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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Living in a van down by the river
Daily Raptor Dish - 11.02.11
Don't blame Jay Triano
Raptors Blog by Doug Smith
With each loss suffered by the Raptors, the misguided calls for Jay Triano’s head increase.
Many people see 14-39 in the won-lost column and come to the conclusion that Toronto’s head coach is doing a terrible job and should be replaced.
That opinion is not shared by a fair number of the NBA’s heavy-hitters.
Phil Jackson has spoken highly of Triano this season and his main rival for best coach in the game — now that Utah’s Jerry Sloan has sadly left the building — Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, was the latest to praise Triano following Wednesday’s 111-100 loss to the Spurs.
“I thought Coach Triano had a great gameplan and they gave us all we could handle,” Popovich said of the Raptors, who took a three-point lead into the final quarter.
“I thought they worked hard from the beginning to the end and put us in a lot of situations where it really hurt us defensively.”
Working hard has been a staple of Triano’s Raptors. It has had to be, given the glaring lack of talent on hand, which is the fault of the general manager, not the head coach.
With little to work with, the coach has still managed to helm a team that has been blown out very few times this season.
Sure, Triano has to take a decent share of the blame for the Raptors’ horrible defence and he has made some questionable rotational decisions, but in turn, he also must be given credit for the development of DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and even Andrea Bargnani who, despite his faults, is playing the best basketball of his career and has been benched when needed under Triano.
A lot is still unknown with Triano, now in his third year (and second full one) in charge, largely because of the talent gap he is forced to overcome every night.
The Niagara Falls native might not be the answer here. But then again, he might be. We really don’t know at this point and won’t have a clear picture really until he has a legit group to work with.
A franchise player who delivers
So, wonder how Amir will hurt himself tonight?
Will his back lock up? Roll an ankle. Tweak a knee?
You know something’s likely to happen, it seems to quite often, but you also know one other thing:
The kid is going to keep playing.
There is no doubt that this has been a terrible season for the HOTH (Heroes Of The Hardcourt for those just joining) but maybe the best and most surprising thing has been Johnson’s effort and I think my admiration for him gets greater every day.
This kid just plays hard, all the time, and he plays hurt and seems like a very good teammate. Doesn’t demand the ball or shots and goes out and does his level best every night.
Now, he’s not perfect and there’s still lots more that he can do but for those of you looking for some positive signs, watch him.
Raptors Game Day
Instead, a new question has emerged: What if, instead of taking Andrea Bargnani with the first pick of the 2006 draft, Bryan Colangelo had selected LaMarcus Aldridge, pictured, the versatile Portland power forward?
Admittedly, this question requires plenty of faulty logic. Raptors fans complained about Colangelo's choice to pair Chris Bosh with another scoring big man, Bargnani. Well, Aldridge is pretty much a duplicate of Bosh, from the shooting range to the average defensive chops to the Texas drawl. The two could not have played together; they require the exact same spot on the court.
Five years into their career, here is the reality, though: Bargnani is still maddening, a gifted scorer who can float in and out of games without any defensive or rebounding presence. Aldridge, meanwhile, has been the biggest reason Portland has stayed afloat this season, and he has a legitimate case to be angry over not making the Western Conference all-star team, even though that conference is loaded (especially with deserving power forwards).
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS AT TORONTO Raptors
7 p.m., Air Canada Centre
TV: TSN2 Radio: Fan 590
TRAIL BAZERS Raptors
28-24 Record 14-39
10-17 Away Home 9-16
95.8 (24th) Points per game 98.8 (16th)
95.6 (8th) Points allowed per game 104.8 (24th)
-0.1 (14th) Rebound differential -1.2 (23rd)
21.6 LaMarcus Aldridge Points Andrea Bargnani
11.3 Marcus Camby Rebounds Reggie Evans 12.1
7.3 Andre Miller Assists Jose Calderon
Statistics do not include Thursday's games
Who's hot? LaMarcus Aldridge has scored at least 40 points in two of his last five games, including a career-high 42 against Chicago on Monday.
Who's not? Joel Przybilla is not starting because of his offence right now -- thankfully. His season high for points in a game: six.
Who's hot? DeMar DeRozan has enjoyed a hot start to the month, averaging 19.8 points per game on 61% shooting.
