Archive for November, 2008

Game 13: Raps vs. Celtics – Pre-game

Well, this might not be pretty. This game might be the equivalent of one of those “practice girls” you may have had in high school. But then again, sometimes you can catch a team coming in expecting to win, you can…ah hell, that ain’t gonna happen.

It’s not all gloom and doom in Raptorland, but after seeing the Raptors continually lose leads, even the Cleveland Browns are saying, “Guys, seriously, WTF?” I’m not sure if there is a better or worse team for the Raptors to face right now for a variety of reasons. First, JO is day to day after straining his surgically repaired knee on a flagrant foul. If he does play, I don’t know if this is the team I want him in there banging with. The last time the Raptors played the Celtics, JO came out aggressive right off the bat and had a great game. If he plays, I can’t see him going in with that same kind of mentality and any sort of ambivalence toward aggressive or tough play will be sniffed out and taken advantage of by the Celtics.

Also, when you essentially have a complete breakdown in as many areas as the Raptors did against the Nets, with only a day in between games, I’m not sure if there is enough time to figure out what went wrong and fix things (well, outside of maybe learning an inbound play or two…come on Sam, one time, draw up a play ONE TIME…I can’t defend you forever). Do you really want to walk in and face the Celtics when you a) can’t execute; b) don’t have a killer instinct; c) have a big piece injured; d) have a PG who suddenly can’t play D; e) a “lock down” defender who suddenly looks a step slow (AP…you need to step it up too buddy, I can’t defend you forever either)…God, I could go on.

On the other hand, the Celtics could be the perfect team to face for a variety of reasons. First, if you get taken to the woodshed, you can say that without JO in the lineup, you have some problems matching up and if he does play, you can say that he wasn’t 100% and the Celtics were able to take advantage of that. But more on the positive, sort of “winning thinking” side, you can try to rally the troops. This is the time when all the cliches about “stepping up” come about. When you just got punked in your own building by a team that you probably should have beaten with a leader whom the majority of your fan base hates, you might want to use that as motivation to stand up and say, “That can’t happen. We are men here. MEN.” (p.s. I’m okay with Vince now, I mean, get over it TO…it was a long time ago…now we’re turning into the hurt “practice girl” from back in high school crying about how he broke our hearts by leaving. It was what it was, move on…)

So if we flash back to Jose and KG talking smack to each other (it’s great to see that Jose’s English is far enough along that he can even get into that now, as opposed to when Gary Payton was all over him and all he could essentially say was “Hello”), this would be a great opportunity for Jose to step up and show that he is a top shelf PG. This will be his chance to talk some smack by actually playing some D. If JO isn’t playing, Jose will really need to manage the team, finding guys in position and making the most out of what is available in front of him.

3 in the Key

1. If a miracle comes along and the Raptors have a lead, they will have to find a way to slow things down and hold the lead.

2. I think we all know from the last game against the Celtics that Sam can’t put Jason KapOH-NO on Paul Pierce, especially in the 4th quarter. That was tough to watch. I felt embarrassed for Sam for making the mistake, KapOH-NO for getting getting continually beaten like he owed Pierce money and for all people who had to watch it happen over and over. Just a lot of general embarrassment.

3. Try to find a way to score some fast break points. If there was ever a time to run (a quick offense, not run as in, out of the building), it would be this game.

Game 12: Raps vs. Nets – Post-game

Well, the guy who we said the Raptors couldn’t have hurt them, seriously hurt them. Well, he more than hurt them, he killed them. Vince did everything that a team leader was supposed to do last night, making the shot to send his team into overtime and then finding a way to get loose in overtime to throw down a dunk to win it. But realistically, this is another game that the Raptors let get away and while we have been defending Sam here, this could be the game that essentially sealed his fate.

I bring up Sam’s job security here because there really isn’t any excuse for a) Vince being able to even get a 3-point shot off at the end of the game; b) Vince being able to get loose at the end of the game for a dunk. You have to know that when the game is on the line, there is only one guy the Nets are going to look for. If the ball isn’t going to Vince with the game on the line, then something is seriously wrong. So you have to wonder why the Raptors didn’t foul Vince as soon as he touched the ball before taking the 3. Sure, you don’t want to foul him in the act and send him to the line for 3 easy ones, but at the same time, we’ve all seen him make clutch shots before (and also miss them…if we go back to the infamous final shot against Philly). Apparently the word from Sam is that the players were instructed to foul Vince if his back was to the basket, but why the hell would his back be to the basket that far out with hardly any time left on the clock? That should have been a slap right away.

