Archive for December, 2007

Raps vs. Hornets Preview

There is a ton of analysis that goes into basketball, all of the stats and matchups, but for the Raptors tonight, it is pretty simple. If they come out and shoot below 41% again (like the 37% they had the other night), they are going to get spanked. It doesn’t matter what kind of defense you play or what kind of strategy you have drawn up for the game, if you come out and shoot 37%, you’re pretty much not going to beat anybody, let alone a team looking for its sixth win in a row.

The power matchup of the night is going to be Chris Bosh against David West. I don’t think West gets enough credit for the impact he can have on a game and his play of late may help his name come up a bit more when people are talking about skilled players in the league. He’s a decent scorer, but I like his energy on the boards and his ability to help turn the play from one end of the court to the other, helping with the transition by getting down the court and being shot ready. When you have his energy and Tyson Chandler’s natural ability on the boards, the Raps could be in tough looking for second chance points.

So that leads to the shooting efficiency again. The Raps have been shooting poorly lately, so it will be of vital importance to get good looks and have their feet set when they are taking shots tonight. Guys like Hump CANNOT be taking turnaround jumpers and it wasn’t hard to see Bosh’s shooting woes coming since he has once again decided to limit himself to the outside jumper again. Sure, he has still been able to generate his double-doubles, but he needs to remember that inside game, which will allow him some better looks when he decides to pull up. The Raptors are going to have to get some bodies on bodies inside and get some offensive rebounds to win this game.

You would think that a team with a sniper like Peja Stojakovic would score more, but the Hornets have about the same offensive prowess of the Raptors. Chris Paul gets his teammates a lot of good looks and Tyson Chanlder made 62.5% of his two-point field goal attemps last season, so I find their scoring average (96.73) a little under where I think they should be (probably around 100). As good as Paul is, I think that sometimes he tends to eat a little too much of the clock and this may put some added pressure on his teammates to make shots as the clock ticks down. They need to move the ball a little quicker around the perimeter and Paul needs to attack faster, gettting that penetration and kicking out.

The Raptors are going to have to get out on the perimeter and contest shots, because the last thing you want is either Peja or MoPete getting hot, because we all know what can happen when those two guys get in a groove. That being said, we have all also seen what happens when those guys start a game on the wrong note. If the Raptors can contest some early shots and get some defensive rebounds, they should be okay. The toughest part will be those rebounds, because Chandler is a menace inside. The great thing about him is that even the balls he can’t grab, he still manages to tip out to his teammates.

Okay, so I haven’t really commented on MoPete yet. Any RF reader knows that he is my all-time favourite Raptor, a guy who could lock down on another team’s big scorer when you needed a defensive stop. I was really sad to see him go. Mo didn’t come up with a big season when he needed to and pretty much sealed his own fate, but he was a guy who always played hard and never took a shot at management or his coach even when his minutes went down. His numbers this season are a bit under his career averages, but the guy will always be able to play D and if I’m a coach, I’ll take that, especially when it looks like the Hornets are heading to the playoffs and will be one of the top seeds. Big D will win you playoff games.

Well, enjoy the game. I’m so sad I can’t call these guys the NOOCH anymore (New Orleans Oklahoma City Hornets). Now it’s just the NOH. Not the same.

Raptors Christmas Wish List

So, seeing that it will be another year of me not getting what I want for Christmas (Angel Boris, Melinda Clarke, Aida Yespica, Gina Gershon and Lisa Bonet over to open my chilled MGDs that I am downing as I watch non-stop Christmas Day basketball…with the Raptors playing the final game of a triple-header…and nobody talking…I have dubbed this gift, “Nudetopia”), I will list some things that I would really like to see happen with the Raptors after the Christmas break. Actually, I’ll just post my letter to Santa here:

Dear Santa:

Dude, I’m still not happy about you not being able to help me out with Nudetopia, especially since I have been asking for the same thing for about 5 years now…although I have to say, I’m not sure if it was you or God who came through by sending over the hot Animal Services woman to get rid of that dead raccoon in my backyard, so I’ll take that as a second prize…but then again, she flirted with me in front of the wife and that didn’t work out for anybody. Anyway, on to what I would like this year.

I’ve given up on Nudetopia, so let’s focus on the Raptors. I’ve listed 10 things I would like to see happen with the team after the Christmas break. Please do what you can.

1. Send Chris Bosh some videotapes of his high scoring games, which giant flashing stars around him whenever he takes it hard to the basket or when he’s at the foul line.

2. Scrap the Raptors Dance Pak and make it an International Dance Pak.

3. Send tapes of PJ from Raptors TV to the execs at MLSE with a cover that asks, “Guys, I mean, really? Is this the best you could do?”

4. Have Sam Mitchell figure out a way to get the Raptors to concentrate on playing a full game of D, whether it be in zone, man or even switching depending on the situation and/or team.

5. Send Jose a padded suit for when he plays, because with the way he continually goes to the floor and the lack of options behind him (now that things with TJ look bleak), we can’t afford for this guy to get hurt.

6. Speaking of TJ, if you can do anything to get things sorted for him, that would be great. Not just on the basketball level.

7. Send Bargnani a 350 pound stick of dynamite in some stretch denim IF YOU KNOW WHAT I’M SAYIN’. Slump buster man, SLUMP BUSTER.

