Archive for January, 2011

perfect ten


A ten game losing streak. Those don’t usually inspire anything other than contempt. But this was as good as a big losing streak can get.

First off, we’ve seen the Nets and Wizards and Clippers pass the Raptors in the standings. Even Sacramento and Minnesota have crept closer. Cleveland is the only team that looks like a lock to finish lower than our boys this season. If we could see the Raptors finish second or third from the bottom, then the ping pong balls give us a real shot at a much needed injection of talent. If we could somehow package someone and Miami’s pick for another lottery pick, draft night could be orgasmic.

As well, there were some good games in there, with some nice competitive stretches. Take out the back-to-back games in Florida, and there was consistently some good signs. Injuries have forced them to slow the pace and see what they can do in halfcourt sets while offering a chance of limiting the other team’s possessions. The halfcourt offense has benefitted from two things - consistently good play from Jose Calderon, and DeMar DeRozan improving his ballhandling by leaps and bounds, where he has previously just leapt and bounded (all to often right into shot blockers). Jose’s performance this season has made it hard for me to see him as a guy that needs to be moved at all costs. I would love to see us draft a Kyrie Irving (go ping pong balls!), and have him eased into the starting lineup under the mentorship of Jose, who could then be asked to come off the bench without objection and likely be able to excel in that role. Eventually the right deal could be found as Jose’s contract gets less burdensome, and even then, that would be necessary only if Bayless develops into a player that just can’t be squeezed into a role as a backup 2 and third-string pg any longer. It’s possible that Colangelo could be faced with making a happy choice between trading Jose or Jerryd. Of course, all of that depends on the ping pong balls, so bring on more losses.

DeRozan meanwhile, is looking like a basketball player and not just a slightly overwhelmed kid. He’s proving able to use his body control and improved handles to get around defenders and finish, or pull up for a jumper. Considering that he began the season fairly one-dimensionally as a guy that plays aggressively, for better or worse, he’s come a long way to where he can temper that aggression with some smart decisions that improve his own offensive efficiency as well as other teammates. He’s taken the reigns over a good number of stretches, and shown that he understands enough to make it work. He’s also shown some defensive toughness and smarts, although it is still a part of the game that leaves him falling far short of being a perfect Comp10. It is going to be worth watching this team for the rest of this season to see how much of an all-around game he can put together. Right now he looks to have the right demeanor, perhaps realizing that as much as he wants to win games, putting together perfect ten-minute stretches is going to be more important for his game and the overall development of the team. If Triano has done anything to instill that sense in him, then he deserves full marks for any good that comes out of it.

Is there any other cream that has risen to the top of the rather funky milk while it has sat in the refrigerator over these ten losses? I’d have to make a case for Amir. My “Dirty Baby” (mine because nobody else is ever going to call him that), has fought through his back woes, and done nothing less than make more progress in his development than ever before. He’s averaged more than 30 minutes in this stretch of losses, shooting .658, and averaging 7.8 rebounds while more importantly consistently playing tough on the boards. His game is no longer so heavily reliant on Jose setting him up for easy dunks or drives on the pick and roll. He now has some range on a very reliable jumper, and he’s shown some nice quickness on drives along the baseline. His numbers in pretty much all categories, have climbed from month to month. And I don’t think he’s peaked yet. I think this could be a guy that averages a double-double, brings energy and toughness, and never takes a bad shot. Will he be a legitimate starter, or a very nice role player coming off the bench? It depends on where he peaks, and on just how big he is able to play, particular on the defensive end, where he ends up being something of a tweener. We saw him being able to cool off the hot hand of Bogut last night, but only after being unable to keep up with Ilyasova all game long. He might be a better defender as an undersized center, and that might be workable on a team that can stop the ball at the point of attack and provide the quickness and length that allows for some swarming of opposing threats. And this current roster has some guys that can fit that scenario right now. Otherwise, Amir might be able to improve his mobility yet, but if he’s going to be forced to defend quicker power forwards, I would guess that his ceiling would be that of an invaluable bench player that gives up a few too many points on occasion.

