It’s the last home game till New Years eve against the Mavericks tonight. The game’s on TSN2 so if you have Rogers you’re out of luck. Check back around 7PM EST for the stream which will also be available in the live chat. Check the Opening Tip which gives you a reason to be thankful for TSN2.

Jay Triano’s post-practice scrum (you should listen to it, every article in every GTA newspaper is based on these) is all about rebounding. He’s putting the Raptors rebounders into two categories: those who should track the ball and those who should box out. In other words, those who can get the rebound through their size and skill and those who are better off focusing on boxing out and preventing their man from getting the rebound. You can put in all the effort in the world and still not be a good rebounder (ahem..Bargnani) and those players are better off not being a problem rather than trying to be part of a solution.

Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal are getting a lot of heat for the Raptors’ -16 performance on the boards but if you look at individual stats, Bosh tied his man in boards and O’Neal was only -1 against his, so where did the other -15 come from? The blame here doesn’t fall on O’Neal not hustling hard enough or Bosh being a bad defender, the majority of it falls directly on the guards who were -10 in the category. The primary reason for this is…yup….you guessed it…switching. The more we protect the paint, the more we switch and the more we switch the more rotations we need to make when finding a man to box out. Triano has had success in protecting the paint and has lowered the FG% of the opposition but he’s opened a can of worms in terms of rebounding. Anthony Parker, Joey Graham, Andrea Bargnani (at the SF) and Jose Calderon all fall under Triano’s “should box out” category and right now their being overmatched on the switches.

Consider the following stats under Mitchell and Triano:

Mitchell Triano Overall
Opponent FG% 46.8% 42.4% 45.5%
Opponent Points in the Paint 41.05 36 39.5
Total Rebounding Differential -3.3 -11.4 -5.7
Second Chance Points 12.8 18.7 14.5

We’re holding teams to a lower shooting percentage and restricting their points in the paint under Triano but at the cost of giving up rebounds and second chance points. This isn’t rocket science by any means and a natural side-effect of our defensive strategy. However, Triano commends the players for quickly picking up his defensive system and figures that if they try and grasp his rebounding advice as quickly, they’ll be fine. I say we need to give him some time and allow him to implement a solution to this issue just like he did for the PINP/dribble-penetration problem.

Right now we’re 10-14 and if things go according to trend we’ll be 10-15 after tonight heading into the 6-game Western swing. Going 2-4 is the best-case scenario there with the wins coming against the Thunder and the Clippers, so conceivably we could be 12-19 very soon and if we lose to Denver at home on New Years eve (first game back from West is always tough), we could be 12-20 and needing to go 29-21 just to get to .500. Now as things stand right now in the East an even record gets you into the playoffs but we can’t count on that to be true later in the year. The road ahead for the Raptors is very tough, ideally we needed to be somewhere around .500 at the end of December but it doesn’t look like its going to happen and its going to put a lot of pressure on us in the second half of the season. Can Triano get this gang of fringe NBA-talent into the playoffs? I think at this point that is a challenging prospect on its own.

There’s a quote-heavy article from Doug Smith where Jay Triano’s talking about being aggressive on offense:

Almost every play we diagram is something where guys are going to the basket, (to) try to create some points going to the basket, see if we can get (out opponents) in foul trouble. We started off the (New Jersey) game doing extremely well. First play of the game was a foul, went to the basket, we moved the ball and we shared it.

I’m not too concerned about our offense under Triano, he’s improved the ball and player movement and has set a nice consistent rotation where everybody seems to know when they’ll be coming in. If anything, it’s the one-on-one play that’s been missing since he took over, especially Bosh’s who now needs to pile on a high number of FGs to get his points. You have to wonder how well Bosh can fit into a real system where his responsibilities include more than just making an offensive move to draw a foul but also passing, reading double teams and recognizing potential cutters. If there’s one player that has struggled to grasp Triano’s offensive system, it is Bosh but then again, we are in its infancy.

Let’s talk about the game a little here. The Mavericks are 13-10 and out of the playoff picture in the West, however, they’re 7-3 in their last 10 with wins over some mediocre teams such as the Bobcats, Thunder and the Hawks. They’ve lost their last two big games against Denver and San Antonio are are firmly established as pretenders in the West. We’ve lost 11 of the last 13 games against them with a history of blowing big leads. They are the second best rebounding team in the league behind only the Lakers so it goes without saying that…you know…we got to take of the boards.

In Basketball Canada news, Leo Rautins has been extended as head coach of the national team for another two years. Meh.

Tonight should be fun, let’s go Raps!

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