Kyrie Irving

Grab the Opening Tip: Felon Edition.

No Arenas. No Mason. No Stevenson. 7-25 on the season. 3-7 in their last 10. 2nd night of a back-to-back. Worst team in the East. Second worst in the league. The Ugliest uniforms in pro sports…do you see where I’m going with this? Raptors have a shot at salvaging the Bucks game that slipped through their fingers, with the possibility of taking 4 of their last 5 heading into the weekend (Memphis being the worst team in the league).

As we all have painfully learned over the years, you can’t take anything for granted in Raptorland, especially early leads, double digit leads, multiple double digit leads, 54.2% shooting, Bargnani’s resurgence…

The Raptors can’t take this game for granted. Sure the Wizards only have 7 wins, but they are better then their record indicates. They too have gone through a tough schedule, but unlike the Raptors, there is a bit of hope with the team. They have been playing some stingy defense, only giving up 92 points a game over their last 5 (including a gritty 80-77 win over the Cavs).

This defensive renaissance is due in part to Dominic McGuire’s insertion into the starting 5. The long-athletic second year player has been hitting the glass hard, blocking shots and getting into the passing lanes.

Unfortunately for them, their offense is sputtering. Hard to expect much with Arenas and Stevenson on the sidelines (and Mason lighting it up in San Antonio), but the Raptors will have to keep Butler off the board. Against the Magic, he was scoreless in the 1st half, but went off for 29 in the second, so you know he’s feeling it.

On the other hand, the Raps have won 2 of their last 3, both wins coming against a quality opponent. Would be three in a row, but the Bucks were just too much for the tired Raps on the second night of a back-to-back. A key to the Raptors semi-surge has been the play of Bargnani. His last 5 games have probably been the best stretch of consecutive performances he has put together since his rookie season. How? He is getting burn, starting alongside Bosh, and isn’t being shuffled around from position to position. Clearly defined role. There’s even talk of keeping JO on the bench on his return to keep Bargnani producing. I can live with him not rebounding if he just scores, and takes some of the load off Bosh. Interestingly enough, when he scores, his defense and rebounding increase, funny how things work.

A big key for the last few games has been Rokoman, who have stepped in for an injured Calderon nicely. Solomon has been playing under control, distributing the ball, and hitting a shot from time to time averaging 7.7pts and 7.3ast over the last 3. Roko on the other hand has been badass. Kid has been driving to the rack, running the break, distributing the ball and even got a haircut for a 3 game average of 8.3pts and 3.7ast. It would be a huge bonus if their play continues when Calderon returns from injury. If Rokoman can provide 15+ minutes of quality for JC it would save his legs for the rest of the year.

Bosh has been Bosh. Not so sure he has checked out considering he is averaging 25.4pts and 10.4rebs over the last 5. I don’t have much to say about the guy, he’s sick and is the reason we aren’t Memphis. Last season, the Wizards owned the Raptors, taking 3 of the 4 in the season series. Thankfully Roger Mason Jr. isn’t here to continually break our hearts with each dagger he stuck from the perimeter.

Match-ups

Rokoman vs James
The Edge: Washington -
It’s probably closer to even, but I just don’t have a good feeling about this match-up. James is a pit-bull going through a mini-resurgence since his arrival in Washington. Getting about 11.4pts and 3.4ast a game…not bad with all things considered. If Rokoman can keep James jacking jumpers on the perimeter, and out of the paint, things wont go south.

Parker vs Butler
The Edge: Washington -
Butler is a nice-nice player. What a steal he was for the Wizard, since all they had to give up was Kwame Brown (who seems to be more valuable as a trade piece then a player, lol). Parker has had solid back-to-back games (19pts 3rebs 3.5ast) running the floor, hitting jumpers and D’ing up the opposing SG. With Arenas and Stevenson out, the offensive burden will fall to Butler, who will be attacking Parker like JO does strippers. Hopefully defensive rotations are on the ball tonight.

Moon vs McGuire
The Edge: Even -
McGuire’s defensive prowess will be wasted on Moon, who takes bad shots anyways. This match-up will play itself out on the boards and in transition. Neither of these guys is going to be a game changer for their team, but their contributions on defense will be crucial. Hopefully Moon doesn’t fall for too many pump-fakes.

Bosh vs Jamison
The Edge: Toronto -
Wont be an easy game for CB4, that’s for sure, but he wins most of the pre-game match-ups by default because of the mismatch opportunities he poses. Jamison has scored 20 or more points in 4 of the last 6 times he has played the Raps, and double-doubles in 4 of the last 5. Gotta keep him off the boards, and I can live with him being a jump shooter as long as he doesn’t get into the paint. Note to Raptors, try and get the ball to Bosh EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Bargnani vs Songaila
The Edge: Toronto
VL is killing it the last couple games. Songaila is outmatch here in size and ability. He can’t defend Bargs in the paint, he can’t bother him on the perimeter. Still a little skeptical on Bargnani’s long term outlook, but at least he could be used as a decoy to free up Bosh some.

Line

Vegas.com has the Wizards at -1.5. It’s gonna be a tight one, there is no doubt.

Prediction

Either way, it is going to be a tight game. Just that my faith in the Raptors during tight games is non-existent. I have this sick feeling Butler and Jamison are going to have monster games, and squeak out a tight win after an early double-digit deficit. But the idiot in me say the Raptors will take this one by 7. I’m going with the idiot on this one.

Viva la Ukic!