What of the funky milk that lies beneath the cream? It has a bit of a garlicky odor. Someone fed Bessie some leftover pesto. Andrea Bargnani started this season with improved numbers. And he showed some willingness to do the work required of him on the defensive end. He got to the line and shot fewer threes than usual. On his career night in Madison Square Garden, he performed on both ends on that big stage, remaining active all game long, while getting other players involved. But it was one night, although at the time it seemed like more than that, since it was part of a pretty good 10-15 game stretch for the Mago. But alas poor Yorick, the limelight has dimmed, and the calcium oxide used for the lighting effect has been replaced by this souring milk. In the last ten games he has shot 39 threes as compared to 44 freethrows, making a dismal percentage of .282 behind the arc. His overall shooting percentage has come in at .414. In the early part of the season we didn’t see many fadeaways. He was going straight up, or leaning into the basket.. He was taking advantage of his size advantage over many defenders. But the fadeaway is back in his arsenal, and he is chucking as much as he is shooting, and we’ve seen the clunkers and airballs killing momentum. His rebounding has dipped down to 5.2 per game, which actually flatters him in comparison to bigs that play fewer minutes. A seven footer that can’t average 5 boards every 36 minutes is simply going to be a costly asset. When the offensive game goes awry, there is just no way to win on most nights. His help defense has deteriorated dramatically, just as it appeared there might be a chance for stabilizing it. He offers no resistance, and all too often ends up being a spectator. The team’s slower pace should equate to fewer possessions for opposing teams, as I suggested earlier. But the inability to secure rebounds has meant that opposing teams get off far too many shots, with a good number of those being easy points from Andrea’s cover coming in unimpeded for a rebound after some good defending from everyone else. That happened all through last season as well, and appears to be a pattern that is not going to be broken anytime soon. It’s also a perfect formula for losing, so the ping pong balls are happy, having sex and multiplying.

This team’s last quality win (that’s not counting a squeaker against the horrible Kings, or the route of the utterly hapless Cavs) was against Dallas with Bargnani out of the lineup. It’s the perfect equation - isn’t that how the marketing campaign goes? Andrea+you=that losing feeling. Let it go on often enough to ensure the losses keep coming and we get a good draft pick. Just don’t forget the smell of that milk, and please Mr. Triano and Mr. Colangelo, do not try to reinvent the game so that we can maybe use that milk in our lattes. This guy is on the clock. Though it doesn’t look like he will ever respond at this point, he does still have a chance to consistently display the form he exhibited through late-November and early-December. If he manages to do so consistently, then I can live with one more shot at making him part of a team, with a suitably lesser role, and rolling with it for a while more. If the current trend continues, then he just simply has to be unloaded as soon as possible. So there you go - clarity is at hand. A perfect ten losses can provide for some of that.

If it’s not clear enough, allow me to quote one of the fine contributors in the Raptors Forum - Ligiea:

Amir and Andrea make for an interesting contrast.

One is full of hustle and earns his minutes with effort. The other plods along and seems interested in scoring, but not much else.

One shows patience and waits for the right shot or opening on offense. The other is chucking the ball at a rate you would expect from a legitimate all-star, not from a borderline 6th man candidate.

One always has his hands up, fighting for every rebound. The other is passive and waits for the ball to fall into his hands.

One player is getting better every month. The other seems to be regressing.

Perfectly summed up Ligeia.

Finally, on top of everything else - we don’t have to hear about that damn three-pointer streak anymore. Absolutely perfect.

Claudius: Bucks vs. Raptors preview

Does anyone remember when the Bucks vs. the Raptors felt like a real rivalry. Now, I know this will be the second time in as many pre game blogs, but again I remember when Ray Allen and Vince Carter led their teams and always seemed to be in the same conversation. There was the controversy over the Olympic selection and you had two teams that seemed to be battling for one of the top 4 spots in the East. The games were chippy and hard fought. It really felt like a true rivalry and not forced and I was always curious to see how it’d play out in the playoffs if we ever met.

Really, these two teams recent histories are somewhat similar. The Bucks got the number 1 pick in the 2005 draft and didn’t see the need to draft a guard (Paul and D. Williams are chosen later) or a forward in the highly touted (then) Marvin Williams. They choose Andrew Bogut, a centre with some raw skills but something to build around. Toronto, in 2006, choose a centre as well, Andrea Bargnani. A guy who we were told had the skill set of Dirk and would be just as impactful. Interesting debate…who’d you rather have? Bogut, a guy who can defend, rebound but is somewhat limited offensively or Bargnani a guy who can’t defend and rebound but has offensive upside.

The Bucks come in injured with Brandon Jennings still injured but, they got a Corey Maggette back as they beat the Hawks a few nights earlier. They play with a lot of grit. You really can’t dislike players like Mbah a Moute, Ilyasova and Bogut. Tough players, who work hard. I’m also really liking Larry Sanders (no, not the comedian). He’s got a nice pick and pop game and while he isn’t a great perimeter scorer if we leave him open and let him shoot he could do some damage. Also, he’s proven to be a blocking threat this year averaging just under a block and a half per game.

