Tag:Jermaine O'Neal
Posted on: January 28, 2009 12:09 pm
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Raptors - Week 14 in Preview

Week 14 on the Raptors schedule offers them the opportunity to move back up towards the .500% mark and take a couple of steps back to the playoff race. With games against 2 teams within 4 wins of us at this point. After last weeks losses to the Suns, Hawks and the Pistons, the Raptors are coming off of two wins against the Bulls and the Kings as Jose Calderon and Jermaine O’Neal both return to the team, with Jermaine O’Neal coming off the bench as Andrea Bargnani has earned the starters job with his very solid play in the past month, but more on that later.

 

Wednesday night the Raptors are travelling to the Nets to complete the season series which the Nets hold a 2 – 1 edge in. Coming into the game, the Nets are 3 – 7 in their last 10 games and lost 3 of 4 games last week on a 4 game swing through the west losing to the Hornets, the Spurs and the Thunder while beating the Grizzlies. Tonight they will be looking at beginning a bit of a run up the eastern standings as they have fallen to 9th overall behind the Bucks, who the Raptors play on Friday. Vince Carter turned 32 on Monday and here is a very nice touch from a teammate – “He started his career with the Raptors, now he's technically a dinosaur." -- G Keyon Dooling joking about "old man" Vince Carter. No matter how old he gets, he seems to love playing his former team and tonight will be no different. With Devin Harris playing at a very high level, this Nets team has one of the best back court duos in the league. Vince Carter averages 21.3 points and 5 rebounds and 5 assists as the SG, while Devin Harris leads the team with 21.5 points, 3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. I am not sure, but I would be hard pressed to find a more productive starting back court in the league right now. The Nets will put Ryan Anderson, Bobby Simmons, and Brooks Lopez on the floor as well which should offer the Raptors the opportunity to work the ball inside against the smaller Nets front line with Yi Jianlian out of the lineup. The Raptors will have to find a way to slow this back court down to give them the opportunity to work the ball to Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh who will present many challenges to this young front court and with JO off the bench, the balanced front court attack we offer needs to be augmented by solid back court play from Jose and Anthony Parker as well as their backups Roko Ukic and Jason Kapono or Will Solomon. To me the X-factor in the game tonight will be Jamario Moon on Bobby Simmons. If Jamario can win that battle all night, we have a very good chance of keeping this game in our control.

Friday night, the Michael Redd – less Bucks come to Toronto as they begin the next phase of the season without their leading scorer. Last week they beat the Mavericks and the Kings, but lost to the Trail Blazers and the Hawks and the suddenly hot Timberwolves. Tonight they visit the Pacers before we play them. With Andre Bogut still listed as doubtful, this team has lost 33 points and 13 rebounds a game so guys like Richard Jefferson, Charlie Billanueva, Luke Ridnour, Ramon Sessions and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will have to step up every part of their game if they are to remain in the hunt as a playoff team in the east. Sitting in 8th place in the east right now with the Nets, Knicks, Bobcats who beat the Lakers in a thriller Tuesday night and the Bulls as well as the Raptors within 4 wins, they will be hard pressed to stay there if this team doesn’t find a way to elevate their games. The Raptors will be looking to take the game straight at this team from the guards moving the ball up tempo to take advantage of our quicker big men. This game will show us if the Raptors have figured out how to beat teams that they should and beat them when they are weakened. I look forward to seeing what all these losses have taught this Raptors team as they prepare for a very tough week next week.

I feel I must write a small bit about the play of Andrea Bargnani today. Since Jermaine O’Neal went down December 29th against the Warriors and the team started the huge slide downward, we have seen Andrea raise his game to a level we had been promised, and perhaps go beyond them. During the Warriors game on the 29th, he scored 7 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. As a starter since then, he has played 15 games, scored 318 points or 21.2 points per game, grabbed 19 offensive boards and 81 defensive for an average of 6.7 rebounds per game and has recorded 2 double doubles as well as 4 games with 8 or more rebounds. He recorded 5 blocks in the game against the Nuggets on December 31st. Over those 15 games he has shot 111/223 from the floor or 49.8% including 50% from beyond the arc at 36/72. His only game he failed to make a 3 point shot was against the Hawks and we lost by 3. He was drafted ahead of LeMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, Sheldon Williams, Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, Rudy Gay and a kid named Rajon Rondo who few thought would be where he is, but playing with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce on the Celtics will make you pretty good. Expectations were very high for him as Bryan Colangello presented him to the Raptors fans as a 3 or 4 year project to grow with. I guess he saw his chance to show some of the skills he has developed here and has finally earned his place as a starter on this team. Well done Andrea, for the work, I would have to him the Raptors player of the month.