As far as the dunk in OT, that’s inexcusable. Again, you know that with that little time left on the clock, the Nets are going to look for Vince. Lawrence Frank is a smart enough coach that he is going to draw something up for Vince, get the ball in his hands and let the fate rest there. So the fact that he essentially just walks around two Raptors on his wayk for an easy ally-oop just makes you wonder what is going on defensively for the Raptors.

We have brought up a million times here that the worst part about Sam is that coming out of timeouts or on inbound plays, the Raptors can’t run an effective play. Roaches when the lights come on. Everyone just running in circles with their hands up. It’s embarrassing. The fact that AP had to take a timeout when he couldn’t get the ball in and then the ABSOLUTELY INEXCUSABLE gaffe of Bargs not inbounding the ball at all comes down to coaching. At worst, if the 5 seconds that SHOULD be internally counting down in your head is about to expire, toss the ball off a defender’s leg or try to force a pass. You can’t just stand there with the ball and turn it over. I mean, really.

Once again, the Raptors showed their inability to step on a team’s neck. There were plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to close this one out, but they kept letting the Nets back into the game. That’s the difference between good teams and .500 teams. If you can’t close teams out when you have the lead in the 4th quarter, you don’t deserve to win. You have to have that killer’s instinct that the Raptors clearly do not possess. I am not sure what it will take for the Raptors to gain that instinct, maybe it’s another coach, but if they want to move forward, if they want to become a better team, things are going to have to change.

Game 12: Raps vs. Nets – Pre-game

The Nets are shaping up to be pretty much what we thought they were going to be: a not so good team. Vince is still getting his points (10th in the league in scoring), but if he wanted out of Toronto before because he thought the team was going in the wrong direction and that he had nobody to help him…well…funny how sometimes you just can’t get away from your fate, eh?

I’m not worried about the Nets at all. It’s rare that I would say that about a team, but I don’t see anybody on the Nets who I think the Raptors can’t shut down. Vince? One slap and you can guard him with a pylon or a scary story for the rest of the night. Yi Jianlian? As soon as he figures out what kind of player he wants to be, he might be tough to defend. Anyway, we went through some of this in the season preview, so I won’t re-hash it now.

The thing that does cause a little bit of worry for me is how the Raptors have not been able to close out games they are leading, especially when they have been leading by a lot. As I have said before, they need that killer instinct, that “step on their necks” approach. Some have pointed to Sam being the culprit here, that he lets the team relax too much when they’re up and that he leaves his subs in too long while the opposing team makes a run. There may be some truth in that, but overall, Sam isn’t to blame here. This is the kind of stuff that is developed over time, through many time tested battles. Sometimes you have to have a little heartbreak first in order to recognize when it is happening again. The Raptors blew a big lead to the Celtics, but that wasn’t that big of a surprise. Should it have hurt? Yes, but I would venture to say that a lot of the Raptors players were thinking things like, “Well, that’s what the great teams do.” Well, if that’s the case, then why even bother showing up? After you have found a weakness in your team play, adjustments have to be made, whether they are tactical, physical or mental. In a sport where the same action (scoring a bucket) can garner different point levels, the key for the Raptors is to go out and take care of business while the other team is taking chances in order to catch up as soon as possible.

So this game against the Nets looks like it could be one of those ones that are a turning point in the seson. They have the Nets, Celtics, Bobcats and the Hawks all coming up. The Raptors will need to get some of those “available” wins and maybe even the one against the Celtics. This could be the point where the Raptors start to click. Stay tuned.

3 in the Key

1. At some point, the Raptors will need to develop a transition game. There are a lot of easy buckets to be had and the Nets have a few lazy guys who the Raptors could expose.

2. While Vince isn’t what he used to be, he can still turn it on during the game. That cannot happen here. There’s nobody else on that team who should be scoring regularly against the Raptors, so focus on Vince and let him implode.

3. Stick with using the 3 bigs until it doesn’t work anymore. Forget the 3-pointer unless it is there. Don’t force it and don’t fall in love with it.

I Come to Praise Sam, Not to Bury Him

The funereal gloom and doom that constantly surrounds this team truly amazes me. Can none of us bear the weight of a loss here and there? Must the constant reflex to bitch about Sam begin so soon? Are we all a bunch of Michelle Carters?

