First up, download the Opening Tip here. On to the blog.

Western Conference basketball makes me puke. I much prefer watching low-scoring, ugly, gut-it-out basketball like the type played by the Knicks and Heat of the mid-90′s or the Bad Boy Piston teams. Tonight could be a classic Eastern Conference matchup with the physicality of O’Neal and Bosh going up against the hardline Pistons defense led by Rasheed Wallace. Allen Iverson will likely make his Pistons debut at the ACC tonight and to preview the game I spoke with Vince Ellis who is a Pistons beat writer for the Detroit Free Press. Some of the talking points up for discussion were how the big trade went down, the Pistons core pieces, how they matchup against the Raptors, ex-Raptor Michael Curry’s coaching techniques, his impact on the team, getting a Detroit perspective on the Raptors off-season changes and much more. You can listen to the interview by clicking here or you can simply press the play button (lower quality on some computers). It was a little surprising to hear Ellis refer to the trade as a ‘step backwards’ for the Pistons on the court. You can check out his latest work where he talks about Curry’s take on Iverson fitting in.

The game marks the first time Sam Mitchell and Michael Curry have gone head-to-head. They’ve known each other from their high-school days and have been former negotiators for the NBA Players Association. Vince Ellis tells us a lot more about Michael Curry as a coach and you’ll notice that he’s a lot like Mitchell in many ways including his no-nonsense attitude towards everything. One of the differences is that the Detroit media loves Curry. Maybe it’s the water in Detroit that makes them appreciates a no-BS coach even though he could be a mean SOB at times. That’s a sharp contrast with how Mitchell is perceived in Toronto for having a similar act. Either way, Curry’s practice drills are impressive and one of the drills Curry runs reminded me of Sam Mitchell’s FT drill with Jermaine O’Neal.

The contrast in depth here is astounding. The Raptors have been using a 7-man rotation while in Detroit’s last game against Charlotte all 12 players got minutes and 10 of those played at least 17 minutes. The Raptors are averaging -12 in the rebounding department while Detroit’s 25 points better at +13. If we get killed on the boards again almost everything else would need to go perfect for us to win, so it follows that we can’t afford to get killed on the boards. Rebounding and fourth quarter team offense execution will decide this game. Detroit’s a team that’s made a living out of getting a stop when they’ve needed a stop and if it comes down to the last two minutes in a close game, they’ll always be favored.

Allen Iverson’s going to be playing so you might think that a victory here is a statement game but its not. He’s just joined the team and there’s no way they’re going to get him acclimated with Detroit’s structured team concept in one day and if anything, this is a game the Raptors are supposed to win. That’s not stopping Jermaine O’Neal from seeing this as a big statement game:

“I won’t lie to you and say it’s just another game. I’m very excited. Obviously, both teams understand that only one can walk out of the gym tomorrow (undefeated). It’s a true test of how we line up against one of the better teams in the NBA. I’m pretty pumped about the opportunity. You want to beat a team like that. They’re the Pistons and I obviously have a lot of familiarity with that team, with the type of the battles that we’ve had.”

Although Iverson’s impact on the game could be minimal because of his newness to the team, history says that he likes to kill us. Iverson’s averaging 30.4 points in 36 career games against us and has caused every single point guard we’ve ever had – from Alvin to Jose – nightmares. History also says that the Pistons went 3-1 against us last season with our only win coming 89-82 at home in a late meaningless game. The Pistons do nothing short of textbook execution whenever we play them, it’s with surgical precision that they beat us. Shut down our bigs, post-up our PGs, kill us on screens, pressure our guards, contest every shot, it’s a joy to watch if you’re a Pistons fan. Hopefully all that changes tonight.

Bryan Colangelo talked to the Fan 590 yesterday and he’s echoing very similar thoughts about signing Chris Bosh as were posted in yesterday’s comments section. Worth a listen to if you want to get his take on the big trade, the contract situation with Chris Bosh and how we can offer him more than any other team. The most important thing we can offer him? A longer contract.

The poll about expectations ended today and I’m surprised more people didn’t pick “2nd round win” as a measure of success. The clear winner was “1st round win and a good fight in the second round” which is something that I was hoping from the team last year. Some of you even felt that making the playoffs is good enough for this team. I hope you were being sarcastic.

Scott Foster’s talking about his relationship with Tim Donaghy. He admits that he slept with him but insists that the kid is not his son. I like Foster, we were 3-1 when he reffed games last year and 1-0 this year.

Live Blogging starts at 7PM EST and make sure to tune in tomorrow morning (or maybe even late, late tonight) when we’ll play our interview with Matt Devlin who will give us a nice post-game wrap from the ACC. Let’s go you Raps!!!

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