8. See if you can find a tape of Sam at the Toni Braxton concert last year, when Lang saw an incident that brought a big smile to Sam’s face. BOOYA.

9. Send a Tony Little Gazelle to D-Mart…but with a burger tied to a string hanging from a stick about 6 feet in front of the Gazelle.

10. Write a note to Chuck, asking him to stop using the phrase, “(enter name here), just ate some rim.”

Okay, thanks Santa. Don’t swipe any of my MGDs, we left the milk for you boss. Don’t drink and fly.

Signed,
Jay

p.s. Come on dude, ONE TIME…NUDETOPIA! ONE TIME!!!

Suns Slap Raps

Okay, so I have the kid off to bed, have a few Shopsy’s dogs lined up, pull a Sleeman’s out of the fridge (wha? No MGD? I know…) and get ready to sit down to watch the game when I hear that Bargnani is starting at centre, which kickstarts a “Clouseau-esque” series of pratfalls that includes me almost dropping my dinner and spraying beer across the room. WHA? So just to make sure, I put down my bevarage and look at the screen and yes, I see a photo of Bargnani starting at centre. I do a quick series of events in my head, just to double check that this is the same second year player currently struggling as badly as a player can struggle and that the Raptors are playing AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBRE TEAM and yes, I am right again. So I start trying to figure out the logic behind it. I mean, Sam said in an interview the other day that it wasn’t up to him to light a fire under Bargnani, that it was up to Bargnani to do that, so by starting him ahead of Rasho at centre against one of the best teams in the league, he couldn’t have been trying to light a fire under Bargnani, because that would make him out to be a liar. Okay, so then he must think that the smart move, the STRATEGIC move is to put the player who is struggling the most, who is at possibly the lowest point in his career against a team that can get up and down the court in a flash and move the ball around the floor like the Montreal Canadiens used to move the puck on a power play in the late 70s. Pass, pass, pass, pass, score. I’ve got it, the STRATEGIC move is to put a guy who on his best days has problems defending slow teams into the starting lineup, to reward his poor play of late. But again, Sam isn’t trying to light a fire under him, because he said it wasn’t up to him.

So let’s do a little PTI “Role Play.” “Hi, I’m Rasho Nesterovic. I’ve been playing a pretty good centre for the Toronto Raptors, especially on the defensive end, where I have been boxing guys out. My minutes in the past few games haven’t been huge, but when I have been on the floor, I have been pretty solid. I’m looking forward to playing against the Suns, because I think I can help shut down Amare Stoudemire with my strong positional play. When I get to the arena, Sam Mitchell tells me that the kid who is struggling is going to be starting ahead of me. I once again question my coach and then decide that if presented with the opportunity, I will reach into his chest, pull out his heart and eat it in front of him.” Okay, well maybe he wouldn’t say the last part, but seriously, if you’re Rasho, aren’t you wondering what the hell is going on? Here’s the thing too, it’s not like he just didn’t start, he was a DNP-CD. Coach’s Decision! I thought that I had missed an injury report, that something had happened to Rasho on the way from the hotel, like he had tripped and smacked his head, but no, apparently that happened to Sam.

I thought I was going to be proven wrong, as right off the bat, Bargnani took the ball to the rack and threw down for 2. For a brief second, I thought, “Well I’ll be damned, maybe Sam knows what he is doing. Maybe they got through to him.” But five seconds later, Marion walked past Bargnani at the other end of the court and I thought, “Nope. Where’s my beer?” It’s not even that Bargnani had a bad night, because he didn’t. 13 points on 6-13 from the floor in just over 30 minutes isn’t bad. But let’s also remember that this is Phoenix and they don’t play D, they just let you take a shot so they can get the ball back. The just want to score on you again. I just don’t agree with the thought process (if there was one). How does Rasho not see the floor at all? Was he injured? He was listed as a DNP-CD. If you wanted Bargnani to get some minutes, wouldn’t you have done it against the Clippers, the Blazers or the Sonics? Why would you wait until tonight? Sorry, just thoroughly confused.

Anyway, it’s not like that played a big role in the Raps losing tonight. The Suns are a better team and as I said in the preview, this was a game that the Suns should walk into thinking they would win easily. The Raptors have been having trouble defensively lately and this was probably the worst team they could have faced at the moment. Watching the Suns move the ball around so quickly, having the whole team touch the ball before it went in was beautiful and painful to watch at the same time.

Let’s get right to Chris Bosh’s performance. Remember how I was saying that Bosh could be such a better player if he attacked and looked to draw some more fouls? Well, tonight was a perfect example of what I was talking about. Bosh was 10-20 from the field, with a lot of those coming from close range, but where he really made his game was picking up 20 additional points from the line, going 20-22. THAT’S how you play when you have the kind of talent he does. Play with a little bit of aggression. If you get knocked down a couple of times, so what, you get the hell back up and do it again. 20 points with the clock not moving. Now THAT’S what I am talking about. If Bosh continues to attack like that, he is going to create a little more fear in the competition, which works out well for everyone.

Remember when Jamario Moon was logging 40 minutes per game? Tonight, 13 minutes, 1-2 from the floor. Goodnight Moon, Sam doesn’t have any use for you tonight, because apparently we have other guys who are more capable of stopping the Suns on D.