After the Bucks, we have the Magic, the Cavaliers, the Lakers, the Hornets so this week is critical in developing that balance again with Jermaine off the bench and Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, LeBron James and Mo Williams, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler on the way, this Raptors team might surprise some teams who are looking for an easy Win at this point of the season.

Posted on: January 26, 2009 2:24 pm
 

Raptors - Week 13 - Jose Returns

Week 13 saw the return of both Jermaine O’Neal and Jose Calderon as the Raptors wallowed in the midst of a 7 game losing streak. Since I have discussed the Pistons game and the Hawks game, I will focus on the Bulls and the Kings games which saw Numero Ocho return and remind us of what was missing from this lineup.

 

 

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 Raptors @ Bulls

Raptors – 114
Bulls – 94

Jose Calderon returned to the floor and quickly provided this team some much needed balance and a steady hand in the back court. He was able to connect all of the pieces of this team that looked very unsure of what was to happen next on offense. With 23 points, 10 assists and 0 turnovers, he lead this team to a 20 – 2 run late in the game to pull away. Jermaine O’Neal played again and looked a lot stronger and more sure of himself playing off the bench behind Andrea Bargnani who has been brilliant this last month while starting for the injured O’Neal. On the game, Joey Graham scored 16 off the bench while Chris Bosh had 17 points, 6 steals and 6 rebounds in a game controlled by Jose and Andrea, who had 22 points on the night. Anthony Parker had 14 points and 7 assists as our back court was just a bit better than the Bulls who’s starter, Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose scored 19 and 12 points with Kirk Hinrich adding 17 points off the bench. The game was taken over by our front line who were no real match for the Bulls smaller front court. Jamario Moon had 6 points and 5 rebounds and 2 steals on the night. Overall, a very solid team effort against a Bulls team struggling to play a consistent level of basketball every night. We needed to win, and the guys went out on the road and got one.

 

Sunday, January 25th, 2009 Raptors vs. Kings

Raptors – 113
Kings - 97

I know, many of you will say “It’s just the Kings, everyone can beat them” and to a large extent, that is very true. We have seen this Raptors team struggle against the “weak” teams like the Thunder and the Wizards and the Clippers this season as their lack of defensive desire seems to allow teams to hang around all game and that lack of killer instinct has been sorely missed this year. Sunday, the Kings came to town 0 – 17 against the eastern conference with a road trip that will take them to games with the Cavaliers, the Celtics and the Bulls. The first quarter the Kings came out on fire hitting 6 – 9 from outside the arc, but only went 5 – 16 the rest of the way as they seemed to play the game far away from the basket while the Raptors pounded the ball inside all evening long and were rewarded with 29 free throws hitting 25. Chris Bosh scored his 11th 30+ game with 31 points and 8 rebounds while Jermaine O’Neal had 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench behind Andrea Bargnani who continues to play at a much higher level at both ends of the floor scored his 15th straight 10+ point game with 24 points and 7 rebounds. The Kings were lead by John Salmons with 21, Francisco Garcia with 18 points, Brad Miller with 15, Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson with 12 each. For the second straight game, the Raptors shot over 50% from the floor as Jose Calderon found open guys who were hitting shots and attacking the rim all evening. Jose has recorded 18 assists and 0 turnovers in the past 2 games. Welcome home Numero Ocho! We missed you.

This week, the Raptors have games against the Nets and Vince Carter and Brooks Lopez and Devin Harris as well as the Bucks who are without Michael Redd for the rest of the season. The still have Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions on the floor, but these are two games we must win before next week’s murderer’s row of games against Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and the Magic, LeBron James and the Cavaliers, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and the Hornets and the Grizzlies the following week. It should be interesting to watch this team as they look to begin the climb back up the ladder in the east. Parts of the game are still missing, but not correctable. At 18 – 28, we are not out of the playoffs yet, but unless team play improves, the playoffs will be little more than fund-raising dates.