With the Raptors, well, the injuries aren’t really a surprise to anyone. Sonny is still hurt, Reggie still not back and Barbosa is still day to day with his hamstring. Bargnani hopefully is recovered fully from the flu and flu like symptoms. DeRozan could have a tough night tonight. The Bucks, under Skiles, have become a very solid defensive team and considering our lack of offensive weapons, or well, being reliant upon two weapons, I could see it being a long night.

In the end, I see a pretty boring game taking place, which is rare for a Friday game. Personally, I love Friday games, at least in person. They’re fun times. The crowd is usually relaxed. After the game, it’s nice to go out into the town and enjoy all that’s around you. But, I can’t help but feel that with the Raptors losing streak and well a game that has a good chance of being somewhat boring and maybe even a big loss, could take the steam out of the crowd.

My prediction:

Raptors: 88
Bucks: 97

Have a happy Friday everyone!

Claudius: 76ers - Raptors preview

So, yeah, it’s been awhile. What can I do? And now, hopefully, it won’t read like a 3 year old wrote it.

I’m gonna start off with a little story first. It was 2000 or 2001, I can’t remember right now, but the Raptors had a big time match up with the 76ers on a Sunday afternoon on NBC (really, I loved that John Tesh piano intro). Anyways, the Raptors in December had made a big trade, moving Kevin Willis for Keon Clark. The 76ers were being powered by Allen Iverson and Aaron McKie. And while, I can’t remember a lot of the details of the match right now, I remember it being an entertaining game that SLAM once called the best game of the season. I remember that the Raptors won, in Philadelphia, and the new team started to come together. It was a moment that I won’t forget because it was becoming cool to become a Raptors fan and I felt that we really arrived as a franchise.

Fast forward to 10 years later (give or take a year) and well, we have this. Does anyone in the NBA really care for this match up (do the fan bases care)? It’s amazing what time will do. Both teams seemed so full of promise and close to ’something.’ Now, well, we have this.

The Raptors, seem to play their best basketball at home and considering that they played a competitive match with a more talented Memphis team on Monday, I’m optimistic that the Raptors can FINALLY snap their losing streak. I’m sure a lot of Raptor fans will also be ogling Andre Igoudala as it seems that a lot of people feel he should be the player Bryan Colangelo should be targeting for a trade (A. Why would Philly trade him within the division and B. Bosh is a better player yet we didn’t want his contract (allegedly) so why take a on an even more overrated player?) I’m scared of Jrue Holliday in this match up as he always seems to have a knack for beating us with his quickness and if Jose’s in the game, well, hopefully Bayless could contain him.

If there was a ever a time for Andrea to get going this would be the match. It’s not only about his scoring. It’s about defending and getting after the rebound. Speights and Hawes, have length, but they’re not great rebounders. Yes, Brand is in there (and having a nice season), but if you can’t take advantage of Spencer Hawes then well, I dunno any more.

DeRozan, well it’ll be interesting who gets the defensive assignment as I’ll venture it’ll be Igoudala, who could use his size to muscle him out. The nice thing about Monday’s game was that he wasn’t the first person on the defensive end leaking out to get a fast break opportunity. He used a lot of his jumping ability to grab some boards and he seemed to have a knack for it. Considering who he was going up against in Gay, Mayo and Allen I expect much of the same here.

With the Raptors though, I don’t know where the rest of the offense is going to come from though. Is it going to be Amir? Is Sonny going to provide a bit of a spark? Is it going to be Bayless? Gaines?

With Philadelphia, you don’t know what you’re going to get either. Is it going to be a team that works inside out with Brand and Iggy? Are they going to rely on penetration and hope Holiday can get easy looks? Is Thaddeus Young going to continue to elevate his game as he has over the past 6 weeks? If so, who on our team is versatile enough to guard him? Is it going to be Lou Williams, who I feel always hits 3s after 3s against us? Are we going to be dumb enough to play zone when Philly runs out a rotation of Williams-Meeks-Kapono-Young-Hawes? What’s the bet that we do, considering the zone got us back in the game against Memphis and somebody will think, hey that worked last time let’s do it again!

Really, I’m anticipating a game of bad basketball. Hopefully Evan Turner shows up and justifies his 2nd selection and DeRozan shows up and a great game ensues between a couple of young wing player, reminiscent of that earlier age. And maybe, just maybe, just like in that earlier match up between two top teams and we saw some growing up occurring right in front of our eyes, we’ll see it again.

Prediction:

Raptors: 108
76ers: 107

claw marks: rockin’ the black ones


Black jerseys on their backs, and one big black hole that couldn’t put the team on his back. It was nice to see that the discussion did not even mention the fashion statement.