As hot as Jason Kapono has been lately, my God did he look like he was shooting with a medicine ball tonight. Ugh. 3-11 and 0-4 from 3 point range. It wasn’t pretty. I think he was showing a little bit of exhaustion, because he wasn’t getting his legs into anything and it looked like he could barely lift his arms.

The good part of the night was having Colangelo on the mic for the entire first quarter. You usually don’t get GMs on the mic for that long and you especially don’t get them to be as candid as Colangelo was. It was good hearing that they plan on making every attempt at keeping Jose here, but I suppose after the recent events with TJ, that was an easier thing to say than it was a few months ago. But it was cool to hear him say things like he didn’t really expect Delfino’s D to be as good as it has (hey boss, neither did we) and it was also interesting to hear him talk about the level of confidence in different players’ games. It would be great if they could have Colangelo on maybe once a month. I’m not saying that he would have to be on for the whole quarter, but it is nice to have that additional insight.

Okay, moving on to Chuck and Leo. Guys, we know that Nash is Canadian and that you try to promote him as much as possible and that he is good for ratings, but enough already. The way the broadcast goes on when the Raptors play the Suns borders on ridiculous. The way they talk about Nash, you would think that he can also cure cancer and solve the wars of the world with a couple of crisp passes. I mean, how many shots did we see of him lying on his back on the bench, doing stretches? Then we have to hear about how he really does everything possible to keep his back loose so he can play to his peak. Really? Wow. Amazing. Nash is brilliant because he stays loose during games instead of cramping up and hobbling off the court. Wow. Nash makes a nice pass? Let’s replay it from three different angles and then show a closeup on him putting his hair behind his ears while a play is going on at the other end of the court. I’m all for supporting a Canadian guy, but these guys have total man-crushes on Nash and for me it just takes away so much of the game. Yes, Nash is good. Yes, he will be going to the hall some day. Yes, he is the best player this country has ever produced. Yes, he is vital to the success of the Suns. Enough already.

Okay, not much else to say on this game, ended up pretty much how I expected. The better team won and did it by simply not worrying about D and just “running” their game.

Raps vs. Suns Preview (Game 2)

Well, the last time these two teams squared off, the Raps got an old fashioned ass-kicking. They manged to score 123 points, but they still lost by 13 and even that margin was complimentary considering how poorly they played. The Raptors D was invisible, making it easy for 7 Suns players to reach double digits (including Barbosa’s 35 point effort), fueled by Nash’s 18 assists. If the Raptors have a defensive effort (or lack thereof) like last night, this game could get uglier than Sarah Jessica Parker.

The good thing for the Raptors is that the Suns have not been playing well lately, winning two of their last 6 and starting games like they had been out partying the night before. It has been almost 4 years since the Raptors have won in Phoenix, so you could say that they are due and that the time to break that streak might come tonight. The problem is, the difference between the Suns and the Raptors is that when the Suns get into a little funk like the one they are currently in, they find games like this one to get back on track. Good teams beat the teams they are supposed to beat and as much as I love the Raptors, this is a game that the Suns have to think they should be able to win quite easily.

A big question for the Raptors will be which Amare Stoudemire is going to show up tonight? Are we going to see the Amare who only missed two shots against the Raps last time out and dropped 25 on them and is coming off a 25 point, 9 rebound, 4 block performance against the Mavs or are we going to see the Amare who strangely disappears and becomes Mr. Invisible? You would think it would be tough to become invisible with Nash feeding you the ball, but somehow, every once in a while, Stoudemire just doesn’t come up with the passion and dominance that he should.

You have to like Mike D’Antoni as a coach. He has his team well prepared and when they get into rough stretches, he finds ways to get them out. He makes great adjustments during the game (you can also attribute a lot of that to Nash), but what I like most about him is that he really seems to enjoy being at the arena every night. It’s not abnormal to see D’Antoni having a laugh on the bench when something funny happens during the game, but then again, I guess it is a lot easier to laugh when your team is doing well most nights. Sam might laugh to keep from crying during Raptors games.

The Raptors are going to have to try to slow this game down, because if they try to run with the Suns, it’s over. Use a lot of the clock and try to work low in the post, then kick out if nothing is there. They have some great outside shooters, but I just hope it doesn’t get to the point where we have to rely on them to keep the game close. We will need Hump to clear some space inside, making room for his teammates, but we will also need a strong defensive performance from him (really, the Raptors need a strong performance from everybody tonight). I would also like to see Jose expose Nash’s defensive deficiencies, as Nash isn’t very strong defending off the dribble, so Jose might be able to get to the rim.

Enjoy the game.

Sonic Boom!

Have you ever done something really embarrassing? Something that halfway through you thought to yourself, “Man, this is downright embarrassing.” For example, I have a little sleepwalking problem. Once when I was in England with some friends, I ended up in the hotel lobby in my boxers, asking for a room key to the room I just left (or at least this is what was explained to me later). I snapped out of it later, found myself in an elevator full of Italian schoolgirls. Embarrassing (well, also maybe a possibility, seeing that I wasn’t much older than the Italian girls, but then who knows the laws on jail bait overseas, so I just found my way back to my room). Anyway, that being said (God that was a long intro), at some point in the third quarter, when Kevin Durant and Wally Szczerbiak were going off, the Raptors had to have thought, “Man, this is downright embarrassing. We have a kid who lives with his mom and a dude who never met a shot he didn’t like lighting us up right now. This is downright embarrassing.”