Posted on: January 5, 2009 5:05 pm
 

Raptors - Week 11 in Preview

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.

Wizards - 7 - 23 heading into the week following a win over the CavaliersWednesday, 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.

GrizzliesFriday, 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.

Celtics - starting the week 29 - 6, 1st in the East and second over allSunday, 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.

Posted on: December 29, 2008 5:41 pm
 

Raptors - Week 10 in Preview

Tonight, the Raptors head to the Bay area for the conclusion of a dismal road trip that saw them lose to the Thunder, the Mavericks, the Spurs and the Trail Blazers while scoring victories against the Kings and the Clippers. Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry, Tony Parker, Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge all played top notch games against this struggling Raptors team that saw great games by Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal and some solid play off the bench by Andrea Bargnani and some awful play by Jason Kapono and Joey Graham. Jamario Moon is coming off a good week on the glass and looks to contribute more in the up tempo games to come this week. Here are the games as I see them this week.

Monday, December 29, 2008 Raptors @ Golden State Warriors

The Warriors come into the game after a win against the Celtics on Boxing day followed Sunday with a thumping by the Lakers in Los Angeles. With losses against the Magic and the Heat, this team comes into the game with a 9 – 23 record and with the addition of Jamal Crawford, this team can score in transition and do as the Celtics found out. With Corey Maggette and Monta Ellis out, the Warriors have been lead by Stephen Jackson and Andris Biedrins and have 8 players that average more than 9 points per game. The Raptors will have to play fantastic transition defense to keep this team in check as they did to open the season. A win tonight would bring the road trip to a 3 – 3 close. Not the best, but 3 much needed wins to say the least.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 Raptors vs. Nuggets

The Nuggets carry a 20 – 11 record into the week with a win against the Knicks last night and a game against the Hawks who have returned to early season form and are now sitting with a 19 – 10 record, in 4th place in the East. The Nuggets are lead by Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups with Nene and J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin, this team is one of the top teams in the league and will be a difficult team to match up with as the earlier blow out indicates. Let’s hope we can keep this one close and our back court with Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono or Anthony Parker can provide a spark to this game.

Friday, January 2, 2009 Raptors vs. Rockets

With Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Rafer Alston, Ron Artest Luis Scola, this 20 – 11 team is tied with the Nuggets in the west and brings a lot of fire power to any game they play. The Raptors will have to get strong play from Jamario Moon and Joey Graham to contain Ron Artest and the rest of this band of scorers. Tracy McGrady is hurting and is questionable right now, but with games against the Wizards and the Bucks, he will probably be ready to play Friday.

This will be a character testing week for the Raptors who have shown little so far this season. Guys like Will Solomon and Joey Graham and Jason Kapono should be realizing that their jobs are hanging by a thread with this team and should begin to step it up. Jose Calderon needs to take his game back up to the level he was earlier this season, but with Jermaine and Chris demanding the ball everywhere on the floor, his job has required a lot more patience and better decision making which has failed him at times this past month. Should be a very interesting week for Raptors fans as we continue to sense change coming earlier than later.

Posted on: December 29, 2008 3:53 pm
 

Raptors - Week 9 In Review

The conclusion of Week 9 in the NBA finds the Raptors with a 12 – 18 record after recording 2 wins and 1 loss in games 3, 4 and 5 of the 6 week road trip that winds up tonight in the Bay area against the Warriors. With victories against the Clippers and the Kings and a game against the Trail Blazers in which both Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge played major roles in the second half blitz of the enigmatic Raptors, we end this trip with an opportunity to take a .500% record back to Toronto. As we stand today, we are 4th in the Atlantic behind the Nets and the 76ers and the Celtics.

Here is how I saw the games this past week.