I get that there is so much to over-analyze, so much to second guess, so much to assert in the face of inconclusive evidence. But I don’t get why that has to lead to a sense of futility. Now Let me say right off that I don’t know shit about basketball, in any kind of relative terms. My greatest challenge in playing the game was keeping the ball from bouncing up into my face and flattening my wire-rimmed glasses, and I almost never succeeded. But I have managed to bend the frames back into shape well enough to watch a whole lot of ball. My love for the game has grown the more that I have seen, and the more that I love it the more I hope to know something about it. But knowing proves very elusive most of the time.

And it’s that elusive quality that makes it unfair for myself, and I think many others, to suggest that Sam Mitchell is lacking in terms of basketball knowledge. Now I know that many people have a solid understanding of various aspects of the game, have maybe coached a little, played at various levels, absolutely know something about some fundamentals. There’s no way a guy like me who doesn’t know squat is going to be able to say, “cheer up and shut up and watch some of the good stuff that’s happening” to any effect, other than risking more bent frames. But what the hell, why not do so anyways?

I like what Sam is doing. There I said it. Please keep reading anyways. I am able to see some of that elusive knowledge there inside his balding head. From game to game it can be hard to see. I yell at the TV myself. I see Jamario shooting 3’s and Kapono driving into the lane, and no that doesn’t feel quite right. The pace has been slow and good defense has not been converted to a lot of easy offense. And then at other times the good defense disappears altogether. There have been a lot things that happen that have little to do with coaching though. That’s always been the way I look at the game, and it still is. And in the big picture I really like how he has effected this team so far.

Anyone notice how good Bargnani has been used? Humps? – the dude is even making passes, and nice, smart passes. Bosh? Still getting better, and fighting like he knows he’s got something to fight for. JO? It’s not easy bringing another star into the roster, but it’s been seamless here. Moon? He had his chance, and he showed that he cannot drive to the basket without going fetal at the first sign of contact. Now he’s in the position of having to fight for playing time, and really – what could be better? Kapono is actually proving his worth in spite of some maddening tendencies not to shoot. Even the lackluster backups to Jose have had good stretches where they’ve extended leads. So what’s the criticism that makes it so obvious that Sam has to go? Well clearly he has accumulated a lot of little failings over the years. Let me just put forward the idea of the big picture puzzle that I sense he is putting together.

These guys are simply not playing in the same fashion as they did in the past. They are no longer a jump shooting team. And better than that – they are making other teams resort to J’s over more preferrable options. Remember when that was our team playing out of a certain sense of desperation all to often? Now we look and see a team that has a winning record on the road. On the road! And they battled with two top tier teams – on the road! To me that means something in the NBA. This team looks to me like a team that can walk on the court and play from a position of strength right from the tip-off, and then execute down the stretch. Much has said about the swagger, an incredibly meaningless term, even for a guy that knows nothing. I think this team simply has a growing sense of awareness of its own strengths, both mentally and physically. And if that continues, and maybe peaks at around the right time, and not last week like it probably did with the Hawks, but the week before the playoffs begin, then there’s just no place for gloombots.

Yes I said if, and that’s a dangerous word. But I’m not going to be convinced that there is not much of a chance for this team to pursue something bigger than a round one loss. It’s all about seizing the chances as far as I can tell from all of my watching over the years. And more importantly, those chances need to be anticipated ahead of time. Take a look at how JO flashed into the lane all alone for a split second last night, while Bosh held the ball at the top of the key. We can say that Bosh missed the opportunity to hit JO with the pass and get that easy basket, but didn’t he really just not recognize what was about to develop ahead of time? Give him another few weeks, and all the players a few weeks more again, and these guys are going to start to get a feel for what is going to happen with each other, and be ready before they have to work with just a fleeting moment. One moment will start to flow into another on both ends of the court. I’m thinking maybe that’s what timing, and developing good patterns and good habits is all about. It’s more about feeling and seeing and doing, almost all at once, than it is about knowing. Or maybe that is the best representation of knowing – I can’t say. When it’s not there it can look ugly and bring some poor results that will need to be made up for somehow, and usually in ways that none of us will like much. But when it’s there it’s gold, and that is what I think Sam has been mining for ever since he arrived. Sure he preached hard work and effort for some time, but deep down he’s always wanted to be able to take that next step, where consistent execution makes everything actually seem effortless.

And there has been enough of that effortlessness to really get me excited now. I’ll sit tight and hope to see the consistency develop, and I sure as hell won’t be looking to BC to fire the coach while that is starting to happen.