DDUnreal

Step 1: high scoring half
Step 2:get double teamed
Step 3: turnovers
also, AB will be the same forever

oneironaught

Valuable learning experience for DeRozan, in that he’ll have to learn how to deal with pressure and double team traps.

JeffB

Andrea Bargnani, a 7′ 250lbs Center has a grand total of 1 double double this season (1 double digit reb game) and is averaging 0.8blks. Nothing more need be said. We all know he can score, but everything else, he lacks consistent effort and heart to succeeed on a regular basis. I’m tired of hearing “that’s a 7 footer running the floor” or “How many 7 footers do you know can do that”. How about pointing out what he should be doing as a 7 footer that he doesn’t do.

DSWC

I only got to watch parts of this game, but considering how under-manned the Raptors are, I’m still impressed that they managed to compete with the big boys (whether or not they took us lightly or not).

I think this is definitely promising, as we knew this was going to be a tough year, but we at least always manage to compete. Yes these are some tough times, but at least we’re not getting blown out every night.

Nice to see the emergence of DeMar, as he’s played well in the new year, especially when Bargs was out, and he was given an increased role. It seems like he took it and ran, and has been riding that momentum ever since. Davis has been slightly building all year, and while the points aren’t always there, the rebounds usually are. Amir has been playing really consistently too.

Crepe

I don’t know what to think about Bargs.

One game I’m like “Wow this guy is amazing, unstoppable, a Beast, He’s the man”
The other I’m like “Damn come on, you don’t give a shit, you don’t care about winning, You don’t care about anything!!”

I’m tired of that, really tired.

fancylad

i turned off after the first half…. so i was really impressed!

That touch pass from Julian Wright to Amir was beautiful. Derozan played really well. Was impressed with Davis’ activity on D. Looks like i turned off at the right time.

I don’t know what to say about Andrea. Even though i only saw the first half, i saw exaclty what everyone is all alluding to. However, i’d prefer to stay positive…. Bargnani with the massive effort to help out operation tank.

Forza Tankgnani.

Claudius

What got me, was that Ed Davis and DeRozan were out there playing a different game.

When a shot goes up on the offensive side, Davis is really the only guy on our team who’s in position to get a rebound or make the opposition work for a defensive rebound. He doesn’t need touches. He just makes plays out of nothing sometimes and all it shows is heart and determination.

DeRozan is one tough dude. He was getting hacked and beat up all night but he was still attacking and that’s one awesome sign. Right there he showed me why he’s considered so highly. Hill, Manu and Neal were hacking him and taking cheap shots but he kept on coming. I think it may have been his first instance of seeing an NBA double team and he really suffered but I’ll take him learning from that right now.

But Bargnani? It’s like, when his shot is not falling he gives up on the game. Can’t score, then it isn’t worth playing and it drives me insane. Hell, why are you taking 18 fters and not attacking a slower player in Blair? Is Andrea hurt? Why not attack to get yourself going? Instead it was like he feared the contact on some lay up attempts where he’d fade away from the basket and flick the ball there. What the hell is that? Why not do other things to get yourself INTO the game. Set a few hard screens to release Demar. Play some post defence. Understand where you’re supposed to be in 2-3 zone. They weren’t playing match up zone so I don’t know why on some plays Andrea was playing man to man but it just spoke volumes about him.

And I know Leo was saying in the 4th when Bargnani hit that ONE shot to start feeding him the ball and all I have to ask is why? Why give it to him when he hasn’t earned it and really you should be in straight attack mode? No wonder your stuck coaching Canada Basketball.

Hell, bench Bargnani for the next game, or well, don’t start him. Send a clear message.

Ligeia

The most frustrating thing about Bargnani, from my perspective, is this: his ability to score when he is on is just enough to offset his other deficiencies. If he’s not scoring, he is useless.

Many might call me crazy, but I’ve been wondering lately if Bargnani is best suited as a 6th man on a really good team, a team where everyone else covers his defense and rebounding. He would be a mismatch king and should be able to score at will.

The sad thing is that I’m already way more excited about Davis as a core piece of this team than I am about Bargnani.

