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.