Tag:Devin Harris
Posted on: December 15, 2008 1:13 pm
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Raptors - Week 8 in Preview - Another tough week

Week 8 for the Raptors feels like more waves of a tsunami as we have the Nets again in Toronto, then Wednesday we host the 13 – 9 Mavericks who play the Nuggets tonight. Friday we are in Oklahoma to play the Thunder then head south to play the Spurs. Combined records of the Spurs, Mavericks and Nets – 39 – 28. We start the week 10 – 13 in 4th place in the Atlantic division and 10th overall in the Eastern Conference with the Knicks and the Bulls 1 game up and the Nets 1.5 games ahead of us for 8th spot. Considering all this team has gone through, we are still positioned well at this point and a few wins now would help not only mentally but over all in the playoff race as well.

Monday, December 15, 2008 – Raptors vs. Nets @ the ACC

Not much more to add from Friday’s game. Devin Harris and Vince Carter will have to be held to 17 points again and the Nets as a team need to be held to 31.1% shooting again. Can it happen? Sure it can. With Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono not having to guard players man on man for extended minutes, this Raptors team has developed a solid interior defense that has cut the points in the paint for the opposition to under 30 a game the past 3 games. A far cry from the almost 50 a game they were allowing. With Josh Boone back in the lineup and playing near 100% again, this will be a tougher Nets team who will be looking to rebound from the loss in New Jersey.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 – Raptors vs. Mavericks @ the ACC

The Mavericks are sitting in 8th place in the tough western conference, .5 of a game ahead of the Suns who have 14 wins. Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 26.3 points per game and Jason Terry is averaging 20.8. Beyond those two, they have no one over 10 with Jason Kidd averaging 9.7 points per game. They have a weak spot at Center offensively but Eric Dampier continues to be a solid defender and provides them strength up the middle. With guys like Antoine Wright and Gerald Green and Brandon Bass, this team has a solid group behind Dirk and JT. This will be a huge testing game for Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh and will reveal whether or not or to what extent our interior defense has developed since December 3rd.

Friday, December 19, 2008 – Raptors vs. Thunder

At 2 – 23 and only 1 game this week against the Clippers, this Thunder team has almost a week to prepare for this game. The starters look solid as a group with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nick Collison, Damien Wilkens, and either Johan Petro or Russell Westbrook, this team has solid offense but struggles defensively sitting at 25th in the league in opposition scoring per game.  The Raptors are currently sitting 20th which is improving every game. This is a game we should win and I look to our defense to stifle the Thunder all night long. I suspect that Jay will prepare them a bit more than that!

Saturday, December 20, 2008 – Raptors – Spurs

Rumors of the demise of this Spurs team were swirling as Manu Ginobili started the season hurt then Tony Parker went down. Too old, too slow, no one other than Manu could lead this team. Tim Duncan just wasn’t enough. Well, after 23 games, Manu is back, Tony is back and since starting 1 – 4, this team is 14 – 4 sitting third in the West with 6 straight wins over the Mavericks, the Nuggets, the Hawks, the Warriors, the Timberwolves and the Thunder. In the past 10 games they are 8 – 2 with losses to the Pistons and the Rockets. Aside from Tony and Manu and Tim, this team has more players averaging 10 or more points per game. Tony Parker averages 21.3, Tim Duncan 21, Manu Ginobili 15.5, Roger Jr. Mason 13.3 and Michael Finley averages 10.3 points per game. George Hill sits at 9.9 so that is 6 players at 10 or more points. Balance on offense and hard work on defense keeps this team at or near the top every season and why they can beat teams when one or two “star” players are not 100%. This will be a tough game for the Raptors as we don’t play well in San Antonio as a rule. The Spurs play two on the road this week at the Hornets and the Magic.

The key for the Raptors this week will be to allow the system the chance to work. Defensively we have come along way since December 3rd. We can now shut aspects of teams down and as we continue to work on the defensive game, we will develop that transition game that the good teams use to score the easy break points. Our rebounding needs to improve as it did cost us the game Sunday against the Hornets. A rebound at either end, and a couple of free throws were all we needed to win that game. Quality minutes from our bench seems to be the trend and this week we will need them to continue to improve and contribute more scoring as well as work hard defensively to keep games in check. They will not be able to let teams come back into games we are leading or let teams pull away from us and they have been doing both very well this past week.

Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal need to develop more desire to drive the ball. The 15 foot shots are nice, but they are then out of position for the short boards that often result from the mid-range shots. Andrea Bargnani will be looked to from the bench and perhaps the addition of Jake Voskuhl will add some grit underneath. Jose Calderon looks much more at ease with a guard for a coach and seems to be freer to shoot when he sees the spot. Let’s hope that guys like Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono continue their improvement and work to stick their bums on people and box out at both ends. Anthony Parker I suspect will be hard pressed to get back into the lineup any time soon as the team suffered during his minutes on the floor on Sunday afternoon. Roko Ukic looks very good and relaxed with the ball and seems to be the only one who still drives the ball on this team. Should be a very interesting week for the Raptors.

Posted on: December 13, 2008 10:48 am
 

Raptors - Nets - A Game Review

Friday night in the Swamp, the Raptors faced the Nets in a game where both teams had something to prove. The Nets were looking to build on a 7 – 3 in the last 10 games and still enjoying the OT win in Toronto after being down 18 points for most of the game. The Raptors were looking to show that their defensive improvements over the past 3 games critical in the win over the Pacers Wednesday night in which they held Danny Granger pretty much out of the game though he finished with 22 points, he was held to 9 – 25. The Raptors were looking to re-establish the interior defense that they had in the 3 – 0 start of the season, but lost before the change of coaches. On a night when the Nets were still without Eduardo Najera and Josh Boone was playing his first game after missing 14 games, the Raptors were looking to exploit that thin front line.

As the game unfolded, it was easy to see that the Raptors commitment to defense had taken hold. At one point early the Nets were held to 4 points in the paint and it stayed that way as Vince Carter made 0 shots in the first half making his first FT with 8:21 left in the 3rd quarter ending with 3 points and 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He was frustrated all night as Jamario Moon would not let him have any open looks and when he drove, the defense was there with the proper rotation forcing him to pass and often, that pass was contested and the ensuing shooter was contested. It was great to watch the Raptors hustle for loose balls and attack the perimeter making the Nets take low percentage shots or creating turnovers. The Nets ended the game with 18 turnovers. When the 4th quarter started, Vince was planted firmly on the bench and the Nets were 27% or so as a team shooting. They ended up at 31.3% as the benches played out the 4th which the Raptors started with a 71 – 53 lead. At a couple places in the 4th, the Raptors were up 30 points and had a 31 point lead at one point as the Nets bench scored 26 points in the 4th to keep the numbers from being more lop-sided than they already were.

For the Nets, Devin Harris and Vince Carter came into the game averaging 47.7 points per game as a tandem, one of the most prolific duos in the league this season. Raptors concern was that this would not be contained. With Jose Calderon and Jamario Moon playing against them most of the night with help from Joey Graham on Vince, they were held to 17 points on 4 – 23 shooting Vince being held to 0 field goals. Both Jose and Jamario have had points in the season where they have been called lousy defenders and liabilities, but Friday night they broke down the Nets back court all night long with Jamario Moon ending the night with 5 steals and 1 block. Last game, Brook Lopez scored 14 points inside and was a huge reason why the Nets were able to come back as he was an active threat on the glass and created a lot of room for Devin Harris and Vince Carter to take over the game. Friday night he was pretty much held in check by Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal as they both were up to the task of keeping the pressure on anyone who ventured into the paint. Lopez scored 6 Friday but was able to grab 8 rebounds which kept the Nets in this game for the first 3 quarters. Yi Jianlian was guarded by Chris Bosh most of the night and was relegated to a perimeter player most of the night as he had no room underneath and was frustrated by Chris Bosh all night ending up with 5 fouls taking him out of his slashing game. Bobby Simmons and Trenton Hassell had 12 and 10 points. As a group, the Nets starters were held to 15 – 54 for a dismal 27.7% shooting. That speaks of them taking plenty of low percentage shots and having a terrible night shooting overall.