I said in the preview that I wasn’t sure why the Sonics had that bad of a record and then summed it up to their D. Well, they didn’t disappoint there, giving up another 115 points, but what I failed to mention was that THE RAPTORS WERE GOING TO HAVE TO BRING SOME KIND OF D ON THE NIGHT TO SECURE A WIN. I mean, damn, these are the kinds of games that get me upset and I’m not even on the Raptor payroll. So many glaring errors in this game, so let’s just get on with it.

The effort just wasn’t there defensively. How in the world 6′2″ Luke Ridnour is shooting over Bargnani, I will never understand. If Bargnani wants to understand why he isn’t getting a lot of minutes, it doesn’t just have to do with his lack of production offensively, he has to wake up on D. Instead of pointing to where the holes are in the lane and waiting for somebody to get there, fill the hole yourself and then hope you get some help. I don’t know how many times in the past few games I have seen Bargnani point to where a man should be, as if telling the opposing team that’s where they should be running a play, only to see them walk down the lane untouched, dropping in another easy layup.

Sorry, this is going to be scattered as things roll into my head (no notes tonight). Bosh needs to grow some balls. There were about 4 or 5 opportunities for him to dunk on somebody tonight, where instead he resigned himself to an attempted layup or finger roll, with none of them dropping. True, he went to the line on a couple of the misses, but those could have been three point plays if he had enough guts to take it hard and posterize somebody. I know I keep talking about Hump and his desire to take it hard to the rack, but if there was a surgical procedure where we could take some of Hump’s guts out and give them to Bosh in exchange for a little of Bosh’s talent, I would do it in a heartbeat. Any opportunity Hump gets to try to dunk on somebody, he’s taking it. You have to admire a guy who just says, “To hell with it, here I come, if you can stop me, do it.” It’s the equivalent of a pitcher on a 3-2 count saying, “Here comes my heat, if you can hit my fastball, then good on you, but I’m coming with the hard stuff right now.” If Bosh could just get that attitude on the floor, it would propel him into being seen around the league as a top flight guy. That’s not to say that Bosh isn’t a great player, he is (another double-double tonight), but what I’m trying to get across is that guys aren’t going to fear him the way they fear Garnett until he starts to show that he can take it hard and dunk over you, shoot over you or pass around you. If they appreciate your talent, but aren’t afraid of you at all, it’s going to be that much tougher for you.

So how does Szczerbiak get so many wide open looks? The guy comes out right off the start of the game and just starts nailing stuff, so you have to think, “Okay, we’ve seen Wally do this before. This is what they call Wallyball, when he just gets in a zone and starts hitting from everywhere. Maybe we should get up on him and make him put the ball on the floor.” I mean, that’s what any team with a tactical coach would say. That’s what they would be thinking when a guy comes out with the golden touch. But no, we had the pleasure of being engaged in the battle of the mental midget coaches (more on PJ Carlesimo later), where Sam must not have made it a point to his players to get up on Wally, because I think I saw it happen once. The thing with Szczerbiak is that he’s a total mental case. We’ve seen him get the jitters before, where he just can’t hit anything (which is why he has moved around a bit), so it’s not like if you got up on him and started making life tough for him, he was just going to find some other way to score. Wally’s a one-trick pony and once that trick is exposed, he’s just, well…a pony (that didn’t end up like I thought it would, but you get the point). You have to shut down player’s strengths and the Raptors weren’t even close to doing that tonight.

Just to show you (again) how the Raptors did not exploit the interior on the Sonics, check this out. The Raptors took 9 shots in the paint in the game and missed 4 of them. They missed another 16 from outside the paint and made 20. Now, okay, I understand that they put up 115 points and that their inability to defend against one of the worst teams in the league lost them the game, but sometimes a good defense is a good offense. There is no inside presence on the Sonics that the Raptors needed to be concerned about. You can’t get into a shooting game with a team like that, especially when you know that they can’t defend inside. You have to dictate how the game is going to be played. You have to show them that you are the better team and that you are going to determine how they play. I used to have a coach who would say, “You get two gunslingers in a shootout, somebody’s gonna get shot. Better hope it’s not you.” Which essentially meant that if you walk into a game and play the way the other team needs you to in order to win, then you’re probably going to lose.

Okay, so now onto PJ Carlesimo. I just can’t stand this guy. Never have liked him, even going back to the “Sprewell incident”. He just looks like somebody who should be teaching high school math rather than coaching a basketball team. Anyway, if you want to see how bad of a coach this guy is, just take a look at how he managed his team down the stretch. These guys were up by 18 at one point and here they are hoisting up 3s like they are the Raptors. Each time down the court, they take 5 seconds off the clock and jack one up. As Chuck and Coach mentioned, they were playing right into the Raptors hands and for once, the Raptors actually pounced on the opportunity. Sure enough though, down the stretch, when the Raptors needed an inbounds play, they couldn’t execute, so PJ didn’t have to worry about the game falling apart. Add this PJ to the PJ on Raptors TV as two PJ’s I hope to never have to see again (although I know I will).

Not to say that this had anything to do with tonight’s outcome, but what was going on with the refs tonight? Yikes! Usually Violet Palmer is pretty solid, but tonight, teamed with Spooner and Olesiak, it was a three ring circus. Phantom calls, inadvertent whistles, calls from the backcourt when two guys there didn’t call anything. A mess.