‘trane

i still love bargs. he can be frustrating, and he certainly is useless on an off-night like last night, but i still think he’s a fantastic offensive talent and should be a big piece of the raps going forward. he is by no means a centrepiece, but he would be a massive matchup asset if we had another traditional big. the raps would also be greatly improved next year if we were able to obtain a hard-nosed vet big man that plays d and can teach davis and amir how to play like a pro. you need those kinds of mentors. this has been discussed relentlessly, but a bigs rotation of bargs/x, amir/davis would cause matchup nightmares for opponents as long as player x is big, solid on the defensive end, hard-nosed and aggressive. a guy like perkins, assuming he’s not done, would be perfect. chadler, m gasol, camby, haslem, and perhaps mcdyess would work too. i’m sure there are others… dalembert? nene? regardless, i think Bargs is a good deal, and most of the time he does what i expect him to do. we just don’t have the talent alongside him to cover for his weaknesses. and lucky is the team that has players who don’t have glaring weaknesses.

bjjs

You just can’t cover the weaknessess Bargnani brings to the starting lineup, like I have said numerous occasions, and Ligeia just mentioned, Bargnani is best suited as a 6th man.

He could be superb in that role. Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen under Colangelo. One thing about the Gunz is that they all respect Bargnani’s offensive game. I would love to see him come off the bench and light it up after a defensive tone has already been set with a solid starting lineup with two way players at every position.

Staying in front of your own man might be good enough when you’re playing the Nets or the Kings, but if you want to win more than you lose and play good basketball, you need 5 guys who can read defensive situations and act accordingly.

You can’t just have one player, and say you suck defensively so you get to just guard your man, and ignore everyone else and expect to be as good as teams who have 5 guys keyed in every possession. It’s unrealistic.

Then there is transition defense…

Teams will make Andrea play defense. Simple as that. They’ll involve him on pick and rolls and attack him. You can help for him, but that will leave something else open. If you want to leave a defensive red exclamation mark on the court you’ll be counting on some offensive ineptitude by the opponent.

reading tweets about Jack’s hair


sung in the key of Matty D

Linas used to work on the blocks
finding shots he’d like
but on the rim he would get stuck…enough, enough
Sonny dreams of getting to play
When he cries in the night
DeMar whispers “Clarence it’s ok - they’ll still pay”

He says we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
It doesn’t make a difference if you play or not
You’ve got a contract coming and they’ll pay you a lot
For love - they call you Money hot shot

woah-oh they’re halfway there
woah-oh reading tweets about Jack’s hair
selling Ford Fiestas while fans sit and cuss and swear
woah-oh reading tweets about Jack’s hair

Bryan has a way of talking his talk
He says he doesn’t like to lose
but does he really give a fuck - it’s tough, so tough
You know he works the phones all day
Trying to find a deal that brings a star who’ll play
for love - T.O. love

He says we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
It’s never made a difference if they win or not
as long as enough tickets are bought
for love - these guys might make a shot

woah-oh they’re halfway there
woah-Leandro has no hair down there
But he didn’t use wax, he prefers to use nair
woah-mayo on that hammy tear

We’ve got to hold on to this bucket of snot
They live for scoring might, but they can’t stop a lot

woah-oh they’re halfway there
woah-oh Rod and Leo barely care
Jack wants a whiplash whopper, he’s hungry as a bear
woah-oh Rod and Leo barely care

woah-oh they’re halfway there
woah-oh they’ll need more than a prayer
they’ll need a ping pong ball to drop just so if they dare
market a jersey fans can wear

claw marks: sick man award


Crawford and Barbosa seemed to be taking each other on last night. The other players were just witnesses. Crawford proved to be the sickest, with a swish from 30 feet.

DSWC

I guess this should please those on the tank bandwagon - you want to compete against a good team (which we did), but then lose the game just in the end.

Good back and forth game though.

J-Roc

Big shot by Bibby, who I noticed kept passing off late in the game. He was passing to Josh Smith for 3pt bricks in the 4th Q!!

Raps zone worked well, but they blew too many wasted possessions this game.

I have to wonder if J Wright might have helped. Glad Sonny got an extra day rest.

Next game we need to get DeMar touches ALL game. Bargs, too. The Barbosa thing is fun, but not practical.

Crepe

Huge shots in this game wow !
Jamal Crawford killed us with this shot from wayyy downtown with 1sec left on the shot clock. That was the turning point of the game.

jeffb

We lost this game on the boards and at the line. They went to the line 31 times to our 12. How do we shoot 53% and lose??

SomeDPlease

Derozan went cold turkey after his hot start. He started forcing his shots down the stretch, TO the ball 5 times, and gave the Hawks that crucial three point opportunity late in the game. Not to mention the other three point opportunity he gave a few minutes before.

Jxidio

When you really love the game and are a hometown fan, it’s only natural to be upset. With the struggles this team has gone through this season, you gotta appreciate all the entertainment and effort they give you.