Game 11: Raps vs. Heat – Post-game

I have to admit, I was surprised to see Jose Calderon back in the lineup. As somebody who has gone through some pretty serious hamstring injuries, I know how easy it is to tweak things and then set yourself back even further than you originally were, so Jose and the doctors must have felt pretty confident that Jose wasn’t going to do any additional damage by playing tonight. Even still, at this point in the season, even with limited minutes, I can’t say that I agree with the decision to play him tonight. I don’t care if the Raptors are slumping right now, because they have Friday against the Nets (a winnable game) and then a tough matchup against the Celtics on Sunday. That’s a lot of ball in a short period and when you finish off the week with the Celtics, you might want your starting PG to be ready.

Earlier, I called out those individuals who have been calling for Bargs to be traded. He pretty much showed tonight what he can do and overall has continued to have a good season. But since we have already been through that, let’s look a bit at JO and how people (yes, that’s YOU Dave Feschuk c/o The Toronto Star…Mr. Misery personified) were complaining about him not having things together four games into the season. As we’ve said here, it doesn’t matter how much of a vet you are, moving into a new team, new playbook, new teammates, new city, new country…well, it can be a bit much and surely there will be an adjustment period. Now that he has posted 5 straight double doubles and has been a beast on the boards lately, we don’t hear so much of that complaining, eh? The thing about JO is that while his stat sheet is impressive, the things that aren’t on the stat sheet are even more impressive. Watch when guys are attacking the lane. You will see many shots adjusted mid flight or even see guys looking for a last minute dish because they see JO lurking. At times, we even see JO cheat a little and give a guy an opening so he can come at an angle for the block. JO’s defence has also made Bosh and Bargs better defenders, because they don’t have to worry so much about being in mismatches where they end up being overpowered. JO is taking a lot of heat off of the other Raptor bigs.

I was talking earlier about not letting DWade try to take over the game and damn if we didn’t almost see it tonight. I’ll throw out the cliched caveat here, that we don’t want to see anybody get hurt on the court, but at some point, when a guy is blowing around supposedly one of your best defenders (AP…who had rough night on D) and then subsequently walks down the lane for an uncontested dunk…well…to paraphrase Romeo Crennell, that’s when it’s time to CROWN HIS ASS. The game was still far enough away for the Heat that the Raptors could have sent a message to DWade. Where’s Bonner when you need him? Down the stretch, it got too close to even think about this, but when you’re up 12 and a guy throws down a couple of highlight reel dunks, make sure that the next time he tries, he’s looking up at the mop girl who’s waiting for him to get up.

Anyway, on to the Nets. I’m sure there will be (yawn) some Vince comments at some point, but really Raptors fans, that was a loooooong time ago.

Game 11: Raps vs. Heat – Pre-game

Wait a second, it feels like I just wrote this pre-game post…

Well, after taking care of the Heat on Sunday, the Raptors get to face them again and one would suspect that the Heat will have a little different game plan this time around, although there is only so much you can do when you’re playing small ball. Sometimes, you just can’t match up against a frontcourt with the size that the Raptors have and this just might be the case for the Heat.

It’s no coincidence that Bosh, JO and Bargs all had a good game against the Heat. They used their size and skill advantage to their benefit and exposed the glaring gap in the Heat lineup. I don’t think there will be much of a change in plan from the Raptors in this game either, but they might want to be ready for the Heat trying to push the ball up the court a lot more, working on being as quick as possible and trying to tire the Raptors.

This might be one of those game where a star player tries to win the whole thing himself. I would watch out for D-Wade trying to take things over, forcing the Raptors to stop him. He may start letting shots go early and attacking the basket in an attempt to get some of the Raptors in foul trouble. We’ll see.

The Raptors have been rebounding well in the past couple of games, so it would be nice if that could continue, especially against an undersized team like the Heat. If they can keep that advantage going, they should have a pretty good chance of taking care of this game.

3 in the Key

1. Get Ukic and Solomon under control and make them realize the size advantage the Raptors have against the Heat, which should lead to them feeding the bigs.

2. Use the size advantage to rule the boards.

3. Strong bench play. After the debacle against the Magic, the Raptors bench is going to have to be a lot stronger, especially on the 2nd night of a back to back.

Game 10: Raps vs. Magic – Post-game

Well, I think after the past two games, if there was any doubt about Jose’s importance to the Raptors, that should all be cleared up now. Turnovers killed the Raptors tonight, but not even so much just because of the points they were giving up, but from the lost scoring opportunities on their end and having the clock work against them as time ticked away with every lost possession.