Let me review my 4 keys to the game and highlight some good play by the Raptors as a group.

1) Turnovers – we will not be able to turn the ball over 20+ times against this quick back court or we will pay a huge price for it. Jose and Roko Ukic or Will Solomon will have to work hard at making the right pass and keep the turnovers under 15.

The Raptors ended the night with 11 turnovers to the Nets 18 with 8 steals and 8 blocks 4 by Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors held the Nets to 7 points off of turnovers as they recovered well while scoring 24 off of Nets turnovers. Jose Calderon had 0 turnovers and 3 assists and 3 rebounds and 13 points, but played so well on defense which was the first priority for him last night. Roko Ukic again played a very solid game attacking the rim and pushing the ball up the floor. He ended the night with 10 points and 5 assists and 4 rebounds and only 1 turnover. He has grown immensely in the past few games under Jay Triano as he finds himself getting more and more minutes and handling himself very well. Chris Bosh had 4 turnovers, usually making bad passes in the post or just losing the handle. He is not usually this awkward with the ball, but he is drawing more attention from weak side help again, but last night that was exploited with great success.

2) Rebound on both ends – the Raptors will not get away with a soft night on the glass at this point. Teams know this Raptors team has no desire to get after balls and will gladly do the work it takes to control the ball and the pace of the game.

Again, the Raptors were out rebounded on the offensive glass 20 – 5! 50 – 37 over all so they were collecting the ball on defense. Most games, I would be saying that this stat alone is one that will beat them most nights, but on a night when the Nets MISSED 57 shots, we got the ball back 56% of the time. The Nets ended with only 19 second chance points on 20 offensive boards! To me, that tells me that the Raptors were very good at recovering and actively pursuing the ball which is something they had not been doing as they were in the nasty habit of watching the rebounder just put the ball back in the net. I think it was Jermaine O’Neal who blocked at least 1 ball that was pretty much in the cylinder, but more on that later. Do the Raptors need to work harder on offensive rebounding? Yes, but when a team settles for long shots, they usually get long rebounds and that was how it went last night which is why they had so few second chance points. For their 5 offensive boards, the Raptors had 9 second chance points. I can live with that effort, but would love to see that balance itself out.

3) Balanced offense – 6 players in double digits is a good sign for this team. When the ball movement is there, Chris Bosh has his room to do what he does and take the ball to the hole and get to the line. Another double double from Jose would look great as well.

Friday night, Chris Bosh scored 18 points, had 5 rebounds and 3 assists and 1 steal. He was 6 – 8 from the field and 6 – 7 from the line. His 4 turnovers were a big reason why his numbers were down and the fact he sat the 4th quarter showed the effort the team gave last night. This is the second win in a row and the second game in a row he has not hit his season average in points. It is also the second game in a row that we have had 6 players in double digits with Chris Bosh, Jason Kapono with 16 on 4 – 9 from 3 point range, Andrea Bargnani with 11 and 7 rebounds, Joey Graham and another very solid game all over the floor with 16 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and some hard work defensively let him finish the game with 30 minutes of playing time. It is nice to see him improving every game. Roko Ukic again had 10 points and 5 assists and 4 rebounds and Jose Calderon had 13 points. That type of balance from the Raptors starters and bench will give the team more opportunity to win close games as the season rolls on. Will Solomon and Hassan Adams also played with Will adding 2 points.

4) Protect the paint – we can’t continue to give up 40+ points in the paint and expect to win many games. NOT IN MY HOUSE has to become the mantra on defense of this team.

Coming into the game, the Raptors had been giving up 47 points in the paint as teams attacked them and collected uncontested put back baskets at will. As I watched the game, I was quite impressed by the new attitude this team has begun to develop in such a short time under Jay Triano. The Nets were only able to score 34 points in the paint last night. Loose balls are now attacked and fought for, more than a few times there were 3 Raptors on the floor after the ball, including Chris Bosh. That is a great thing to see as that is an internal thing, an instinct and a desire to win, not just play the game. You see that attitude in guys like Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups and guys that are willing to go all out every play to win. I am pleased to say that this was missing for the first part of the season, and should this continue, this team will soon gain the heart to compete at a very high level, and the past 2 weeks will be a distant memory as the new year begins.

