Grab the Opening Tip PDF here.

…it is more then possible. They dispatched two better teams to start the season, and after a hard fought game (that I missed because of last minute quality time with the girlfriend…she doesn’t understand I need to watch these games. I’m open to suggestions on how to communicate this to her, I need help…please), the Raptors jump on a plane and head to Milwaukee to play a team that isn’t as good as they appear they to be.

They are an interesting lot though, with scoring galore on the starting lineup (finding enough shots for everyone is going to be a challenge), but not much defensively. And on the bench, all they have is defense, without much offense. Dare I say, this is one of those games the Raptors HAVE to win?

Winning a tough game to open the season on the road against a division rival; then following that up with another close one at home to a well coached team who have long, athletic, talented players is the path to 50 wins…but only if they capitalize on games against teams like the Bucks.

Starting Lineups

Calderon / Ridnour
The Edge: Raptors – Ridnour is a nice player, I have liked him since college, but he isn’t that offensive threat that will consistently punish Calderon on defense. He does make smart decisions with the ball, hits open jumpers, and attacks the rim from time to time, but like I said, nothing that JC shouldn’t be able handle. Calderon needs to play off Ridnour, and make him beat us from the perimeter. On the offensive end, Calderon should be able to have his way, and dictate tempo and pace. I’d like to see Jose open up some space for himself by shooting a few more jumpers then he normally does, this should keep Ridnour on his heels, and allow for better ball movement.

Parker / Redd
The Edge: Milwaukee
- After a great showing against Maggette last night, Parker will have his hands full again with Redd, especially if he is sent to double Bogut in the paint -> Redd will bury open J’s & Treys all night. Maggette is one of those kamikaze forwards who attacks the rack with reckless abandon and gets to the line as good as anyone in the league. Redd likes to work on the perimeter. He has the ability to drive, but likes to pop those j’s. On offense, I want to see Parker run the baseline, and curl off screens. Have to make Redd work on defense in order to slow his offensive production.

Moon / Jefferson
The Edge: Milwaukee
– Jefferson has been a Raptor killer for as long as I care to remember. He can shoot, drive, and gets to the line like a champ. Oh, and he rebounds extremely well at the 3 spot. Moon can’t duplicate his performance from last night (0 rebounds) and hope to keep Jefferson in check. He needs to keep Jefferson in front of him, and not try to swat him into the first row. I’ll pick my poison with Jefferson, and it is to make him beat us from the perimeter. Moon has the ability to keep Jefferson in front of him, and should do so at all times. I don’t expect much on offense from Moon in this matchup, and Jefferson will be getting a pass on defense as Moon is in love with that jumper he apparantly has the green light for.

Bosh / Villanueva
The Edge: Raptors
– Charlie V is a tough check, an athletic big who can score from all over, but Bosh…he has him in this one. After two monster games (27/11 against the 76ers and 31/9 against the Warriors), I have to say, Bosh looks much different this season. Dude has swagger. He runs differently, he attacks the basket, finishes clean, gets to the line, grabs boards, and paired with O’Neal in the low blocks, is a beast for anyone attacking the rim.

O’Neal / Bogut
The Edge: Raptors
– Don’t get me wrong, I am a Bogut fan, but the offense is never run through this guy. Boggles the mind. The guy does 15/8 a game, which are solid numbers, but with the way he moves, and his feel with the ball, he should be 20/10. O’Neal has been playing pretty well. He suffered a bad shooting night against the Warriors which is understandable given their athleticism and size, but made up for it by grabbing a couple boards and swatting 3 impressive blocks around the rim (one a guaranteed dunk that was followed up with a Mutombo-finger shake). With the offensive focus likely to be on the perimeter for the Bucks, O’Neal should have a easier go at boxing out Bogut, and grabbing defensive boards.

Rebounding, not-so-shockingly, remains a cause for concern for the Raptors. They only grabbed 33 against the Sixers, and 36 against the Warriors. For the last couple seasons, rebounding was an issue from the perimeter/guard positions, not the center position. Adding O’Neal has improved interior defense, and low post scoring, but Rasho grabbed 7 or 8 a game, not an improvement there.

I need to stress this, beating the Sixers and Warriors, then losing to the Bucks isn’t what a team that has designs of going deep into the playoffs does. Winning of 2 of 3 to start to the season is something any team will take. However, games like this against a lesser team are the ones that get you home court in the first round, and build that whole winning culture necessary for the stretch run into the playoffs and beyond.

Prediction

Vegas has the Bucks at -110 (with the spread at -1). I take that bet, and one up, having the Raptors squeak out a grinder on the second night of a back-to-back for no other reason then they have too. They need to go into next week, where they play Detroit and Altanta on a hot streak.

I’m 2-0 so far this season in predictions (I reserved the right to change my earlier predictions from the summer).

On a side note: The Bucks have the Raptors outclassed in one department…best player names. They lost Royal Ivey to Philly, but this years award goes to Luc Mbah a Moute, I’m serious. The greatest NBA name since Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo.

Live blogging starts at 8:30PM EST. Come out for it, there’s free booze.

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