I have no idea what Jack Armstrong is talking about saying that the court needs to be wider. No, it doesn’t need to be wider, the players just need to watch what the hell they are doing, because the refs are trying to actually call the game by the rules now that they have been embarrassed over the summer. It’s the same thing with the refs calling carries, which was almost a non-existent call a few years ago.

D-Mart was a scratch tonight, you could see that coming a mile away. Juan got some PT at PG and did a good job of providing some rest for Jose Calderon, who was 3 rebounds away from a triple-double. I’m serious. We all know how good he is and that when it comes to the assist to turnover ratio, there’s nobody better in the league, but I don’t think any of us see him as a triple-double guy. Another brilliant effort from Jose tonight, did a great job of getting guys open looks and blew by defenders for easy layups (which really, everybody should have been doing since the Sonics can’t play D, but I’ve already said that). I would still like to see him stay on his feet a bit more when he is passing just outside the arc, it just makes me nervous and I don’t want to see other teams pick up on it and start to put additional pressure on him, resulting in some breakaway points.

Oh well, an embarrassing night. Hopefully they are read the riot act in time for tomorrow’s game in Phoenix. This road trip could get ugly. Should have been 3 up right now. Preview coming tomorrow afternoon.

Raps vs. Sonics Preview

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about watching the kid play. Kevin Durant has lived up to the hype, providing some pretty solid numbers (as their leading scorer) and being the only real highlight for a team that has no future in Seattle. It’s a poor situation to be in, where you draft a legit star, knowing that the team will soon be moved out of the city. Where are they going? Well, that’s not certain at this point (read: Oklahoma City), but they won’t be in Seattle for too much longer. You would think that between the state of Washington and the 5 basketball fans in Vancouver, they would be able to support a team, but I guess there is more behind it than we know. Anyway, on with the preview.

The Raptors should be able to take care of the Sonics, but then again, they should have been able to close out the Blazers the other night and from what I have been able to piece together, they didn’t do that either. But let’s be realistic. The Sonics are a team that let their top two scorers go (ahem…there’s your dedication to the fans), as Ray Allen went to some team called the Celtics and Rashard Lewis got big time dollars in Orlando. But while the Sonics have lost their two top scorers, they still manage to score at about the same rate as the Raptors. They are 15th in the league in scoring, the Raptors are 16th. They have been able to receive solid offense from Durant, but have also received solid performances from the double-double machine, Chris Wilcox, whose numbers this season are almost exactly where they were last year: 13.9 points and 7.6 rebounds. Wilcox has had double-doubles in 4 out of his last 7 games and plays some athletic basketball. It will be a good challenge for Bosh, because they play the same sort of game, although Wilcox tends to be a little stronger to the rim than Bosh does (which honestly, isn’t saying that much). Bosh is going to have to fight for some rebounds, so we will see how badly he wants it tonight. He tends to have good games against the Sonics (25 and 11 in his last 3 games against Seattle).

So why aren’t the Sonics winning? They have a stud kid leading the team in points, a guy who is a double-double machine, Green is another promising rookie, Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson are capable PGs, and Damien Wilkins is a good player when he doesn’t get shot happy and start throwing up bricks all over the place. So what gives? Well, the Sonics just can’t play D, it is as simple as that. They have absolutely no idea what is going on at the defensive end of the court. They give up over 105 points per game. 105!!! That’s their AVERAGE! But here’s where the Raptors can’t get caught up in how many points the Sonics allow and think that it is time to start shooting at will. The Sonics are third in the league in rebounding, a result of skilled boxing out and making sure every man is accounted for in the paint. The Raptors will have to play inside in order to open up the outside shot, using good ball movement to pull the Sonics apart. The Raptors are last in the league in scoring in the past five games, so facing the Sonics tonight could be a good way for them to get back into a rhythm, finding their strengths.

If there was a game where Sam should be trying to find Andrea some minutes, this could be it. The Sonics tend not to get out on shooters as quickly as they should, so he should have some time to get himself set before shooting. The biggest problem Andrea has had in these past 5 or so games has been that he is rushing his shot and pressing the situation. The Sonics should provide him with a good setting to turn things around. He just has to focus early in the game so that he doesn’t play himself out of his minutes.

Well, should be a fun game to watch, but these are the ones the Raptors can’t afford to lose. If they are going to get themselves into a good playoff position, these are the games that they have to take care of and have to do it early. This should be a game where they are able to build enough of a lead that they don’t have to burn Jose into the ground with another 40 minute game. I’m not sure what Juan Dixon has done not to deserve a chance to run the point while Jose is on the bench, I don’t see D-Mart as a logical sub and he has pretty much shown that in the past few games. I just have this feeling that when Sam gets guys in his doghouse, he doesn’t always take a good look at how it is really impacting the team. It just seems that Juan is the new Fred Jones, in a doghouse with one door, with Sam standing in front of it.

Okay, enjoy the game.

Who is Raptors?

Who is Raptors?

The snow’s falling and I’ve got an essay to write. There are lots of questions, but none more pressing than the one I led with. These guys can simultaneously stink up the joint and make it smell lemony fresh all in the span of 48 minutes. It’s refreshing and parching to the senses. It’s like watching someone make a really nice pizza, crust and everything from scratch, and then burn it to bits in the oven. The ideology machine at MLSE and their PR gurus will have us believe that the injuries are the source of this contradictory madness. They may be right. But there’s been some not-so-subtle indicators of some deeper issues plaguing this good one moment, gone the next squad.