Let’s not forget that this is a 5th seed team that’s on another level with regards to talent compared to this Raptors squad, and they played really hard, just a heartbreaking loss.

oneironaught

Can’t believe some are blaming the refs. Bargnani and Barbosa collectively got away with about five or six walks tonight, while the refs whistled the Hawks for travels that aren’t normally travels - in the NBA that is. We also got the benefit of a few phantom calls, accounting for all the And 1’s.

I’m fairly pleased with a competitive game versus a quality club. As a proponent of the tank however, it was too close for comfort.

Also, Bibby is a gangster. His body language after hitting the game winner was that of a mental patient listening to the Pet Shop Boys.

HugoBoss

I`ve always heard everyone complain that almost everyone on this team is bad on D (jose, bargs, DD) individually…is Triano or some assistant coach supposed to be able to change this and make them all bowens n perkins??

I remember in a broadcast…NBA coaches really only have like 5-6 diff “plays” n just slight variations of the same thing - its whether u have the personnel who cann do it. a head coach is there to be a guide..to motivate. etc. in my mind, most of these guys seem to be playing pretty hard, so Triano in my mind is doing his job ok.

btw I was completely fine with his play call at the end on the Jose drive in a one point game, high percentage shot, good free throw shooter if fouled (not like DD), generally not wild 1 on 1 drives and good handle on ball (not like Barbosa or DD) which would result in more likelihood of strip as Atl is locking down…and considering Bargs would most likely get most of the Def attention…I thought Jose drive was a fine play.

There’s something I always do when I watch the game - when a shot goes up, BEFORE it goes in or out, I decide whether it was a good shot or not. Too many ppl determine a “good” shot selection based on the result like whether it goes in or not. Bad shot goes in, I question the playcall still. Good shot rims out, o well bad luck. In this case, Harford made a good play, the playcall was fine for me. Just too bad but no complaints

Claudius: Raptors - Hawks Preview

Welcome to our first pre-game blog in awhile. I am going to break down the match-up, what to look for, key to victories and subsequently a prediction.

Atlanta is coming in really, really hot. Winners of their past 4 (4-0 in the month of January) and looked impressive with a blowout win in Utah and at home against the Pacers. With Joe Johnson back in the starting line-up Jamal Crawford has been able to go back to a more comfortable sixth man role for the Hawks where all he is being asked to do is score. Defensively, since Joe Johnson came back from injury in mid-December they have been holding opponents to 90 points per game and during the four game winning streak Johnson has averaged close to 28 points per game.

Along with Johnson, Al Horford has really stepped up his offensive game this year, with a better all around post up game and a developing mid-range game. For a guy who used to simply live down-low on put backs and garbage points, he is starting to embrace his role as on offensive player more and more. Since Marvin Williams got injured, Jason Collins has been getting the starts at Centre, moving Horford to Power Forward and Collins has played adequately enough, even producing speculation that Marv when healthy won?t return to the starting 5. Subsequently, Josh Smith has moved to play more Small Forward where he has become less of a defensive threat and more of an offensive threat by being able to shoot the 3 on a more consistent basis. Josh Smith during this winning streak has averaged 20 points per game and the last time he played against the Raptors he recorded a triple double with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

While mentioning the Hawks big three, you can not forget that while Bibby has been shopped around the past few weeks, he has been solid if unspectacular. His last game against the Pacers, Bibby hit 3 crucial 3 pointers to maintain leads and having ball handlers like Johnson, Crawford and Smith to a degree allow Bibby to focus on being spot up jump shooter and when defences collapse he is often the beneficiary. Considering that he seems to be a Raptor killer, he simply poses another threat in the Hawks line up and is the perfect 4th or 5th option on that team.

Toronto is coming into this game off a home win against a Sacramento team that was missing its best player. Andrea Bargnani continues to play well offensively and had 30 points against the Kings and DeMar DeRozan had 28. The story for Toronto will be can they hold Atlanta on the defensive end. Considering Toronto is allowing 105 points per game and during Atlanta’s winning streak they have been averaging 108 and coming off 3 days rest, Toronto cannot simply rely upon their offence but need their defence to produce the offence.

Some bright news for Toronto is that Sonny Weems practiced with the team yesterday and could be ready for Wednesday night. Some even better news is that this game could be postponed due to weather and allow Toronto to get even healthier with Jerryd Bayless and Reggie Evans both dealing with injuries.

My Keys to the Game:

1. Do not fall behind early in the first and third quarters. You can not let Atlanta get out to fast starts. Toronto has been somewhat prone to letting teams start off well in the first quarter. They are simply not good enough to come back from such large deficits. Keep the score close in the first and third quarters and try to overtake them with the bench. If we are down 31-20 at the end of the first and with Atlanta playing defence the way they have it is going to be a long night.