Between Solomon and Ukic, there was some ugly PG play tonight. Ugly. The horrible thing is that when you have two great performances by JO and Bosh, they easily get wasted by the horrible lack of concentration out of one position. More than anything, that’s what tonight’s loss came down to, a simple lack of concentration. Solomon and Ukic need to realize that they are in the lineup to provide some steady work while Jose is out. Eric Smith was saying the other day that Solomon just has to play his game, but I think that is half of the problem. He is trying to translate his foreign game where he was a scoring threat to the NBA and it just isn’t working. It’s getting forced. As far as Ukic goes, I don’t know if I have seen a PG who needlessly picks up his dribble more than he does. It is quite common to see him dribble into a crowd, pick up his dribble and then frantically start pivoting, looking for an emergency outlet.

You had to love JO’s attitude tonight against Howard. He went right after him on D and on the offensive end too. As I mentioned in the pre-game, Howard’s offensive moves are extremely limited, so when you have a talented defensive centre who can match up with his size, Howard is going to have his problems. What I also notice about Howard (and this may be somewhat because of his age), but once he gets shut down a couple of times, he starts walking up and down the court. You can see the dejection in his body language. When you promote yourself as Superman, it must hurt a bit to have a guy up in your grill, not buying into the myth. Let’s remember too, that Howard is starting to get his share of “Jordan calls”, as refs are giving him the benefit of the doubt whenever somebody gets close to him, as if they’re thinking, “Well, nobody can stop him, right? They must have fouled him.”

Bosh truly had one of his great games tonight. I can’t remember the last time I saw him fighting for rebounds, attacking the basket and only taking the jumper when it was there. Howard could actually learn a lot from Bosh’s game, even though they are two completely different players. Howard needs to develop a jumper in order to make his inside game even more lethal, sort of like how defenders have to respect all parts of Bosh’s game.

Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Game 10: Raps vs. Magic – Pre-game

The Raptors are coming into this game facing some tough odds. The Magic are in first place, have won 3 in a row, are at home and are facing a Raptors team that doesn’t have its starting PG in the lineup. That being said, I don’t think this game will be as difficult as it is being made out to be. There are a few things the Raptors can do…but first, let’s look at a few Magic items.

Jameer Nelson…I just don’t get it. I don’t understand how he just turned it on in the playoffs and suddenly became a different player. He was still the same on D, which is to say bad, but offensively, he was a completely different player. We saw last year how he can thrive when put in a one-on-one trash talking “me vs. you” scenario, as he and TJ got into it a couple of times. But if you have the ability to put the ball on the floor against him, do it, because he plays D like his feet are rooted to the ground.

On the other hand, the Magic picked up Mickael Pietrus, who can actually play a bit of D…and he had better, because he shoots less than 70% from the line and scores just over 7 points per game. When you’re putting those kind of numbers up on the offensive end, you had better be able to stop some guys.

Dwight Howard is A MAN (that one was for you Chuck). Everybody knows what he does (plays 10 feet and in, using his size and strength to run over people), but he can be stopped if you are willing to double team him. He doesn’t really have any moves, so once you throw a double team on him, he has to look for his outlets. The Raptors will have to be careful, because the Magic have Rashard and Hedo on the outside, a couple of guys who can (and will) shoot, but if they are able to keep a double team on Howard and they manage to foul him, they’ll do okay since the guy can’t shoot a free throw for his life.

3 In the Key

1. Double-team Howard at every opportunity. He doesn’t have the game to get by it and he’ll get frustrated early and get off his game.

2. Use Will Solomon’s speed advantage against Nelson. It doesn’t have to end with Solomon taking the shot, but if he is able to penetrate and then drive, he will draw in defenders who slide over to make up for the fact that he’s beating Nelson off the dribble.

3. Play tough on Howard. As much as we see his smiling face, he gets frustrated when he isn’t able to just run over people. So smack him around if you have to, because putting him on the line is almost a 50/50 chance

Game 9: Raps vs. Heat – Post-game

Lately, I have been having to defend Andrea Bargnani a lot on our message board. For some reason, a good portion of Toronto fans seem to think that Andrea isn’t playing well and that we should move him out of town. I usually try not to be too crass with my opinions on…er…the opions of other people…but anybody who isn’t happy with what Andrea is doing this year and want him out of town are, well, stupid.