Watching the game against Boston, it was amazing to see how significant Garnett is to his troops. The Boston teams of yesteryear, as in last year and the year before, took a lot of ill-advised shots and showed a lot of immaturity by not playing as a cohesive unit. They had talent, young talent, but a lot of one-on-one guys. They shipped those dudes west in exchange for a guy who has more focus that the Hubble.
He comes into the game after the Raps reel off a couple in a row and before you can say “Big Ticket”, his guys are back up by 18 and cruising to their ninth in a row. His impact is never subtle, always significant.

On the other side of the ball we have a team described somehow positively by Rautins and Swirsky as not panicking despite being down 15 mid-way in the fourth to the NBA’s hottest, most dominant team. From the opening tip until the final horn, this Raptors team didn’t simply play a bad game. Rather, Boston, like any good team that plays consistent ball will do, exposed the Raptors’ “deer in the headlights” tendencies.

Boston came out and laid some fucking wood. They hit Parker in the chops. They leveled Calderon twice. Clobbered Bosh. They played a suffocating man-to-man defense that looked a lot like a zone because of their scrambling. They talked and helped and forced the Raptors into more turnovers than assists and even more rushed and bad shots.

This team quite simply, with their asses being handed to them, kindly thanked the Celtics for returning them in tact. They didn’t push back, not once. They laboured and took what the Celts gave them. They wined to the refs. Even I know that if you get pushed in rec league, you push back. The hard fouls aren’t a coincidence, they’re a strategy.

So, who is Raptors?

Every single person in Raptorland knows that this team needs Andrea Bargnani. They need him now. He reminds me of C-3PO out there. He uses a lot of movement and energy (more than I thought was humanly possible) for one dribble pull-ups. For a professional basketball player, he sure seems confused as to what to do with the ball. His stance for one thing, is far too upright. He should go to YouTube and check some of his stuff from last year. With every passing game he looks less like himself and more like a poor man’s Pat Garrity. Who is Andrea Bargnani? Where is Andrea Bargnani? Have the Monstars stolen all of his skills? I think the scouting report is out on this guy. If you look at what opposing teams have done over the past month to contain him, it’s been to get in his grill. They’ve done that. Andrea has yet to show them he’s capable of playing under such pressure. Has he heard of ball fakes? Jab steps? Using his off-arm to create space? I think he’s better than this. Until then, I’m putting him on notice.

Who is Raptors?

I don’t know. They have quarters of magnificence and quarters of incompetence. Sometimes coming one after the other. I wish they could just play more like a .500 team that looked like a .500 team. Not like a .500 team that shows signs of being so much more.
This I do know. Turn down the volume of your televisions Raps fans. Don’t believe the hype being shoveled on there. Open your eyes to the inconsistencies, the lack of preparation and the indifference towards mediocrity. Ask yourself, “Who is Raptors?” When you figure it out, drop me a line.

This blog entry courtesy of ClingRap.

Raps vs. The Clip - Preview

The Clip…very close to The Clap. Both not so good. It is sort of like the Clippers have time travelled back to the turn of the century (or really any time that hasn’t been the past couple of years), back to when they were the running joke in the NBA. What to make of their demise? Can we say a collective “I told you so” about Ruben Patterson being a disruptive force? And by “disruptive force”, I don’t mean an impact player, I mean a guy who just ruins the team flow. 5.1 points per game and 56% from the free throw line. Signed him in August, waived him a few days ago. Nice.

But I can’t realistically blame this whole mess on Patterson. The Clip have had some hard luck. No Elton Brand (after offseason Achilles surgery), Shaun Livinston had one of the most disgusting injuries I have ever seen, Sam Cassell is starting to show his age with injuries (like a mysterious calf injury) and Brevin Knight is playing under his potential. Luckily for the Clip, Zombieman Kaman (side note, apparently, he wasn’t too happy with his likeness on one of the video games last year, saying that he looked pale and like a zombie…well…) has been playing like a stud, averaging a double-double on the season and stringing together 8 in a row, capped by a 23 point 16 rebound performance against Memphis on Friday night. Corey Maggette is scoring well, but let’s not forget that this guy never met a shooting opportunity he didn’t like. I think with the right coaching, he could be a better player, but he just tends to force a lot of shots. I do like the fact that he isn’t afraid to attack the basket, but when I hear a guy respond when asked about picking up the slack, “…that’s what I plan to do.” Yikes.

Without Brand and Livingston, the Clippers are struggling to find some consistent offense. It doesn’t help that they aren’t able to take their gimme points, shooting below 80% from the free throw line. When you’re missing your bigs, you need to capitalize on your trips to the stripe. Simple as that. They also are an average rebounding team, which doesn’t help them when they don’t have the same firepower they have in the past few years. Kaman pretty much does all of their rebounding for them, outside of him, not a lot of help on the glass. We will also have to see if Pokaroo (also known as Cuttino Mobley) shows up and if he does, if anybody really sees him. He’s effective when he makes himself seen on the court, but sometimes the guy is just invisible.

The Raptors should be able to take this game easily. The Clippers just aren’t the same team without Brand and Livingston and they just have too many bumps and bruises. Combine that with the lack of chemistry and Kaman having to do everything on D and they are ripe for the picking. That being said, can we please see the ball go inside a bit? At least just to start the game and get it on their mind a bit?