Some random thoughts from Friday night’s game.

Chris Bosh looked very much more at peace and relaxed in the new look Raptors. He tried to force a couple passes and had the ball hacked out of his hands a few times, but I believe that he is much happier in the role of being AN option on offense as opposed to being the ONLY option on offense. I think that he will return to his 20+ games, but they will be in the context of the balance that we have seen the past 3 games. The 2 shots he missed last night were both tough no calls, but he was attacking the net again and that is a very good thing to see. Jason Kapono has scored 41 points in the past 2 games and is 17 – 31 from the field and 7 – 16 from outside the arc. Not only that, he is working harder on defense and contributing rebounds and assists that fit very well in the flow of this offense. He is a very valuable asset when he plays the game he can and doesn’t force his game. With 13 boards in the past two games, he has found other ways to contribute as well and his defensive play has improved immensely. Jermaine O’Neal scored only 7 points to go with his 2 rebounds, but added 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks providing a solid support inside that contributed to the Nets having no desire to attack the rim at all. He needs to contribute more rebounding nightly, but his defense alone was enough to set the tone for this game. Andrea Bargnani scored 11 points and collected 7 rebounds including 2 offensive rebounds. He also had 4 blocks and 1 assist on a night when his shooting was off he played a solid game on the glass and keeping the Nets out of the paint.

Sunday will be another tough game as the Hornets visit, then Monday the Nets return to the ACC, then Wednesday, the Mavericks visit as the Raptors have a 3 game home stand, but they have 5 games in the next 7 days with the Thunder and the Spurs next weekend. I hope we are up to the challenge.

Posted on: December 11, 2008 9:39 pm
 

Raptors - Nets - A Game Preview

Friday night, the Nets welcome the Raptors to the swamp and look to return to the win column after losing to the Knicks on Wednesday evening. Having won 4 of the last 5 and 7 of the last 10, this team is playing good and since beating the Raptors in Toronto on November 21st they have beaten teams like the Jazz, the Suns and the 76ers with losses to the Lakers and the Wizards and the Knicks, consistency has been an issue as they are still without Josh Boone and Eduardo Najera. Since that game in November, the Raptors have had a very serious schedule that has been the second worse in the NBA behind the Pacers so far this year. Since that game, they have beaten the Bobcats and have been pounded by the Celtics, the Lakers, the Cavaliers and the Nuggets as well as tough losses to the Jazz and the Trail Blazers. The win on Tuesday evening was a much needed break for this team who have become weary to say the least.

With a new coach in Jay Triano and a new attitude as a group, this team looks poised to begin resurgence in the tough Atlantic division and look toward moving up the ladder in the conference as December rolls on. To say this team was in disarray would not do justice to the turmoil that must have been in that locker room the past 10 days. That being said, there is still a lot of work left to do and the players have to continue the growth and continue the energy that they carried on Tuesday.

The Nets Devin Harris has quickly developed a top level game averaging 29 points in the past 6 games including 2 over 30 and 47 points against the Suns. He will look to continue this tear through the guards in the league and with Vince Carter on the floor beside him, this is one of the top back courts in the league. With Josh Boone out, rookie Brook Lopez has logged heavy minutes this season averaging 26.5 minutes per game averaging 9.5 points and 8 rebounds on a team with a lack of depth up the middle. Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian round out the front court and there is little behind them with Sean Williams and Stromile Swift on the bench. This team is guard driven with Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling waiting to contribute. Despite a thin front line, this Nets team is 11 – 9 on the season and a threat to score a lot of points on any given night.