2. Attack Josh Smith. His presence to alter shots has allowed him to enter into the minds of the defender. But Smith is not the smartest player in the world. Get him to leave his feet, lean into him for the contact and get the easy foul. Sounds easy? Of course it is not. But you need to try. With Marv out, they do not have an adequate guy to really play the 3. Plus, the fewer minutes he is allowed to play, the less he is able to get comfortable offensively.

3. Ball movement. Do not settle for jumpers. Hell, do not settle for anything. Toronto plays its best when they are moving the ball around. Do not dribble with your head down and charge to the basket. Do not shoot any pull-up threes. Do not shoot 3s to keep the damn streak alive. I know it is against the entire run and gun philosophy but use the clock to your advantage. Make the opposition work on defence and with a team as athletic as Atlanta the last thing we really need to get into is a track meet. We looked fantastic against Dallas when we moved the ball and really slowed the game down. Atlanta struggles in the half court even with an improved Horford in the post.

So, there are my three keys. Again, do not let them get out quickly, attack Josh Smith and do not settle offensively.

Truth be told, I am not too optimistic about this game. Atlanta is surging and well, we are just there. We are not a good road team so I am not expecting too much. It could be entertaining though between teams that could put up points. Anyways, my prediction:

Atlanta –114
Toronto — 101

Are We There Yet?


Yep. This season has been one long ride in the backseat of the car while your parents chainsmoke. And the destination is not going to be Disneyland. The station wagon is going to lose power and some mechanic in Salt Lake City is going to take a good chunk of the family vacation money without doing any real work on the faulty intake valve, leaving you stranded and feeling pretty lucky if you can just make it a few more miles down the road to Provo to look for some Osmonds for a few days.

But that’s all for later. We’re still in Idaho, getting a speeding ticket in Pocatello. Expectations are still higher than they should be. We’re yet to ponder the magnificent stretches of nothingness that lay ahead. Canyons. Deserts. A big Dam. More Deserts. Tumbleweeds. All of Los Angeles.

In basketball terms, LA will mark a halfway point of sorts for many, as the All-Star festivities get underway there. We aren’t going to see the kid from Compton dunking in the skills competition. And we won’t see Linas on the All-Star roster. But we should see DeMar and Ed Davis in the Rookie-Sophomore game, and in a sense I would hope that is seen as the final destination for this season’s version of the Toronto Raptors. I would hope that this team shuts things down to a certain extent for the remaining portion of the schedule to follow. What little has been made of this team still being within striking distance of a playoff spot, has been too much. They need to start letting a few teams pass them in the standings and stay well ahead of the Raptor pace. As bad as the bottom feeders all appear to be, only Cleveland has a home record that is not respectable. Everyone else has enough to pull out some wins while the Raptors face a two month onslaught of far more complete squads at a time when it is going to get harder to milk simplified offensive sets and make up for weak links in the defense with more scoring. Toronto should really just be in each game to gain experience for their young players.

So how about that? Can we see a lot more of Davis and Bayless and Dorsey? Can we see much, much more of Julian Wright? I don’t want to be the carsick kid crying “are we there yet? are we there yet? are we there yet?”, but it might come to that if I keep seeing more of the same mix of players using the same tired formula that hasn’t worked for the last three years. Let’s see some losing while giving defense the greatest emphasis. Let’s see the running attack come off of some reliable stops. At least for parts of games. Let the usual starters rush their offense and fail to get back in transition. But lets at least get a taste of what might come next year, with a good high pick in tow, and the right mindset established, thanks to what might start now.

It’s not just about tanking for that pick or picks yet to come. We have some good picks right now that need to find their way a little. The kid from LA is starting to break out, and that’s good. But if he is really going to have the necessary impact for success in the future, he is going to need to become an important part of the team’s defense, and in that area he is breaking down more than he is breaking out. Which is fine. He’s young and the offense is going to come before the defense does. But it’s not to early to get at it on the other end, instead of just becoming comfortable scoring alongside Bargnani. In fact, if DeMar put in the work defensively, I could see Bargnani’s defense, which hasn’t been as abysmal as usual, perhaps becoming a net positive overall. These are the things we can dream of while we count the losses and the increase in the number of ping pong balls.