Monday, December 22, 2008 Raptors @ L.A. Clippers

Raptors 97 – Clippers 75

On a night when the Raptors really needed a win, the Clippers were ready to provide the Raptors with fuel. Jake Voskuhl reminded those of us who watched the original Bad Boys Pistons team that Bill Laimbeer played the game and seems to still be lingering in the hall, just out of view. After a Chris Bosh lay-up, Zach Randolph banged knees with Jake and was forced out of the game. In 8 minutes, Jake grabbed 5 rebounds and added 2 points and was very active at both ends of the floor working in the paint and making room for Chris Bosh who scored 18 of his 31 points in the 4th quarter. Eric Gordon and Zach scored 19 for the Clippers and Baron Davis added 16 points and 9 assists in the loss. Jermaine O’Neal chipped in 23 points and added 9 rebounds while Anthony Parker had a solid game with 12 points off the bench. Jose Calderon was steady with 8 points and 9 assists. Some will say that this is a half-game win as it is only the Clippers, but as I see it, they are on the schedule so it counts. A win is a win and at this point, any positive energy is much appreciated to this fragile collective team ego.

Friday, December 26, 2008 Raptors @ Sacramento Kings

Raptors 107 – Kings 101

The night belonged to Jermaine O’Neal who scored a season high 36 points in just his first 30+ point game since he dropped 39 on the Bulls in March, 2007 while still with the Pacers. With Chris Bosh scoring just 13 points while struggling with foul trouble early in the first half, Jermaine was scoring at will in the low post reminding his former team mate Brad Miller what he surely remembered from all those practice sessions against O’Neal. With 9 rebounds including 4 offensive boards, Jermaine O’Neal was the focus of most of the offense and the centerpiece of the defense. John Salmons and Brad Miller both scored 20 points while Bobby Jackson added 17 while Jose Calderon scored 16 to go with Chris Bosh’s 13 and Jason Kapono who scored 10. Andrea Bargnani filled in the gap more than adequately for Bosh with his 14 points. Over all, this game was close probably because of the 16 turnovers which kept the Kings in the game early in the second half. Taking only 69 shots, the Raptors hit 55% and grabbed 12 offensive boards, while giving up 17 second chance points to the Kings. With some hard work on defense, the Raptors were able to close out the Kings and enjoy a two game winning streak on the road. We really can’t be upset with this at all.

Saturday, December 27, 2008 Raptors @ Portland Trail Blazers

Raptors 89 – Trail Blazers 102
After building up an 11 point lead, the Raptors were hit with a buzzer beater from the back court by Travis Outlaw which seemed to dig deep into the hearts of the Raptors who never recovered. The second half belonged to Brandon Roy who scored at will in the brutal second half in which the Raptors scored only 10 points in the 3rd quarter and 22 in the 4th. Roy scored 14 in the 4th and a game high 32 points on the night. LeMarcus Aldridge scored 21 and added 9 rebounds while Greg Oden scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh scored 29 and 17 points but could not find a way to consistently stop the solid front line the Trail Blazers put on the floor. Outlaw added 12 off the bench. Jose Calderon scored 11 and Andrea Bargnani scored 13 while Jamario Moon scored 8 points and grabbed 8 rebounds including 7 offensive boards. The Raptors went 12 – 34 in the second half and had the bulk of their 13 turnovers in the 10 point 3rd quarter. Jason Kapono and Joey Graham both were held scoreless which was a huge reason this game fell flat quickly in the 3rd as neither could find a rhythm from the floor and the middle was just not available after some nice adjustments by this young Trail Blazers team. Will Solomon added 5 points and Anthony Parker added 6 off the bench, but it was just no where near what they needed.

Week 9 showed me that this team has the talent needed to compete with even the best teams in this league, but seem unable or unwilling to pay the price yet. To continue to lose implies a willingness to not do the small things needed to win. It seems small, but things like clearing the boards, making guys take pressured shots, finding your man in transition defense, taking the ball to the hole on a break and not settling for jump shots when you have the numbers. The Raptors played some good ball this past week and when the ball movement was there, this team was tough to play against. What has happened, it seems, is that teams realize that the Raptors seem to have no will to compete and no heart to struggle through a shooting slump as a group. If one guy is missing, they tend to feed him rather than find the hot hand. Andrea Bargnani was hot in the first half against Portland, but sat until late in the third by which time the Raptors were down by 10 or more and had gone cold, then Jay sat him down. I understand that we need to move the ball into our two big men, but when they are getting out played and the Raptors allow guards to penetrate the zone and torch them for 32 pretty much uncontested shots, the heart to defend has been ripped out of this team.