The Raptors have to a man struggled since their 3 – 0 start. At times they have looked D-League and at times, worse. They have struggled defensively from the outside and teams have taken advantage of the soft under belly of our defense to make large runs. This team has lost too many games in which they were up 18 points. That points directly to team defense and a will to compete on every possession. With Jermaine O’Neal brought in to shore up the rebounding, especially on the offensive glass, they have had too many nights when they can’t seem to box anyone out. Jermaine will need a strong game on the glass tomorrow as the Nets know where to attack. Chris Bosh has come under fire in some quarters as playing soft or not trying, but what I sense is that teams have once again been able to focus their entire defensive rotations to keep him outside and force him to be a jump shooter. With Jason Kapono and Jamario Moon both struggling to gain a consistent outside shot and movement with out the ball, our offense had become predictable and our turnover numbers reflect the lack of creativity with which we have been playing. The experiment with Andrea Bargnani at the 3 spot seems to have come to an end with a bang as the Raptors have seen Joey Graham emerge as an energetic force on defense and turning into a steady player on offense. Andrea will return to the front line which has been thinned by Kris Humphries injury situation so the timing of the switch in rotation has been forced, but the time was right. With Anthony Parker out, Jason Kapono will draw Vince Carter and Jamario Moon will draw Bobby Simmons. Chris Bosh will face Yi Jianlian and Jermaine will be guarded by the rookie Lopez. Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono will be hard pressed to contain the Nets tandem of Carter and Harris and those matchups will be critical for success in the game.

Some game keys to watch for.

1) Turnovers – we will not be able to turn the ball over 20+ times against this quick back court or we will pay a huge price for it. Jose and Roko Ukic or Will Solomon will have to work hard at making the right pass and keep the turnovers under 15.
2) Rebound on both ends – the Raptors will not get away with a soft night on the glass at this point. Teams know this Raptors team has no desire to get after balls and will gladly do the work it takes to control the ball and the pace of the game.
3) Balanced offense – 6 players in double digits is a good sign for this team. When the ball movement is there, Chris Bosh has his room to do what he does and take the ball to the hole and get to the line. Another double double from Jose would look great as well.
4) Protect the paint – we can’t continue to give up 40+ points in the paint and expect to win many games. NOT IN MY HOUSE has to become the mantra on defense of this team.

I think the Raptors have learned some lessons about holding leads and playing when ahead and it ISN’T about making pretty plays. It’s about doing what it was that gave you the lead. Ball control, ball movement, rebounding, hitting the open man in transition, and getting the ball in the hands of the shooter when he has the shot sound easy, but those are the things the good teams do every game to win.

Posted on: December 9, 2008 2:25 pm
 

Raptors - Week 7 in Preview

The Raptors this week have 3 tough games again with the Cavaliers, the Pacers and the Nets. So far this season the Raptors have the second toughest schedule in the NBA with the Pacers being the toughest.

First up, the Cavaliers host the struggling Raptors tonight and bring a 17 – 3 record to the game which has them 2 games behind the Celtics who are first over-all in the league, putting them 2nd in the East and 3rd overall behind the Lakers who are 17 – 2 at this point. Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas needs four rebounds to break former center Brad Daugherty's record (5,227, 1986-94) and become the Cavs' all- time leading rebounder. LeBron James sits second overall in scoring average behind the Heats Dwyane Wade and just ahead of Chris Bosh with 26.5 points per game. Bosh sits at 25.7 despite a poor week of play. The Cavaliers are 11 – 0 at home and are 1 of only 2 teams to be  undefeated at home, the Trail Blazers are 7 – 0 at home as well. The Cavs’ bring an 8 game winning streak to the game tonight and are 9 – 1 in their last 10 games with their only loss going to the Pistons having beaten teams like the Hawks, the Nets, the Nuggets, the Jazz and the Knicks twice. Aside from LBJ, the Cavaliers have one of the most balanced teams they have seen in the LeBron era with Z and Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace up front. Delonte West and Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson and Wally Szczerbiak in the back court, this team has a lot of energy guys on the bench and no longer can teams wait until LBJ sits to take advantage of the weak bench. The starters as a group are averaging 28+ rebounds a game so they are working hard as a group and have been rewarded for the attention to the glass so far this season. The way the Raptors front court has been, I can’t see tonight being any different than the past 4 games as the Raptors will have to wait until another night to get their first win for Jay.

