Tag:Al Horford
Posted on: November 28, 2008 10:33 pm

Raptors - Hawks - A Game in Review

The Raptors came into Friday’s game against the Hawks needing a win to close out a 4 game home stand at 2 – 2 after losing to the Celtics and the Nets. A victory over the Bobcats on Wednesday gave them a better frame of mind against a team that had beaten them once this season. With Jermaine O’Neal on the bench, the Raptors needed to find a way to contain the Hawks on the boards and control the perimeter after being torched by Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson. The Hawks were looking to return to the form that had gotten them off to a 6 – 0 start before losing to the Celtics. Since that loss they were 3 – 5 bringing a 9 – 5 record to Toronto and looking to turn the momentum early in the season.

Averaging 27.6 points per game coming in, Chris Bosh has been hot lately with 2 40+ point games and a 39 in the past week. He has been one of the top players in the league so far being 2nd in scoring behind LeBron James and just ahead of Dwyane Wade so far this season. After being stuck in his apartment’s elevator for about an hour, he arrived late to the game and missed the warm up. That is probably a very good thing for the Hawks as he opened a bit cold shooting but had 5 assists in the first half before he scored 20 in the second half ending up with 30 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks for a solid all around game providing yet another example of why he should be considered an elite player in this league.

One of the biggest ingredients this team has been missing thus far this season has been bench play on both offense and defense. Tonight, on a night where Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon struggled offensively, combining for only 11 points, Joey Graham, Jason Kapono, Kris Humphries and Will Solomon combined for 31 points and 13 rebounds. Anthony Parker not only provided 7 points and 2 steals, but he kept Joe Johnson quiet in the first half and held him to 18 points overall. Jamario Moon had perhaps his most solid start of the year adding 10 points and trying hard to contain Mike Bibby who finished with 20 points, but had 15 at the half. Our defense looked solid though at times it still gave up easy inside shots or runners in the lane, over all, most shots, even from outside the arc were contested and that was enough to turn the game around as the Raptors had to fight back from a half time deficit.

Overall, the Raptors must be pleased with the ball control they exhibited down the stretch after the Vince Carter debacle with the Nets last week. I am sure most Raptors fans held their breath as the Raptors held on with solid defense and timely offensive boards and some well executed in-bounds plays. The team showed some character coming up with huge stops when they needed them and some outstanding rebounding at both ends. After some goofy shots on about 7 possessions in a row, the guys got it back together and held off the Hawks.

Let’s hope this can build some momentum going into Sunday’s game in Los Angeles and the Lakers. With a lineup of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum,  who is not playing and is questionable for the game, and Vladimir Radmanovic and Dereck Fisher, this team is going into Friday night’s game against the Dirk Nowitzki led Mavericks with a 12 – 1 record. This game will be a challenging game as the Raptors will again have a test of their resolve. The next few games for the Raptors will be played against some of the top teams in the league. With the Jazz and the Nuggets up next, it could be a difficult week for the Raptors.

Posted on: November 27, 2008 12:35 pm

Raptors - Hawks - A game Preview

Friday night, the Raptors welcome the Atlanta Hawks to the ACC. A team that has been hot and cold this season with a hot 6 – 0 start only to go 3 – 5 in the next 8. Since injuring his ankle against the Raptors early in the season, Josh Smith has not returned to the lineup. The Hawks are 5 – 5 with him out of the lineup and miss his leadership and his 12 points per game.

What they do bring to the floor is an array of young and old talent with Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson working with Acie Law, Al Horford, Ronald Murray as well as a mix of guys like Marvin Williams and Maurice Evans. Besides Josh Smith, the Hawks have a very balanced offense with 5 other players in double digits nightly with Evans at just over 9 as well, this team will challenge weak defensive teams all over the court. With winning 3 of the last 4 against the Wizards, the Bucks and the Bobcats, the Hawks are coming into Toronto looking for a win to kick start a week of games with the Knicks, the Wizards and the Grizzlies, they look to continue a series of winnable games.

The Raptors are coming off a hard fought win against the Bobcats where Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor lead a spirited game against a short lineup with Jermaine sitting for the Raptors. He will also miss this game leaving Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani to start up front with Joey Graham likely to start at the 3 spot. Sam Mitchell will look to Joey to tighten the defense around Joe Johnson who, along with Mike Bibby, torched the Raptors the last game. With Jose Calderon looking much better, the offense is starting to look more consistent again, but taking only 72 shots against the Bobcats is barely what I would call purring along. When the Raptors decide to watch Chris Bosh score as they did last night until Joey stepped up and scored 17 off the bench, it was hard to watch as they stagnated several times and kept the Bobcats in the game with poor shots.

The keys for the game against the Hawks will be a combination of ball control and ball movement. 12 turnovers last night allowed the Raptors to keep the pace where they wanted and keep the ball moving on offense. Aside from Jason Kapono and his pump fake travel, the Raptors made much better decisions with the ball. I seem to recall most of the turnovers were having the ball ripped out of the hands by more aggressive defenders. Jamario Moon has got to become more involved defensively as he has not done much on either end of the floor. Should Joey have another good game both offensively and defensively, we may not see Jamario for awhile. Roko Ukic will be called upon to spell Jose off and if he continues to progress in his ability to maintain the ball and keep the offense running both in the open court and in the half court, this team will succeed. Defensively, we still have work to do as a team as more than a few times someone would make a great play only to have the ball return to a Bobcat as no one rotated to help on the ball. That will have to change against a much better front court that the Hawks will bring. One good thing that I did notice was how many times the Bobcats made a very tough shot with :00 on the shot clock. It was good to see guys jumping lanes and rotating on defense to limit the open looks.

With the Lakers due up on Sunday, Jermaine will rest again. The Raptors, as a group, will have to be committed to team play to win this game. Can they do it? I think we can. Who will provide the second and third option this team will need to compliment Chris Bosh? Who will step up and shut down Bibby and Johnson? We have the players who can do it and I think Kris Humphries will factor hugely into this game. Enjoy the game. Comments always welcome.

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