Ron Artest tried to get a job at Circuit City? Find out more in today’s Opening Tip.
The Rockets are in town so its natural to look up and down the roster and see if there’s anyone who’s annoyed us over the last decade or so to deserve some booing. The two candidates are Tracy McGrady and the volatile two-time Raptor Rafer Alston, neither worth wasting energy on. But Rafer – I’m telling you, he cared about winning. Anybody who cries cares about what they’re crying about.
The Raptors have lost three straight and 8 of their last 10. Half the fan base is debating whether to enter full-scale rebuild mode and the other half is trying to convince themselves that Colangelo is working hard on a trade that will correct the course of this ship after it hit the December iceberg. Realistically speaking we have every chance of going 1-1 over the next two games against Houston and Orlando. If we do that we have a 3-game winning streak waiting for us (MIL, WAS, MEM) and if we execute that properly we’ll be five games under .500 and right back in the hunt for the 8th seed. I know, it’s pathetic but that’s what you got to aim for right now. Of course I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that we got the Celtics back-to-back after that stretch so we can easily fall back to 7 games under .500 with 37 games played. You can figure out the math after that.
We do catch a break as Shane Battier is out with a sore left foot. Tracy McGrady returned from injury two games ago in which the Rockets went 1-1 – a home loss to the Wizards followed by a squeaker against the Bucks. The Rockets are planning on playing him only on one night of a back-to-back and whether he plays tonight against us or tomorrow against Atlanta remains to be seen. The Rockets are starting a 5-game road swing where they’ll face Toronto, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston and finally Oklahoma City. For the Raptors Jason Kapono is questionable with a bruised right quadricep and so is Jermaine O’Neal, he has fleas his knee still hasn’t fully recovered after being wronged against Golden State.
The Rockets are suffering from the fourth quarter disease all too familiar to Raptor fans, in their past four games, they have averaged 19 points, twice going through 0-for-9 stretches, making one of nine shots in a stretch against the Wizards and going 5-of-13 through the fourth quarter Wednesday against the Bucks. This kind of incompetency should make for an interesting finish if we once again manage to build a lead and blow it by the end of the third. Let’s quickly take a look at the starting lineups:
Tracy McGrady v Jamario Moon: Moon has to make McGrady a volume shooter, T-Mac’s been known to settle for inopportune jumpers and Moon has to encourage the behavior. After laboring with his shot against the Bucks he took over point-guard duties and notched 10 assists in the win. He’s still not in game-shape and Moon has to prevent him from having his breakout game while being cognizant of McGrady’s threat as a playmaker. As with any matchup against Moon, the advantage goes to the opposition.
Yao Ming v Andrea Bargnani: Jack Armstrong says Bargnani’s more confident when he starts. I say dealing with Yao in the post can quickly deflate that confidence if he picks up two early fouls. Yao can take Bargnani inside and dominate him on the boards. On the other hand, Bargnani, if motivated, can test Yao’s wooden feet and coax him into early fouls. With Yao out of the game, T-Mac still finding his way back and Battier out, we could actually have a shot here. In their last matchup, Yao had 25/11 and Bargnani had 0/6. But we won the game. The edge goes to Yao because he’s likely to use the advantage he has over Bargnani and the latter is likely to let him off the hook.
Aaron Brooks v Jose Calderon: How many times have we said that Jose should be able to take advantage of a matchup only for him to play it even or lose it. Calderon’s offense is starting to come along, he’s had 16, 11, 21 and 18 over the last four games and is shooting 58% in that span. How much of this good stuff he gives back on the defensive end is another matter, but right now we’ll take any good we can get. Hopefully his jumper continues to straighten out and he forces Yao and Rafer/T-Mac into some hard decisions on the pick ‘n roll. Advantage goes to Jose because of his recent offensive form. To be fair I don’t know much about Aaron Brooks except that he was a finalist for the “Black guy with a white name award” and lost to Kyle Weaver.
Rafer Alston v Anthony Parker: As an exercise you should compare the Raptors the 2/3 scoring with their opponents when Anthony Parker’s starting. I used to do that earlier in the year and Moon and Parker were the benchmark for incompetency in that department. On paper, Parker has a 4-inch height advantage on Rafer Alston which could be used to invite a double-team and open up their defense. On the other hand, Alston is still quick enough to leave Parker clutching at his shorts on the perimeter so who wins this individual battle could end up deciding the game. If Rafer’s breaking us down and throwing behind-the-back passes to Yao cutting in the lane it could be a long night. I remember the job Parker did on Maggette and Felton earlier in the year, can we please have him back? Advantage: Even.
Luis Scola v Chris Bosh: Depends which Chris Bosh shows up, if it’s the one that wants to take trailing threes late in the fourth quarter after your team has fought back to get in the game, then Scola’s lack of mobility doesn’t even come into play. Or maybe watching a foreign player guarding him will remind him of the Olympics and he can perhaps play with the spark that’s been missing since November. On paper the advantage goes to Bosh but trust Scola to make him a jump shooter leaving me to tear my hear out during the post-game report. The Raptors rarely have mismatches to take advantage of in most games but Bosh remains the only player that can actually force the opposing coach into making tough decisions. If he’s letting the defense off the hook, it’s over for us. For starters he should start following the advice that he’s been dishing out about staying aggressive, I can’t even imagine what somebody like Moon thinks of him after he took that three. Hypocrite? Advantage: Bosh.
Here’s a quote from him after the Denver game, talk about a guy who says the right stuff but as soon as he’s on the court starts doing the exact opposite of what he’s preaching:
We need to be tough and we have to concentrate more. That is where teams are beating us; they are being tougher than we are. They are doing the tough things and small things and we are not concentrating on our assignments. We have too many lapses, we don’t play the intense basketball we need to play for the whole game.
I suppose I should talk about the title of the post. I just hope there’s not a single boo if T-Mac does play tonight. For anybody to think that the booing makes us look like “passionate” fans is wrong. It makes us look immature and gives the impression that we’re still stuck in the past. Think of it this way, we’ve gotten bounced out of the playoffs for two straight years and we can barely tolerate it, T-Mac hasn’t been past the first round six times, are we really missing him that much? Sure, we can all think about what woulda coulda shoulda been with Carter and McGrady but it didn’t happen, let’s stop making these players feel special by booing them. At the same time you can’t blame the fans for having a strong memory, this franchise has failed to bury the ghosts of the past because both Rob Babcock and Bryan Colangelo have failed to turn a new leaf in Raptors basketball. We as fans are so thirsty for success that since its not coming in the present, we’re continually looking back to when there actually was some hope for the team. We all need to see shrinks.
We selected a winner for the Magic ticket contest and it’s Salman Rashid. Congrats to him, we’ll try to have another one soon. You’ll also see an option to have a threaded discussion in the comment section, some like it, some hate it. We’re working on an option where you get to view the comments straight-up or in a threaded view. There’s also an iPhone friendly version of the site which shows up if you’re browsing it on mobile devices. Join us at Philthy McNasty’s tonight, the game’s on TSN2 and they have it.