Who's not? With the success from the field, DeRozan's aggressiveness has taken a hit. He is shooting just 1.4 free throws per game in four games this month.
Toronto vs. Portland
Trail Blazers game preview: Portland at Toronto Raptors
TIME: 07:00 P.M. EST
VENUE: Air Canada Centre
Marcus Camby and Brandon Roy aren't quite ready to return from arthroscopic knee surgery, leaving the Portland Trail Blazers waiting once again on their defensive anchor and their three-time All-Star guard.
With LaMarcus Aldridge seemingly taking his All-Star snub personally, Portland is in no rush.
Coming off a career-best 42-point performance, Aldridge looks to stay hot as the visiting Trail Blazers try to hand the Toronto Raptors a 16th loss in 17 games Friday night.
Roy and Camby returned to practice Wednesday after both underwent surgery last month, an encouraging sign for Portland (28-24) as it battles for playoff position in the Western Conference.
Neither will be on the court Friday - Roy had initially targeted this game to be back in uniform - but both could play before the All-Star break. Coach Nate McMillan plans to be cautious with the two players, particularly Roy, who has been dogged by knee injuries the past two seasons.
"I feel good but at the same time I understand where (McMillan) is coming from," Roy said of his return being pushed back. "He wants me to feel great."
McMillan is certainly feeling great about the way Aldridge has played since Roy went down. He's averaged 25.0 points and 10.2 rebounds in leading Portland to a 16-10 record, and he's delivered two defining efforts this month.
Aldridge scored a then-career-high 40 points in a 99-86 win over San Antonio on Feb. 1, perhaps making a final push to be named to the West All-Star team. He wasn't picked when the reserves were announced three days later, and appeared to take a personal affront to being left out Monday against Chicago.
Aldridge scored 28 of his 42 points after halftime in a 109-103 victory.
"All-Star. That's all I can say," Portland center Joel Przybilla said of Aldridge.
No Blazers forward has had two 40-point games since Zach Randolph in 2006-07, when he averaged 23.6 points but was also left off the West roster.
"Me getting 42 tonight isn't going to change their mind, so what is it going to do for me?" Aldridge said.
Aldridge had 22 points and 10 boards in a 97-84 home win over the Raptors (14-39) on Nov. 6, while Roy led the way with 26.
That was part of a 1-7 start for Toronto, which seems like a mild slump compared to its current slide. The Raptors led NBA-best San Antonio by three heading into the fourth quarter Wednesday but fell 111-100, their 15th loss in 16 games.
"With that kind of team ... you cannot slip," said guard Leandro Barbosa, who had 20 points off the bench. "We slipped a little bit, and that's what gave them the opportunity to beat us."
Toronto allows a league-high 48.0 points per game in the paint and the Spurs ripped them for 70, which bodes well for Aldridge and the Blazers. When they score 42 or more inside, they're 18-7.
To make matters worse for the Raptors, big man Amir Johnson might be a bit banged up after spraining his ankle early in Wednesday's game. He returned, however, and is averaging 15.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in his last seven games.
Andrea Bargnani has emerged from his recent funk to average 27.3 points in his last three games, but he might not be too happy to see Portland. His 9.0 average against the Blazers is his worst versus any opponent.
Game 53 Preview: Trail Blazers vs. Raptors
About the Raptors: The Raptors have lost 15 of their last 16 games, with the most recent defeat coming Wednesday, 111-100, to the San Antonio Spurs. Their only win during the run came Feb. 4 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and ended a 13-game losing streak, the second-longest in franchise history. Toronto has just three wins — against Cleveland, Sacramento and Minnesota — in 2011. ... Bargnani is averaging 27.3 points per game over his last three games and has led the Raptors in scoring 26 times this season. The native Italian ranks 18th in the NBA in scoring average. ... DeRozan was selected to play alongside Matthews in the Rookie-Sophomore Challenge and also will compete in the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend. DeRozan, who had 25 points, four rebounds and three assists in the loss to the Spurs, is the only Raptor to start all 53 games this season. .... Johnson, who leads the Raptors with 11 double-doubles, left with 5:28 remaining in the first quarter against the Spurs with a sprained right ankle but returned. He's listed day-to-day. ... Calderon, who is averaging 11.0 points and 10.1 assists in 33 games as a starter, ranks seventh in the NBA in assists and seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (404-to-103).