With games against the Warriors, the Nuggets and the Rockets, the Raptors will face a tempo team, a solid back court and wing based team and a team with one of the toughest front courts in the league. Character will be revealed as we head home.

 

Posted on: December 28, 2008 12:25 pm
 

Raptors - Trail Blazers - A Game in Review

I guess there are many reasons why the Raptors lost against the Trail Blazers Saturday night in Portland, I will try to discuss a few of the biggest reasons I noticed while I watched. Firstly, the Raptors came into Portland with a small 2 game win streak with wins against the Clippers and the Kings. It doesn’t sound like much, but at this point in the season, small victories are vital to the health of this team. Most of the year, this team has struggled with ball control and finding opponents shooters in the context of the defensive schemes they have been using. With the team focused on interior defense and protecting the paint, they have allowed teams to beat them from the outside as the Hornets did, as the Nets did and as Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge did last night. With a combined 43 points, these two were able to find shot after shot over the defense and were pretty much wide open combine that with some timely rebounds and you get a sense of the frustration this team has faced as they seem unable to contain shooters or it seems every team has one guy turn in a spectacular game against them. As Jay continues to work, this team has gotten better at closing out shooters, but last night, it seemed they could not find the open guy, who was usually Brandon Roy.

Another area of concern was the ineffectiveness of our secondary scorers to contribute consistent points. Jason Kapono and Joey Graham are players that this team needs to get points from as that means that they are involved in the game and are able to take the focus off our big 3 guys. Jason was the only starter to not score a point last night and that is a huge reason why this game was lost in the second half. With only Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal the only two scoring the Trail Blazers were able to collapse both LeMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden making the inside a tough place to score. The fact that they scored 29 and 17 is a testimony to how hard they worked and earned every point. Had Jermaine been able to get a few of the calls the refs seemed to not notice, this game could have been different in the end. Alas, the fact is, your scorers are paid to score. Andrea Bargnani was hot in the first half and scored 13 for the game, but he was ineffective in the second half and was relegated to the bench in the 3rd as the Raptors fell behind.

The third quarter was full of turnovers as the Raptors gave the ball away 8 times after only 3 in the first half. A large part of that was Will Solomon not being able to consistently make the correct entry pass. Jose Calderon as well, one of the premier guards in assist/turnover ration in the league turned the ball over 4 times in the game. The Trail Blazers were able to use their quickness and their length to create very difficult passing lanes for the Raptors after a half time adjustment. Scoring 10 points in any quarter in an NBA game will make it tough to win a game and is a testament to the quality of the team you are facing. The Trail Blazers are the youngest team in the league, but are well coached and have some excellent young talent with guys like Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake, Rudy Fernandez, as well as Greg Oden, Roy and Aldridge. Sitting in 6th place in the west, this team will be a very tough team to take out in a 7 game series.

As nice as the win would have been, last night, the guys looked like they are near the end of a grueling road trip with one more game against the Warriors Monday night, then they return home to host the Nuggets and the Rockets later this week. This Raptors team has begun to look much better defensively and showed a lot of heart on the boards Saturday night grabbing 12 offensive boards with Jamario Moon scoring on a couple put backs. One thing they will need to remember is that every team in this league has at least one guy who can light it up every night and someone will step up and score against them until they close out on the edges more consistently. They have improved, but still have work to do there.

Posted on: December 27, 2008 10:58 am
 

Raptors - Kings - A Game in Review

After a win Monday over the Clippers on a night when Jake Voskuhl looks more and more like Bill Laimbeer knocking Zach Randolph to the ground then leave the game, the Raptors went into Sacramento to play the Kings Boxing Day looking to keep the little momentum of this victory alive. Monday night Chris Bosh was the key to the win scoring 18 of his 31 points in the 4th quarter after Randolph left with 19 points. Eric Gordon added 19 and Baron Davis 16 for the Clippers who had no response to Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal who scored 23 and added 9 rebounds. The Clippers were short benched with Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman both out leaving Al Thornton and Brian Skinner to carry the bulk of the work as they used an 8 man rotation. Jamario Moon continued his rebounding work grabbing 8 boards while Jose Calderon had 8 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds to lead the offense. The strength of the front line was evident as the Raptors ended the game + 10 in total rebounds as well as + 8 in points in the paint.