Can I call it? Can I call this as the game where our 7 foot shooting guard forward/centre comes back with a decent game? Away from home, plenty of women of suspect morals out in LA, the kid’s going to bounce back against the Clip. Let’s hope he doesn’t come back with the Clap.

Enjoy the game.

Hello? Sam, Hello?

Okay, I have to admit it. I’m not a basketball genius. You’ve probably already realized that. I understand the game and appreciate it, have a pretty good grasp of what should be done and when, but I’m not the Stephen Hawking of basketball Xs and Os. But just humour me on a few things here, cool? Let’s just pretend that I have a half ounce of a clue what I’m talking about.

When you’re playing the Boston Celtics, you have to make the most of every opportunity down the court and you can’t afford to fall into a hole, because once they have you down, they step on your neck (like good teams are supposed to). So I would think that how you come out in those first minutes of the game would be a statement on how you would like the game to play out. It’s your home court, you’re dictating how the afternoon is going to go, right? Okay, so then why do the Raptors come out with 3 jumpers to start the game, all no good? If I’m the Celtics, that tells me right away that the Raptors are going to try to rely on the outside shot to win, that they’re afraid to attack the basket. I’ve mentioned here quite a few times that the key to games like these is to attack, because even if you don’t get the basket, you get the foul and you put pressure on their best players. Sure enough, the Raptors opened their scoring on Bosh attacking the basket, where he got fouled and went to the line for 2.

Continuing with this theme, remember how I was just talking about Hump having some success with that jumper and then falling in love with it? Well, Hump had another solid game, picking up 7 boards and scoring a few points, but those jumpers from the top of the key made me cringe. On one series, Hump started to drive, collided with the defender and then just jacked up a jumper like the clock was running out, like he was Jordan looking for the hoop and the harm (and yes, that is the last time I will make reference to Jordan and Hump in the same sentence). If this wasn’t bad enough, he followed that play with a turnaround fadeaway jumper the next time down the court. A TURNAROUND FADEAWAY JUMPER. From Hump. If there was ever evidence of a guy falling in love with his shot and playing with some misplaced confidence, that was it. That play. That’s where Sam has to pull him aside and say, “Hump, you’re playing well, love the energy, but what in God’s name was that?” Then go a little street on him, “Hump…IS YOU CRAZY?”

There may be something to the Raptors not attacking enough, because the refs were really letting a lot of rough stuff go on, but realistically, they were letting more stuff go against the Celtics than they were the Raptors. How that call on Pierce wasn’t called I will never know. Then to get a technical just sealed the poor refereeing. But that would be too easy of an excuse for the Raptors. They just weren’t looking inside, even as they were shooting at a miserable percentage. At some point, the coaching staff has to get it through to the players (especially when the shots aren’t dropping) that you HAVE to play inside. You can’t be afraid of KG and Perkins in there. Are you going to get blocked? At some point, yeah. But you are also going to get to the line and have a chance to put points on the board without the clock moving, which is key against a strong defensive team like the Celtics.

So the Raps walk into the second quarter and can’t score a lick. Stuck on 17 points. Something like 4 minutes go by with them stuck on 17 and jumpers being let loose like they’re going out of style. I’ll let you guess what broke the scoring drought. Yup, Hump picking up a rebound and then going right back up for a dunk. Okay, so that’s something to fire up the Raptors, right? That’s where Sam can point it out and use that to motivate his guys, right? Well, somebody forgot to tell Juan “Instant Offense” Dixon, who while trying to make a move, fell, kept his dribble, got to his feet and JACKED up a J that didn’t have a prayer. To compound problems, he didn’t get back on D, 2 the other way. Nice.

The thing I loved about the Celtics today came down to one simple play. Posey’s hard foul on Bosh. Absolutely nothing wrong with it and it sent a message: Hey, Raptors. You guys might not like coming in here very often, but just in case you forgot why, here you go, SLAP! All Posey was doing there was letting the Raptors know that it was not going to be a Sunday walk in the paint if they ever decided on going in there. Then to provide a kick in the balls, Rajon Rondo walked through the Raptors paint, looking like he was running warmup drills with a bunch of pylons. Nobody touched him, nobody stuck out an arm, they just let him walk right through. He did it a couple of times. Somewhere, Charles Oakley was saying, “WTF, are these guys kidding me?”

So who would you think out of all of the Raptors would actually attack KG? Who would have the guts to try to dunk on him? Yup, Hump. Probably the guy with the least amount of skill on the floor for the Raptors, but at least he was able to figure out that his shot wasn’t working and that at SOME point SOMEBODY was going to have to attack KG. Too bad it took until 3 minutes left in the 2nd quarter for it to happen. It took almost half the game for the Raptors to realize that you shouldn’t get pushed around in your own building by a division rival. Embarrassing. So here’s the thing. Either Sam isn’t making it a point to the guys or they aren’t listening. Either way, that responsibility lies with Sam.

Note to Rajon Rondo: Dude, you’re having a decent system because of the guys around you. You still aren’t legit. You have no business talking smack to anybody.