Next up the Indiana Pacers, and the return of T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic. Both of whom are enjoying good seasons with this young team. As I mentioned, this team has not enjoyed the toughest schedule in the NBA as they are 7 – 13 at this point. They do have some good talent on this team and with T.J. coming back to Toronto, they should have an emotional lift and play a spirited game. Danny Granger, Marquis Daniels, and Troy Murphy round out the starters who as a group are all at or above 10 points per game with Granger averaging 23.1 points per game. This is a game that the Raptors should win, but they will need to correct a few things first. They can not let Danny Granger roam free and attack from all parts of the floor. They have to contain the break and they have to get solid interior defense from the front line.

Friday we head to New Jersey to play Vince Carter and his Nets. Devin Harris has quickly developed into a top level guard in this league and the Nets are enjoying his development with 2 wins in a row and a 7 – 3 record in the last 10 games. With Brook Lopez developing into a solid front line player, the Nets are not just Vince Carter any more. Yi Jianlian and Keyon Dooling bring energy and solid rebounding to this team that has been thin up front with Eduardo Najera and Josh Boone out.  Any game between the Raptors and the Nets has a sideshow atmosphere and I look for more of the same.

As I see this week developing, the Raptors will be hard pressed to beat the Pacers in what could be their only realistic shot at a victory. Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon are going to have to develop some defense very quickly, Jermaine O’Neal will have to continue to score, but more importantly, provide this team some offensive rebounds, which they are 30th in the league. Andrea Bargnani had a great game against them last time and I look for him to continue his solid play on defense, but I would love to see him scoring at a 15 – 20 per game pace. Anthony Parker was burned the last sequence by Rudy Fernandez as he stood and watched the Trail Blazers grab offensive boards and find Steve Blake to kill us. That kind of effort won’t do! I think that Joey Graham should be given a shot at starting, but I suspect we won’t see a change any time soon as this team has such a thin bench as Jason Kapono and Jamario Moon are flying way under the radar. Unless this team suddenly finds some character, it will be a long week.

Posted on: November 24, 2008 11:35 am
 

Raptors - Week 4 in Review

Last week the Raptors would love to forget most of what happened to them. I know Raptors fans are very disgruntled right now with the inconsistent play from the team in general as they find ways to lose games in which they have huge leads. So far, after 13 games, the team is 6 – 7, which is exactly where it was last year after 13 games and at this point, there seems little hope for team fortunes to improve as the next week brings the Bobcats, the Hawks and the Lakers on the schedule.  With Jose Calderon still not even close to 100% healthy, it looks to be a long week again.

Here’s what I saw in the past week and what I am looking at for the next week.

The past week gave us 4 games against Eastern conference teams. Two were in the top 4 teams of the conference last season and the other two are hovering around .500 as we are. The Magic were first up in Orlando on our Florida swing with back to back games in Orlando and Miami for a re-match against the struggling Heat.

The Magic came into the game on a 3 game win streak and were 8 – 3 on the season at that point. We were able to open up a lead on the Magic as we were able to get the ball inside and keep Dwight Howard off the boards and off his game with only 4 points in the first half. He finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds, both off of his season averages. Chris Bosh had a huge game with 40 points, 18 rebounds hitting 14/19 shots while Jermaine O’Neal had 1t points and 10 rebounds. With Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono seemingly lost in their own heads, Sam Mitchell started Andrea Bargnani in the 3 spot and he struggled both on offense and on offense with only 5 points. Playing without Jose Calderon, this team turned the ball over 24 times and squandered the lead and the game away as Will Solomon attempted to run the offense with little success as the Magic just kept shooting the ball as Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis all had 22 points and seemed to answer any run the Raptors threw at them causing turnovers or grabbing rebounds and running the floor scoring an easy 2 or 3 off the transition game.

