Week 11 begins tonight with a game against the 16 – 19 Bucks, currently in 8th place one place ahead of the Raptors for the last playoff spot in the East. In the past 10 games, they have won six including wins over the Spurs, the Jazz and the Knicks, split games with the Bobcats and have lost to the Rockets, the Pistons and the 76ers. Following this on Wednesday, the Wizards complete a short 2 game road trip with neither Jose Calderon nor Jermaine O’Neal traveling with the team. The Wizards are struggling for consistency as well and are a dismal 7 – 25, yet were able to defeat the Cavaliers who have gone 2 – 2 this past week splitting games with the Heat and defeating the Rockets before losing last night to the Wizards. Friday brings the Grizzlies to town and their 11 – 23 record having lost to the Suns, the Spurs and the Timberwolves before knocking off the Mavericks Sunday. Here is how I see the week shaping up.
Monday, January 05, 2009 Raptors @ Bucks
With Andrew Bogut questionable for the game tonight and Malik Allen out, the Bucks will have a tough time up front with Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh both playing very solid games this past week. Starting Dan Gadzuric and Luc Richard Mbah a Mouteand and Richard Jefferson up front, the Bucks will have trouble with our inside game and should Jamario Moon continue to gather rebounds as he has been, the Bucks will be forced to beat us with Michael Redd and Luke Ridenour. Not entirely out of the question and the Raptors will have to be sure to keep the defensive pressure on as Will Solomon, Roko Ukic and Anthony Parker look to continue the guard play that has been solid this past week. Jason Kapono is set to have a big game and he should find lots of room to shoot, as the Bucks send a smaller line up to the court.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009 Raptors @ Wizards
The Wizards start Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche with no real Center as Caron Butler fills the other forward position. This should give the Raptors the edge inside as Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh will look to put pressure on the interior of the Wizards all night long. With Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson hurt, the Wizards have been starting 4 forwards with Dominic McGuire filling the 4th forward position and Mike James running the point. Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon should be able to control this lineup with speed and help defense as Will and Roko should be able to control this game from start to finish. I can’t see the Wizards winning unless the Raptors fall asleep as the Cavaliers did.
Friday, January 09, 2009 Raptors vs. Grizzlies
The Grizzlies bring Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Kyle Lowry to the game with Darrell Arthur as well as Hakim Warrick. The Raptors had best be paying attention as this team could take advantage of any attitude that might develop should they win the first two games this week. I think they will be ready after a short road trip and looking to prepare for the back to back with the Celtics on Sunday and Monday. I am confident that Coach Triano won’t let this team drift away this week.
Sunday, January 11, 2009 Raptors vs. Celtics
Monday, January 12, 2009 Raptors @ Celtics
I will do both here as they will be hard to separate in the course of the weekend. The Celtics have been inconsistent the past 10 games winning only 6 losing to the Lakers on Christmas day then the Warriors on the 26th. Since then, they have lost to the Trail Blazers and the Knicks but are still comfortable with a 29 – 6 record and still 1st overall in the east, but second over all in the league just behind the Lakers. With Kevin Garnett playing as well as he ever has and the surging play of Rajon Rondo, this Celtics team offers depth and skill to about 10 players with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Leon Powe, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Tony Allen leading the way. The Raptors will need to be at the top of their game but will be looking to steal one of these games and I think they might be ready to do it at this point. The Raptors have looked more confident with a lead than at any other point this season so I look for 2 very good games.
Next week brings us the Bulls, the Pacers and the Suns as this team heads to the all-star break looking to get back to or above %.500. That would be a very good recovery from what looked like a dismal season not 2 weeks ago.