The most recent draft pick can only help in that area. He needs to get bigger, but he also needs more time on the court. It would be wonderful, if we could see this guy be able to lead guys like DeMar and Bargnani in pushing for improvement on the defensive end. This guy has what it takes to do so. He can be one of the main contributors to proper communication out there, because he has the ability to see the play develop and stay a little ahead of it, rather than scrambling to recover. One early possession that sticks with me, took place in Washington: John Wall had the ball on the perimeter, and Davis came out quickly and effortlessly to trap hard and stop the ball, forcing a bad shot from the elbow, which Davis contested, and then as the shot was in flight, fluidly backpedalled to his original cover in order to box him out under the basket. It was a beautiful thing - a guy that could do so much more than just try to guard his own man, and without batting an eyelid. He showed the ability to play defense in the same sort of way a young Vince could finish around the rim. It’s just a form of expression that comes naturally. It’s the kind of thing a team needs to build defensive schemes that stand a chance.

This kid Ed went on to show me he could be pretty imposing in the lane with that length, changing a good number of shots when not blocking them outright. He was able to handle some bigger bigs like Brendan Hayward, while finding his hands full with high-octane players like Verajao. And he’s surely made some mistakes. But here is what I like - when he gets beat, he fouls, and he makes it count for something. It’s not hard to extrapolate where he could end up as a player with a little more bulk and some solid experience. And the experience can be had now, can’t it? Let’s see how much his instincts can rub off on other players, and how much chemistry can be developed on the defensive end before this team finds itself in training camp next fall still looking for the right way to play this game. I would rather see this team lose now while being able to see the way to win consistently, than to keep pretending that they will find a way to shoot themselves out of any hole. The offense will take care of itself on too many nights, because there just aren’t enough guys like Ed Davis in this whole league. But scoring is not going to give this team any distinct advantages.

Trying to gain enough of an advantage to secure a bad seeding in the playoffs doesn’t seem like the best way to approach the future. It would tend to spell out a tendency to keep on with the same, and leave us all hoping the station wagon can make it to Provo again. What I wouldn’t give to just turn the whole thing around right there in Pocatello, Idaho, rent some mountain bikes, stomp on Mom and Dad’s carton of cigarettes, and hit the trails in Montana all the way back home, not once crying “are we there yet?”.

claw marks: kissing off Cousins


The D-League came to Toronto yesterday, or so it seemed at times. The season is almost half over at least.

J-Roc

I know if you want to tank, these are games to lose. But it’s nice to win with big games from our top two players Bargs and DeRozan.

I do wish Jay would start Wright and give him more PT.

RaptorsandBuckeyeFaN

DeRozan last 10 games:
21PPG 3.5RPG 2.2APG 52% shooting

Someguy again

bayless needs to chill, barbosa needs to make his wide open lay-ups, and Bargnani needs to get in his man’s face and box him out. and demar needs to fuck up more, he’s becoming too awesome

Claudius

It was nice to win the game but there’s some things this team needs to work on:

Firstly, offensively, I really don’t know what they’re doing.

Secondly, there’s too many one dimensional players on this team. Kleiza is only comfortable going right for instance. Play a team that knows how to defend and force him left and you could really limit his effectiveness. I don’t think he’s aware of his other teammates as well.

Next, Barbosa helps us with his speed but he hurts us when he’s got the ball in his hands and trying to make a decision. I’ll say he’s the worst decision maker I’ve seen by a player who’s played the guard positions.

There’s no reason this game should’ve been as close as it was. You’re playing a team that’s on the first game of a road trip, should be jet lagged with the early start and is without their best player and you don’t really have any answer for them offensively.

Insider

i was lucky enough to be at the game today and sat about 5 rows up from floor level…
heres what i saw:
Bargs started off the game literally banging down low, fighting for position, pounding his man… i was shocked at how much he was pounding down low, it was great!
and then by the end of the quarter, he just all of a sudden stops doing it, and it no longer happens for the rest of the game.
its as if the coaching staff has been telling him for the last few days to bang and fight and really use his body, and he does, but only for the first q, and then he forgets and reverts back to laying off the pressure.
it was weird.
Bargs’ skill level is through the roof. cousins and co had a very difficult time staying with him. his inside jumper in the paint is solid, and soft.

DD is getting more and more comfortable and confident… you can see it in his face, he is feeling it.
he moves great without the ball and really runs the floor nicely. this kid is going to be something, he is now realizing how to be successful, and he’s making it happen.

Bayless, is deadly quick… his first step is lightning… but he really needs to calm down and let the game come to him.

Jose is a leader, pure and simple. he talks so much and gets everyone involved. i felt so confident with him running the point, its a calmness that he has that Bayless doesnt have. i think the entire raps team feels it too (today it seemed that way).

Kleiza is a big boy, and he is slow as molasses… but he uses his body effectively on his defenders.

Thriller92

Why did Dorsey start over Amir? It amazes me how Amir hasnt started every game this year. Hes good, hes our best pf, he should be starting and getting starters minutes. Am I missing something?

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