Next up were the Heat who came into the game 5 – 5 and missing Centers Jamaal Magloire and Mark Blount up front leaving the Heat out manned against the front line of Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal and Andrea Bargnani. Having beaten the Heat the previous Sunday, the rematch in Miami presented the Raptors with a good chance for a road win. Jose started the game but looked sore and careful on his injured leg. Though Dwyane Wade had 40 points and 11 assists and Shawn Marion had a 20 point, 14 rebound game, they were just not matched up well as Andrea Bargnani had a 25 point game and Jermaine had a 16 point 17 rebound effort. It was a very exciting game as Dwyane Wade took over and attacked the Raptors inside in the 4th to keep the game close. To me, the play of the game was JO’s rejection of Wade with a little over a minute left. It allowed the Raptors to get the ball back up court and pull ahead and out of range.

Next game was the Nets and Vince Carter. Although the Raptors opened up another 18 point lead, Vince scored 12 points in the last 22 seconds including the game tying 3 from 27 feet with Anthony Parkers had in his face. Then he scored on an ally-oop to win the game on the last shot. Dropping 39 points and grabbing 9 rebounds while Devin Harris, who left before half time with an upset stomach, scored 30. Together, they combined for half of the Nets points. Andrea had his best game as a pro scoring 29 points while Jose scored 26 and CB scored 42 as he and VC went back and forth all evening answering each other on both ends of the floor.

Sunday, the World Champions visited the ACC and from the beginning of the game, the Raptors appeared shell shocked, probably not recovered from the terrible loss Friday. The Celtics had 7 guys in double digits with Ray Allen leading the way with 21, Kevin Garnett, who harassed Chris all afternoon had 15, Kendrick Perkins had 12, Rajon Rondo scored 15 as did Tony Allen and Eddie House added 11. CB countered with 24 and AB added another 14 as this game was never close.

So, the past 4 games have given us a very deep look into this team, and it is very much in a state of flux. Our 4 main guys right now are Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, who is hurting, Jermaine O’Neal, who is hurting as well, and Chris Bosh. Over the past week, their numbers look pretty good with Chris averaging over 30 points per game and 10.5 rebounds. He is shooting 54% from the floor with his first 3 point shot of the season, and 83% from the line. Andrea has stepped up his production as he continues to improve while adjusting to the SF position scoring 18.25 per game, 6 rebounds and 50% from outside the arc. Jermaine has become a very solid fixture on defense and hurt his knee during the Nets game. He has given us 11 points and 9 rebounds with the last two games being injured. It is obvious that he is becoming comfortable with Chris Bosh and his secondary role on this team which bodes well for the future as long as his knee keeps him on the floor, he will continue to add depth and strength up front. Jose Calderon missed one game this week but has continued to contribute 16 points and 10.3 assists per game and is still 100% from the free throw line to lead the league in that.

With all that great play from these 4 guys, all this team needs is someone – anyone at this point to step up and contribute some defense and a little on offense. Most nights, there is no one on the bench who seems willing to contribute other than Kris Humphries who offers good minutes when called on. Every game this week our second unit of Jason Kapono, Will Solomon or Roko Ukic and Jamario Moon has found ways to lose huge leads built by our first unit. Sam has little success adjusting as the guys just aren’t playing well as a group. Last season, our bench was a strong point, but this year, they are anticipated by every team we play as they endure or first line to get to the weak, ineffective second stringers. Until these guys can start adding to the team, we will struggle against every team in this league and will have little chance to make the playoffs as anything below .500% won’t make the playoffs in the east this year. This past week we allowed an average of 46.5 points in the paint per game. An unbelievable number with the guys we have up front! Where are they coming from? Wade and Carter – guards scored 40 and 39 with Harris, another guard adding 30, mostly off the dribble or at the line. Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard with 22 and 18 with Nelson driving and dishing and shooting wide open looks over our guards. It becomes pretty obvious that this team can not stop any kind of wing game, as Paul Pierce showed in the first game. Night after night our guards and SF positions are exploited as teams out play our guys and Sam Mitchell seems lost as to how to stop it. With the Lakers and the Hawks coming up, this does not look promising as they are both bringing 2 of the best SG’s in the league with Kobe Bryant and Joe Johnson. I hope they can find a way to stop wing and guard penetration soon as we saw Sam unable to attack a zone defense. Should be a very long week for the Raptors and it’s fan base.

