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Tag:LeMarcus Aldridge
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 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.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com