Friday night in Sacramento where they had lost 10 straight and were 1 – 11 over all, the Raptors started the game with the ball going inside to a hungry Jermaine O’Neal and the ball stayed there all night. Led by Brad Miller and rookie Spencer Hawes as well as 3rd year rising star Francisco Garcia from one of my favorite cities, Santo Domingo, this Kings team was not able to contain the front line of Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, but with shooters such as Bobby Jackson and John Salmons who score 17 and 20 from the perimeter, the Raptors seemed very comfortable at both ends of the floor. Jay Triano has this team focused on protecting the paint and utilizing the interior defense that our 3 bigs as well as Kris Humphries have been bringing the past week. In 6 minutes of play in the 4th quarter, Humphries was able to score 2 points, but grabbed 5 rebounds and 1 put back dunk that seemed to charge the Raptors and end a small run the Kings were starting. With a 4 point lead at the end of 3, Jay left in Will Solomon, Joey Graham, Kris Humphries and Anthony Parker with Andrea Bargnani.

They were able to keep the Kings off the boards and had grown the lead to as much as 9 before the starters returned. With seven solid minutes from the guys off the bench, who seemed to work hard on the defensive end, and were able to score enough to keep the Raptors ahead. Andrea Bargnani played one of his best games in the past month as he looked determined to play some power ball inside then stepping outside to drain 3’s keeping the Kings off-balance and unable to keep him from scoring. He scored 14 points off the bench and he seemed to work well off the bench at either of the forward positions. With Chris Bosh in foul trouble early,

Jermaine O’Neal was the go to guy inside for most of the night. Chris Bosh ended the night with 7 rebounds and 13 points. The other starters responded to the energy that Jermaine seemed to have and pushed the tempo a bit more than normal. Jamario Moon was perhaps the only real mystery Friday as he had only 4 points and 4 rebounds, but seemed to be around the ball all night closing guys out and making the Kings take one more pass. Jason Kapono created havoc with the Kings defense as he was hitting shots off of screens and spread the floor with his movement effectively making the Kings pick him or Jermaine O’Neal all night. His 16 points 3 rebounds and 4 assists were very much an indication of how efficiently the Raptors ball movement was Friday night. Jose Calderon had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists and there are not many nights that will happen, but the ball was moved very well by everyone as they all seemed to look for that one more pass to the better shot. The Raptors took only 69 shots from the floor, but when you shoot 55% as a team, the game becomes very simple. The main reason for that number was the star of the game Jermaine O’Neal who exploded for his best game as a Raptors player scoring 36 points and adding 9 rebounds and 2 assists to the mix. He was 15 – 19 from the floor and 6 – 8 from the free throw line as the Kings had no answer to this inside pounding. Brad Miller scored 20, but was relegated to hitting 15 – 20 footers and was not much help on defense as Jermaine and Chris just kept attacking the rim and found little resistance.

Overall, this game was played very well by the Raptors who used solid defense to fuel the offense. They seem quite happy watching teams try to beat them from the outside and the Kings got the bulk of their scoring from guards John Salmons and Bobby Jackson mainly from long range as they score 24 points from beyond the arc, but only 24 in the paint as the Raptors were +16 inside. Though the Raptors were -4 on the offensive glass, they were +5 in second chance points so they were efficient when they got the ball back. One of the main reasons that this game was even close to begin with was the 13 first half turnovers committed by the Raptors. In the second half, they had on 3 and were much better at protecting the ball and took control of the game in the 3rd quarter and maintained the lead down the stretch with good decisions on offense. Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal combined for 64 of the 107 points. That has to be a good sign for this team to build on. Tonight we move to Portland to take on Steve Blake, Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden and the Trail Blazers before Monday’s game against the Warriors. I hope to see a solid team effort again tonight and perhaps 2 more wins to end the road trip before the new year.

Posted on: December 22, 2008 11:20 am
 

Raptors - Week 9 In Preview - Christmas Week

The week that is ahead offers the Raptors some hope as we arrive in Los Angeles to play the Clippers tonight before having a few days off before Christmas to re-group, then they play the Kings and the Trail Blazers on Friday and Saturday before finishing this 6 game road trip against the Warriors on the 29th. With the Mavericks, the Spurs and the Hornets behind this trip, the return home will bring the Rockets, the Magic and the Nuggets to town. This week appears to be our best chance to record a much needed victory, especially one or two on the road, and maybe 3.

