Raps vs. Magic Preview

There were so many easy lines I could have used to start this post. I could have made some joke about the Raptors being Kryptonite or that the Raptors are going to have to drive the Lois Lane to win the game tomorrow, but that would be too easy…and while I can deal with being a man-whore, I simply cannot deal with being called easy. Oh yeah, we’re talking about basketball here, right?

As I am typing this, the Magic have just finished putting a hurt on the Pistons, which I am going to simply sum up as a little bit of emotional carry over for the Magic and a bit too much of a layoff for the Pistons. I am still not convinced that the Magic are the team that a lot of people think they are. True, tonight, with Howard only scoring 8 points, they still managed to find a way to light up the Pistons for 103 points, but again, see my rationale above.

If there’s one area of Howard’s game that he will need to improve on, it is passing, which isn’t anything abnormal for a big man to have to work on. People underestimate the importance of a big man being able to pass. If you want to see how much more dangerous a big man can become when he is able to pass, take a look at the career of Vlade Divac. When you look at Shaq, his ability to draw attention and then find men cutting to the basket has allowed him to diversify his game and force teams to respect his abilities at the same time. But here’s the thing, you can’t just throw a bunch of double teams at Howard, because he is strong enough to fight through them and if he is able to push the ball back out to its initial entry point, the Magic can get the ball around the perimeter and then you’d better pray they don’t find Hedo Turkoglu…because we all know what happens when that guy gets in a groove. Let’s just hope he doesn’t pull off another November Miracle with another 15 rebounds…sorry, a CAREER HIGH 15 rebounds.

It’s pretty much a given that the Raptors are going to be outrebounded, but if they are going to get anything accomplished tomorrow night, they are going to have to have a lot of crisp passing around the perimeter in order to find a lot of good looks for Andrea, Kapono and Delfino…well, Delfino will let it go anyway, but either way, the Raptors are going to need the outside shot to be clicking. I just don’t see the Raptors having the inside toughness to attack the Manchild, although I think it would be a good idea since before the All-Star break, the Lakers showed how they were able to get him in foul trouble by consistently going right at him. Howard didn’t miss a shot in that game, going 8-8 with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but the Lakers were able to keep his production limited down the stretch, allowing them to pull away for the victory. The Raptors would be wise to learn a lesson from that game.

So with it looking like TJ’s injury woes are going to continue, Calderon is going to have to carry some serious minutes. With Juan Dixon and possibly Darrick Martin on the block, how much do you really want those guys in the game? Okay, that’s a tricky question. First, how much do you want them in ANY game (gotta feel for Dixon here though, he’s playing out of position…still think he’s a talented player) and second, how much do you want those guys to go out and make crucial errors, lowering their value (if that’s possible). Who knows if those guys will even be moved (I’m telling ya, D-Mart has some serious dirt on somebody in the organization), but either way, both of them have shown that when called upon to run the point, it just isn’t happening.

Well, enjoy the game.