Posted on: November 20, 2008 3:03 pm
 

Raptors - Nets game preview

Friday night we welcome to the ACC the one and only Vince Carter and his traveling minstrel show, I mean the Nets. I am sure the Raptors fans will lovingly welcome back the team’s all-time scoring leader with loving shouts of adoration.

Now that I have that off my chest, Friday’s game with the Nets is another key divisional game that we can’t afford to lose. With the Celtics so far, and again, the class of the East if not the league we need to keep pace with the teams bunched up behind them until we can find our groove and put a few wins together. At 6 – 5, the Raptors are tied with the Knicks for 2nd in the Atlantic a game ahead of the 5 – 6 76ers and 2 games up on the 4 – 6 Nets. Divisional games this season will have huge playoff ramifications every night as the Celtics are showing little sign of slowing down with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce doing what they do best, WIN.

The Raptors come into the game off a week where they played without Jose Calderon for two games. Sunday they were able to hold off the struggling Heat at the ACC then headed to Florida for a split against the Magic and the Heat. The Magic took advantage of our poor outside shooting as Jason Kapono and Jamario Moon struggled as they have all season and Will Solomon lead them to a two game total of 44 turnovers, 24 against the Magic as Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson all had 22 points and attacked Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal all night long. Wednesday saw a rematch against the Heat in Miami and the return of the spiritual leader of this team Jose Calderon. Cutting the turnovers in half allowed this team to spread the floor and move the ball as Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal turned in double doubles with 31 points and 27 rebounds between them while Andrea Bargnani started with 10 quick points and 25 points on the game.

The Nets are coming off a week where they lost to the Pacers and the Cavaliers but beat the Hawks in a home and home last weekend. This team of course has Vince Carter who is still putting up 22.8 points a game and 5 assists. This year, they have a few guys that are full of potential and have been called a playoff team in more than one pre-season ranking. Devin Harris brings 23 points and 4 boards and 6 assists to the floor every night to help this team as they await an injured front court to return. Eduardo Najera, Josh Boone and Stromile Swift are all out at this point which leaves the front court to younger players such as Brook Lopez and Yi Jianlian who are playing well, as is Keyon Dooling. The Nets will be in tough as we continue to floor our 3 man wrecking crew up front while Anthony Parker seems to have found his stroke and Jose Calderon keep the back end humming along and in control. Devin Harris against Jose Calderon will be the match to pay attention to as both will try to establish the tempo of the game and keep the offenses running at a high level. Anthony Parker against Vince Carter will be the key match-up in the back court as Parker will have to play solid at both ends to contain him. Where the Nets will struggle is in the front court as Brook Lopez will probably start against Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh will face Yi Jianlian which should give the Raptors another advantage as they bring into the game a 3 game average of 27/12 for Bosh and 14.5/15 for Jermaine.  I am not sure who Sam Mitchell will start against Bobby Simmonds, but if Jamario starts, this will be an exciting match up of two very athletic wingmen. If Sam goes big, which I think he will to exploit the weak Nets front at this point, Andrea brings a three game average of 14 points and nearly 4 boards a game. If he can grab a few more rebounds, I think all Raptors fans would be able to handle those numbers night after night. Starting him at the 3 spot by nature would afford him less opportunity to grab boards, but he is beginning to balance his game out, which has to be good. Both benches are in search of consistency with Roko Ukic and Will Solomon showing how tough it is to step in and play PG in this league, Kris Humphries and Jason Kapono will be looked at to provide solid help from a bench that is very thin. The Nets are hurt and therefore their bench strength is starting which is never a good situation to be in but Ryan Anderson and Jarvis Hayes provide the minutes needed to get the guys rest.

I look for a game where both teams will rely on their stars. Chris Bosh and Vince Carter will be expected to shine. I also think that if the Raptors pound away at the inside on the glass as they have averaged 46.3 rebounds including 12.6 offensive boards per game over the last 3 games. They have allowed just 37.6 in the past 3 games, 11.3 of which are offensive. That is one area you don’t want to be the worst in the league at for sure.

Enjoy the game.

 
 
 
 
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