The Clippers come into the game tonight with an 8 – 19 record after a week in which they went 2 – 2 with victories against the Thunder and the Pacers and losses to the Bulls and the Bucks. The Clippers are lead by Zach Randolph who is averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds a game and Marcus Camby who is averaging 11 points and 12 rebounds per game. With Baron Davis and Al Thornton averaging 18 and 17 points per game and Eric Gordon averaging 9.1 points per game, even with Chris Kaman out, this team has a solid front court with a very active back court and will provide Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh and Jamario Moon fits at both ends of the floor. Tonight I look for Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono to carry the game as our guard play will have to step up and provide some consistent scoring as our front court will be challenged all night by two very good defensive forwards. I look for the tempo to be calculated and to not be pushed as this team would love to get Baron Davis in a running game against our much slower back court. Turnovers will be critical and we will need to work hard to take advantage of every rebound we can acquire as they will be looking to control the game on the boards against one of the weakest rebounding teams in the league. I think the Raptors can pull this one off, but they will have to desire and attack every ball and every rebound and out hustle this Clippers team at both ends of the floor.

On Boxing Day, the Raptors head up the highway to Sacramento to take on the struggling Kings. Tonight they play the Spurs in San Antonio where Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan will be ready to play this Kings team who are 7 – 19 and last in their division. With a starting lineup missing two key players in Kevin Martin and Beno Udrih, the Kings will send Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes or Mikki Moore, John Salmons or Francisco Garcia and Bobby Jackson to the floor. This should be a game that Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh could do a lot of damage in the front court with Andrea Bargnani adding some out side scoring from the 4 position, the Kings are just a bit too thin to compete with our active front including the new kid, Jake Voskuhl who looked good in the short time on the floor scoring 4 points over Tim Duncan. Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono I think will have a lot of opportunities to showcase their games should they chose to step up and play. Salmons will be a good match up for Jamario and Kapono will be a valued outside shot should the Raptors stay inside the flow of the offense. Jamario Moon and Jose Calderon should be able to push the ball, but I think Roko Ukic and Will Solomon with Joey Graham will push the tempo on this team that is a bit thin due to injuries.

Saturday finds the Raptors playing in Portland to play the Trail Blazers. Since they beat the Raptors on December 7th, the Trail Blazers are just 2 – 3 with wins against the Kings and the Suns and losses against the Magic, the Jazz and the Clippers. This week they are busy with a back to back starting in Denver tonight then facing the Nuggets in Portland tomorrow and then hosting the Mavericks on Christmas Day. At 17 – 10, they are tied with the Nuggets for 1st in the Northwest division with the Jazz behind with a 17 – 12 record. The Trail Blazers will be a very tough match up for the Raptors, and the memory of the 1 point loss looms large still. The lineup for the Trail Blazers has been solid all season with Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, LeMarcus Aldridge, Steve Blake and Nicolas Batum with Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez both averaging 10+ points a game and have been starters at various points in the season, this team is balanced and deadly in the open floor. Being the 5th game of the 6 game road trip, I suspect the Raptors will be ready to get home as they will have been away for nearly 2 weeks, which is not a bad thing at this point in their up and down season. Against the Trail Blazers, our perimeter defense will need to be at top form to keep the ball out of the hands of their shooters. That has been a struggle all season but it can be done. We will need balance on offense with our shooters needing to turn in good games to pull this team out from the paint and force them to open some room up for our guys up front. It worked the first game had Blake not hit that Vince Carter like shot over Anthony Parker for the win.

With a few days of rest and some valuable practice time before Christmas, this week should allow the team to do some coming together under coach Jay Triano. Since December 3rd, the Raptors have had little time to practice and have shown a more willing attitude on the floor. That will have to continue to grow as the new year brings some tough games early in January. January 11th and 12th offer us a home and home with the Celtics, with 2 games against the Bulls and one against the Pistons, the Suns, the Nets and the Bucks twice. A couple of wins before the end of 2008 would be a great way to ring in the new year and perhaps offer a stimulus to turn this season around.

 
 
 
 
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