammates can count on receiving as many passes from him as they did tonight. Er…yeah, that would be zero.

So back to the Raptors. I wasn’t even one beer in, but I thought I was stark drunk when I heard that Jamario Moon was starting. Jamario “Humpty/Guy Larose” Moon? What? Sure enough, the Bulls come out flat, Jamario comes out hopping around and Sam looks like a genius. Moon just walks onto the court against a team that has owned the Raptors the last few years and puts up 12 points (with a few sick dunks), 6 rebounds, 3 steals and a blocked shot. Given, he had one “WHAT ARE YOU DOING” 3 point attempt (note to Jamario, put that option in the vault dude, the vault), but overall, he played a good game. Guuuuuyyyyyy.

One of the great lines of the night was Jose Calderon’s. In just over 17 minutes, he didn’t attempt a single shot and dropped 9 dimes. He picked up 3 rebounds too. Pair that with TJ’s 14 assists and 5 points and once again, we’re seeing a beautiful balance between the two. I still wouldn’t mind seeing some more minutes for Jose, but in a game like tonight’s those are Juan Dixon minutes.

Speaking of minutes, was Sam really not able to get Garbo more than 10 minutes in this game? Really? If there was ever a game where Sam could have allowed Garbo some more minutes, it was tonight. I’m not sure I understand what is going on here. Maybe the Raptors don’t have as much faith in his leg as he does.

What was that we were saying about Ben Wallace having lost a step? One block, 5 rebounds and no points. Not good. But you can’t single out Ben tonight, the whole lineup was bad. Only one player had a “+” rating on the night (Aaron Gray with a +4), they shot 33% from the field, 63% from the line and turned the ball over 20 times (although the Raptors turned it over 23 and somehow didn’t give up many points off those turnovers). The real telling point is that the Bulls were out-rebounded by the Raptors, which is almost impossible to do. When you put all of that together, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Anyway, nice for the Raptors to get a decisive win and have a few days off. It will be interesting to see what lineup Sam comes back with on Wednesday.

Raps vs. Bulls Preview

This game should be great. You have a Raptors team coming off a road win against an athletic team and the Bulls coming off a big-time statement game, where they beat the previously unbeaten Pistons, thus ending their own winless start to the season.

But as most of you know, it also presents us with the opportunity to view one of my favourite players to watch, Luol Deng. He just has so many great aspects to his game, from his ability to score to his D, just a great player to watch.

So how to match up against the Bulls? What do the Raptors have to do in order to beat the team a lot of people have winning the East? They seem to have almost everything they need, only time will tell if they screw all of that up and bring in Kobe, then again, as a Raptor fan, let’s just not mention Kobe again (81!!! Still don’t know how nobody knocked his ass down).

The Raptors are going to have to be physical, because this kid Tyrus Thomas is starting to come into his own. Now that he has realized that he just has to shut up and play, his game is starting to come together. Last year he averaged 5.2 ppg and 3.7 rebounds and this year, while it is still waaaaay to early to make a big deal of it, he is at 10.4 and 8.2. Along with this, he’s starting to realize how to use his body to position himself. He’s meaty, so the Raptors are going to have to be ready to get physical inside. Play him tough, because he can’t shoot free throws and if you attack him early, his aggression can work against him, making it easier for him to get into foul trouble.

Ben Gordon scares me. He really does. It’s like that guy just lives for games against the Raptors. He’s a combo guard who will take the ball to the rack without any care of getting knocked around. The guy is straight up tough. Occasionally, he believes a little too much in his shooting ability, but he is one of those guys who when he gets in a groove, he is a terror. If he gets going early, it could be a long night for the Raptors. Remember too, he plays better when he comes off the bench…so let’s hope he’s starting.

They don’t get enough credit, but I like how Chicago’s bench looks. Nocioni, Joe Smith, Chris Duhon…those are three pretty good guys to have coming off the bench.

I think Ben Wallace is starting to slip. This may sound absolutely crazy, but I think the Raptors can expose Ben Wallace. I think they have the athleticism to do it. Given, it won’t be easy, but Big Ben has lost a step and sometimes doesn’t seem to be as interested in banging for rebounds as he did in Detroit.

Anyway, should be a great game. Saturday night basketball…turning Canada on its ear!!! What? Something to compete with Hockey Night in Canada? Blasphemy! This is great.


Okay, so I’m watching the game tonight and every time they show Jamario Moon, all I can think is “The Humpty Dance, Here’s Your Chance to do the Hump…” Tell me that guy doesn’t look like Humpty!!! So just for a bit of fun, here are some lookalikes from the Raptors.

Jamario Moon



Humpty (from Digital Underground)


Chris Bosh



Jiminy Cricket







TJ Ford

TJ Ford


Carl Carlson





The Guy From Dexy’s Midnight Runners


Jose Calderon


Some Growling Chihuahua

Growling Chihuahua