Andrea’s stats today aren’t anything that will blow you out of the water. 12 points, 3 assists and 4 rebounds in 31 minutes, but as we all know, there is more to the game than the stat line. Andrea is now getting teams to respect him off the dribble, which wasn’t the case in the past two years. The great thing about this is that it isn’t just creating additional opportunities for him, it is also creating opportunities for his teammates. For instance, after seeing Andrea attack the basket immediately after receiving a pass and go in for a layup, the next time he drove the lane, the Heat collapsed on him, but as soon as they did, Andrea dished out to the perimeter (I believe to Solomon) for a 3. Now, don’t look for him to turn into a PG creating dribble penetration every time down the court or all of a sudden becoming this super-athletic slasher, but he is getting to the point where people can’t just treat him as an outside threat.

The best thing about watching Andrea this season is that you can see that he isn’t thinking about putting it on the floor, like it is a command from Sam that he is just following, he is actually implementing it as a part of his game. It’s almost natural for him to do it when the opening is there. It’s sort of like when you speak a few different languages. There comes a point where you know both languages, but there is the question of which language you “think” in. For example, when people speak French to me, I listen, translate in my head into English and then reply in French. I don’t think in French, it’s not natural to me because I don’t use it enough. This is why I am much better at reading and writing in French, because I have time to think in English first. Andrea’s basketball thought process is clearly developing to the point where different parts of the game are coming naturally to him.

So as far as Andrea in today’s game, we saw him setting that tone early. We saw him drive and hit pull up jumpers, go for layups, hit from outside…when you have a 7-footer doing that, it’s not easy to defend. It’s even tougher to defend when you’re a small team like the Heat. On the other side of the ball, it’s good to see Andrea a little more aggressive on D. Whereas before his fouls were from his feet being locked to the ground, now his fouls are more of the “I WILL attack you on D” variety. I can’t fault a guy for being aggressive on D when this has been one of his faults in the past. He has been in better position a lot this year, which has often put him in the right spot to use that length and get some blocks. When you have JO (with a nice 18 boards and a double-double today), Bosh and Andrea up front, that is one seriously big frontcourt that will change a lot of shots. While Bosh and JO will get a lot of credit for the role they’re playing on D, let’s not forget that Andrea has been carrying his weight too (although they’re rarely on the court together…until now).

Nice all around game by the Raptors today, but I just thought it was time somebody stepped up for Andrea and after today’s game, it just seemed the right time.

Game 9: Raps vs. Heat – Pre-game

Well, I guess we will find out a lot about the Raptors in their game against the Heat tomorrow. If the Raptors are smart, they won’t have Calderon playing, as hamstrings can be tricky things and at this point in the season, there is no need to rush him back, even if you essentially have two middle school PGs backing him up. Boy, wouldn’t be bad to have Delfino around now…I’m sure he could run the point semi-effectively for a game or two, but I digress.

We will also see if the Raptors have any balls, whether or not they can stand up and show teams that full roster or not, nobody is going to walk into the ACC and hand them their asses like the Sixers did. It’s one thing to be made a fool out of on the road, but at home, you have to take care of business.

One of the other things we will find out about the Raptors is whether or not they really know how to exploit another team’s weakness. I think biggest weakness for the Heat is that they really don’t have anybody to play centre. Udonis Haslem is NOT, I repeat, NOT a centre. That’s not to say he’s a bad player, because he’s not. He’s actually a quite effective player who is able to get tough on the boards. But at 6’8″, he can be exposed by an opposing big man and with the Raptors, he’s going to have JO, Bosh and Bargs on the floor at various times during the game. Sure, Bosh is only a few inches taller than him, but he’s much more athletic and this could pose some problems for Haslem if he has to switch. So will Sam emphasize the inside game? We’ll see.

We’ll find out if Will Solomon can resist trying to take the game over and prove himself. We all know that he was somewhat of a scoring sensation in Europe, but the Raptors just need him to manage the game. Feed the horses inside and let them do the rest of the work. If the Solomon and Ukic try to do too much, you are going to see something not too pretty on the floor tomorrow. These are the games where you have to reassert your confidence, letting teams know that even though you are a little beat up and your bench isn’t all it should be, you’re not going to lay down. These are the games where you dig in a bit and find some plays that work and then run the hell out of them. Sam keeps saying that there are only about 6 plays in basketball and every team runs them, well then, the Raptors should find which one of those six they can run without Jose and then run it over and over until it gets consistently stopped. Detroit did it to them, so why not use the same strategy?

Oh yes, as a final note, Rogers can eat it. I’m going to the pub.