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Join Date: Dec 2007
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Daily Raptor Dish - 22.12.10
Zone defense could be key for Raps
Raptors get some bodies back
TORONTO -- The past two Toronto Raptors games went the way most would have expected them, a win against the New jersey Nets and a defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, in those two games, Toronto started to do something that it had only sparingly done over the course of this season. Play zone defense.
During the game against the Nets, the Raps showed zone often enough for it to be noticeable and they were able to shut down New Jersey, holding it to just 45 percent from the floor - the first time in six games they have held an opponent to under 50 percent shooting and just the seventh time this season they've managed to limit a team to 45 percent shooting or less from the field.
Electing to go to the zone was a smart move against the Nets because they are one of the worst shooting teams in the league and making them take jumpers will more than likely play into an opposing team's favor.
That being said, Los Angeles is another beast altogether. The Lakers rank in the top 10 in field goal percentage and three-point shooting, therefore theoretically, a zone should not work against them.
Theory doesn't always translate into practice, though, and the Raptors were able to make a game of it on Sunday because of the two-three scheme that head coach Jay Triano elected to go with for most of the game.
It was particularly effective when the Lakers looked primed to break out and turn the contest into a blowout. In the third quarter, L.A. was up by as much as 15, and there was a sense that it was going to trample over the Raptors. But that never happened because Triano went back to his zone, something that was able to confuse the complex triangle offence that Phil Jackson's team runs.
Zoning forced the Lakers to take shots at inopportune times and to turn the ball over when they attempted to collapse the zone by trying to move the ball into the soft areas of the defense.
Pistons will be looking for revenge on Raps
Small progress was made on the injury front for the Raptors on Tuesday.
Eight players made it through practice — though Jose Calderon only went half-way — and starters Amir Johnson and Andrea Bargnani (right) said they expect to play against Detroit.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano was happy with the numbers.
“We ended up going four-on-four today, which is about the best we could do, patch them together, and see if we can get one more before we get to the break,” Triano said.
“We’re having a hard time figuring out when the last practice was that we went five-on-five. To be honest, today was a good day for us. We went pretty hard live. I thought we got some good stuff out of it.”
Bargnani was glad to be able to compete against his teammates, but wasn’t getting carried away.
“It’s not like I’ve been out for three months,” Bargnani said with a laugh.
“I can’t say it feels good to be back (because he hasn’t been out long enough to say that).”
Raptors Blog by Doug Smith
Christmas is so close, the Raptors are already thinking about what will be under the tree and at the dinner table, but in order for it to be a happy holiday for the squad, a win must be attained against Detroit on Wednesday night.
It probably won’t be easy. NBA players have long memories to begin with. Add a humiliating loss less than two weeks ago that included blowing a 25-point lead at home to the mix and it is clear, if the Pistons have any heart at all, they will come out like men possessed at the ACC.
Former Piston Amir Johnson expects nothing less from a roster he remains extremely tight with.
“We know they’ll be after us, they were upset,” Johnson said.
“We’re going to be prepared though. I would hate to lose. They’re my friends but we’re all competing.”
The Pistons, particularly veterans Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace, were devastated after Toronto’s miraculous comeback at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The hard-to-figure Pistons then beat the solid Atlanta Hawks before getting crushed at home by the lowly Los Angeles Clippers.
Detroit rebounded by beating New Orleans in overtime on the weekend.
“Losing a game like (the Raptors comeback) hurts a lot so they’re going to come ready to play,” said Andrea Bargnani, echoing Johnson’s thoughts.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano also agreed that Detroit would be jacked for the rematch.
Raptors hungry for a victory — and some candied yams
Wish there was something of substance but it’s agonizingly slow around there these days.
Guess the big thing Tuesday was that, for the first time they can remember, there was a chance to actually get some practice in. It wasn’t full, but it was enough, sayeth Jay.
“We went four-on-four, which is about the best we could do so we have to patch them together and see if we can squeeze one more out of them before we get a little break.
“We’re having a hard time figuring out when the last practice was when we went five-on-five live but, to be honest, today was a good day for us. We went four-on-four hard, live and I thought we got some good stuff out of it.”
It was the other day when Jay was talking about practice and the need for it and what it accomplishes with a young team like he’s got. Some veteran teams can handle long stretches without getting any real work in between games; Jay feels this group needs to get into the gym almost every day if for no other reason than to sit and watch video of past indiscretions (and things they’ve done well).
Christmas gives Raptors chance to refuel
It might not be visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads, but there may be a Raptor or two dreaming of fresh seafood, gumbo, macaroni and cheese and candied yams when they face the Detroit Pistons at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night.
It is the last game before a four-day holiday break, and with the tugs of family and friends and last-minute shopping to worry about, keeping players focused may be coach Jay Triano’s biggest task.
And that’s not even talking about the allure of food, good home-cooked meals that are as much a staple of the holidays as anything material.
“My family decided to come out and spend the holidays with me,” said Californian Amir Johnson. “They’re already cooking the food. They’ve got the gumbo, the collard greens, sweet potato pie, all that good food.”
And if Julian Wright’s a bit distracted, well, it’s because his mom’s due in town and it’s time for a feast.
“Ham, candied yams, macaroni and cheese, everything,” said Wright. “It’s Thanksgiving but we do it on Christmas . . . I’m going to get a home-cooked meal.”
It probably goes without saying that when a guy in his 20s has a bigger bank account than most CEOs, his Christmas wish list is rather short.
“I don’t want to get into all that materialistic stuff,” said Linas Kleiza, 25, who makes more than $4-million (U.S.) annually as a forward for the Toronto Raptors.
For most on the young Raptors squad, holiday demands are pretty simple.
“Homemade macaroni and cheese. Every day. It’s got to be ready when I get home,” shooting guard DeMar DeRozan said after practice on Tuesday.
If there’s a silver lining to having a chronically mediocre win-loss record (Toronto is 10-18), it’s that Christmas generally means some time off. So while ratings boosters such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat do battle on Christmas Day, the Raptors will be fanned out across North America, enjoying a three-day break that begins after they play host to the Detroit Pistons at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night.
On Dec. 25, DeRozan will be watching the Lakers game on an 80-inch plasma television at his parents’ house in Los Angeles. Kleiza will be saying grace with his family in New York. Coach Jay Triano will kick back in Vancouver before hopping the red-eye to Memphis, where the Raptors will practise on Boxing Day before their Dec. 27 matchup against the Grizzlies.