Okay, so it took that long to get through to the Raptors, right? Come out in the second half and get the ball inside, get some ball movement going, right? A couple of screens maybe? Jose penetrating and dishing to Bosh maybe? High screen and roll at least? No. The way the Raptors start the second half is with a Jamario Moon 3 attempt. That would be the same Jamario Moon who shoots 24% from 3. Yup, that’s how the Raptors come out to start the second half. Of course, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke the first time, that he wasn’t going renegade, Moon jackced up another 3…with the same disastrous result.

So maybe the second half could be saved by our 7 foot shooting guard centre/forward, right? He’s due to have a decent game, right? Um…no. Right now, the magic is gone from Il Mago. Remember how Gordie Howe would have his own version of a hat-trick? The goal, assist and fight? Well, Bargnani created his own. The “fail to box-out resulting in 2″, followed by the “ludicrous off balance jumper”, capped off by the “getting burned by a sping move in the lane.” Nice work kid, take a seat.

The Raptors are making a run! The Raptors are making a run! Don’t they do this every time they are getting taken to the woodshed? Well, I though today they might actually get it close. There were finally working inside and the points were coming. Could it be that Sam finally got through to them? Well, um…no. Attention Raptors: Kill the rally via two forced 3 point attempts, the follow it with Gatorade Graham inexplicably dribbling the ball just inside the arc and turning it over…two the other way. Rally officially dead. Yes fans, that was our DRK moment of the game. Designated Rally Killing moment of the game.

Leo made a good point (I know…scary…but as Lang was saying to me yesterday, he has actually been better this season), saying that when your offense becomes predictable, it’s not going to work and one of the things that is going to happen is that shots are going to get blocked. Well, it’s not only that shots are going to get blocked, they’re just going to be tougher to get clean looks on, because the opposition doesn’t have to worry about a whole part of your game. If you’re a boxer and a guy doesn’t have a jab in his arsenal, it’s going to be a long night. At some point, he has to use it to keep his opponent honest, to keep them at an effective distance so he can execute the rest of his attack. The Raptors just don’t seem to understand that.

Alright, I’ve vented enough. But just to end…DID ANYBODY ELSE SEE THAT BLONDE MILF BEHIND THE RAPTORS BENCH? Please, please, please make sure she has a ticket to every game. Wow.

Raps vs. Celtics Preview (Game 3)

Well, I have been absent for a while. My explanation? My computer decided it was time to have a final meltdown…and when I say meltdown, I mean meltdown. Anyway, just bought a new system today, back in business. Now I can get my porn Raptors stuff on a big screen without worrying about crashes.

So this weekend has been good so far. Bought a new computer, Habs are taking the Leafs to the woodshed (as any RF reader knows, as much as I love the Raptors, I hate…HATE the Leafs and love the Habs) and there’s plenty of snow coming down. The final cap would be for the Raptors to take care of the Celtics tomorrow afternoon.

It will be interesting tomorrow for a few different reasons. The first is that we will get to see Bosh playing healthy against the Celtics and we will also get to see how he deals with the fact that KG killed him in overtime last time he played against them. As deep as the Raptors are, Bosh is an important part of the picture and to compete against the Celtics, they are going to need him at both ends of the court.

Another reason why this game will be interesting is because the Raptors will not have TJ in the lineup. The reason this is signicant is because TJ has owned Rajon Rondo. I mean OWNED. Rondo just can’t handle TJ on D, not being able to keep up with his speed. That’s not to say that Jose isn’t quick too, but there’s no argument when comparing speed between Toronto’s guards. That being said, we have all seen how good Jose is at managing a game, slowing things down when they need to be slowed down and having good court vision, so maybe we will see a different approach from the Raptors this time around.

I don’t care what they say about “rust”, Bargnani looks terrible right now. Given, his stats were low the other night as he ran into foul trouble early, but that’s half of the problem. At some point, the Raptors are going to have to deal with Bargnani and his tendency to get into early foul trouble. When you play against the big teams (like the Celtics), you need all of your players at their best and if Bargnani keeps getting into early foul trouble, the Raptors are going to have to find other options again.

Here’s something that will be interesting to watch: how much Hump is going to play. Can I restate (for the millionth time), this is the guy we got for Hoffa. Absorb that for a second. Okay, now here’s something that I like from him. He has realized that with his frame, he can attack the rim when he pleases. The thing with Hump is that he is starting to realize that while he may not sink every dunk attempt or get some of those layups to drop, he’s probably not going to have them blocked either and that is providing him with confidence. You also have to love the energy he is bringing on the boards and the serious D he is playing. The only thing that makes me nervous is that he has been hitting his jump shots lately, which may give him a false sense of ability in that part of his game. The last thing I want to see Hump doing is falling in love with a jump shot. There will be a lot of bumping going on between Hump and Perkins and it will be interesting to see when they have him slide over for double teams.

These are two teams that are just rolling right now. The Celtics come in winners of 8 in a row (9-1 in their last 10) and the Raptors seem to have found a groove, coming in with 4 wins in a row (7-3 in their last 10). As good as Boston is, some of you may be surprised to see that they are 11th in the league in scoring, only a few spots ahead of the Raptors…problem is, nobody can score against them. They’re the best defensive team in the league and the Raptors will have to have everything clicking in order to come out with a win.

Let’s hope that our 7 foot shooting guard…oh wait, did I call Bargnani a shooting guard again? Silly me. Let’s hope our 7 foot foul machine has a good game, the Raps will need him.

Enjoy the game.

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