About the Blazers: The Blazers have won eight of their last 12 games, including consecutive games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls. ... They rank among the worst in the NBA in field goal shooting percentage (44.1) and three-point shooting percentage (33.8), but when they shoot well, they win — the Blazers are 20-1 when they shoot a higher percentage than their opponent. ... Aldridge, who scored a career-high 42 points Monday against the Bulls, has averaged 25.4 points and 10.2 rebounds since Dec. 15. ... The Blazers rank fourth in the NBA in turnovers (averaging 13.2 a game) and fifth in steals (8.2). ... Miller, who ranks 16th on the NBA's all-time assists list, ranks 12th in the NBA in assists and needs to average 6.0 per game the rest of the season to move into 14th place.
Series history: The Trail Blazers have won five games in a row and hold a 20-9 advantage all-time in the series, which includes a 9-5 edge in Toronto. The Blazers beat the Raptors 97-84 on Nov. 26 at the Rose Garden in the first meeting this season as LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon Roy scored 26 points.
Injuries: Blazers centers Marcus Camby (left knee) and Greg Oden (left knee) are out, as are guards Brandon Roy (both knees) and Elliot Williams (both knees). Forwards Linas Kleiza (right knee) and Reggie Evans (right foot) will not play for the Raptors.
The Toronto Raptors aren't the worst team in the league but they're in the second tier for sure. Only Sacramento, Minnesota and Cleveland have fewer wins. Only Washington and Cleveland have worse point differentials. If anything you'd fancy the Raptors an offensive team, with Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, and Jose Calderon playing prominent roles. But they're an offensive team scoring only 98.8 points per game and shooting 46.3%, the latter good for 10th in the league. That might be something to hang their hats on if they weren't allowing an obnoxious 104.8 points per game in return. That may not be as devastating as the 48.4% they allow opponents to shoot. That's dead last in the league. Defensive Efficiency: 29th. Fast Break points allowed: 29th. Points in the Paint allowed: 30th. Opponent 3-point percentage: 27th. Defensive Rebounding percentage: 24th. Put these guys in an armored truck and a blind mime with a can opener would still get past their guard. They might as well suit up Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCullough, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson on the defensive end. I hear McCullough is a vicious rebounder and Thompson has quite a way with the refs. It'd be a step forward.
What do the Raptors do? They fast break. They can offensive rebound a little. Most of their guys can hit a mid-range jumper, particularly Bargnani. (They can't hit the three though. Only Calderon does that well.) Their guards can get in the lane. That's about it.
Best of all for the Blazers, the Raptors play fairly small. You're not going to find hulking centers making Portland pay for using copious doses of LaMarcus Aldridge and friends at the big positions. Portland should be able to play their own small lineup at will...a lineup which has caused no end of trouble for opponents this year when not overmatched size-wise.
The game plan should be pretty easy for Portland:
1. Get back on defense. Eliminate fast-break points.
2. Rebound that ball.
3. Be patient but decisive in the offense. You can get good shots against the Raptors. Just decide which spot looks weakest and exploit it. Look especially to press the advantage at point guard and center.
4. Remember that while Toronto's players have talent, they're mostly specialists. Bargnani is not going to put the ball on the floor. DeRozen will want to do nothing but. Ditto Bayless, providing he plays significant minutes. (He's been injured.) Sonny Weems' shot isn't connecting. Just keep him away from the hoop. Do the opposite with Calderon. Reggie Evans is useless unless offensive rebounding. The list goes on. As long as Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, and Dante Cunningham can guard some of their multi-purpose, swing-type wings and forwards the Blazers should have little trouble deciding what to do on defense.
The Raptors do have a couple of nice forwards in Amir Johnson and rookie Ed Davis. Aldridge will have to be careful about getting in foul trouble. The breadth of the Raptor bench could be a concern in general, but Portland doesn't play a game tomorrow so they should be comfortably liberal with the starters should the need arise.
The biggest key for Portland may be pure effort. We've seen the Blazers play above and beyond the level of the finer teams they've faced. We've also seen them play down to and below the level of uninspiring teams. Someday they'll learn that coming out of the gate strong, building a cushion, and coasting home takes far less energy than half playing for three quarters and then trying to pull the bacon out of the fire in the fourth. Tonight would be a great time to start.