cavsraps
In the desert, a monster awaits.

Yesterday’s big news was Nathan Jawai being sent down to the D-League where he’ll try to give the Raptors a single reason to pick up his $736,420 option for next year. This was a move that the fans were calling for about two months and I’m glad Colangelo finally decided to listen. We’ll try to keep you updated on how the big fella is doing with the Idaho Stampede.

But Avast Mateys! ‘Tis Phoenix of the East trrravelin’ to the Phoenix ‘pon the other side of the Mississippi. I remember when about two years ago the prevalent feeling was that we were following the Phoenix model to a tee and were oh so close to replicating their style of play and success. Those feelings are now long gone and replaced by us simply trying to figure out what style we want to play, who we are and just how in the world do we stay competitive in the East.

This game’s on TSN2 which is
available at Philthy’s.

It goes without saying that we’re in the midst of a late drive to the playoffs (chuckle :) and can’t afford to lose any more games. If we end up losing tonight our record will stand at 23-37 and we’ll need to go 16-6 and jump over six teams to make the playoffs. It’s a tall task for a team whose longest winning streak this season is three (which we’re trying to match tonight). But you know that even if we lose I’ll come back tomorrow and give you the equation once again, so you may as well just bear with me till our official chances are 0%.

Steve Nash missed yesterday’s shellacking against the Lakers with a sprained right ankle and will not play tonight. Jason Richardson is also sporting an ankle injury but he did play against the Lakers. Amare Stoudamire is out for the season due to right eye surgery, he’s got a detached retina which is a disorder of the eye in which the retina peels away from its underlying layer of support tissue. Marcus Banks (back spasms) and Joey Graham (hamstring) are both questionable for the game and Kris Humphries is still nursing a broken leg.

After replacing Terry Porter with Alvin Gentry, Phoenix won three straight by scoring 140, 142 and 140 points against the Clippers twice and Oklahoma City. Then they lost at home on national TV to the Celtics as Rondo made Steve Nash look 65 years old, they beat the Bobcats and finally, lost to the Lakers last night. That makes it 4 wins out of 6 but all the wins have come against bad teams. The back-to-back playing Suns are there to be had if the Raptors decide to show up, but if they fall behind by 16 like they did against the T’Wolves the Suns won’t let them back in, they’ll score 150.

I’d be amiss not to mention that this is Shawn Marion’s return to the Phoenix. He’s talking about the game and is saying that the Raptors game-plan starts with guarding Shaq. I agree, when we usually play Phoenix it starts with stopping Nash/Stoudamire on the pick ‘n roll but since both are out, Shaq will be featured (although he only had 7 FG attempts against the Lakers). The game also features Robin Lopez who lot of us wanted to draft at #17, remember? He’s averaging 1.7 rebounds in 10 minutes over 38 games.

We haven’t beaten the suns since the 2003-04 season when we swept them as Vince had nice games. Since then they’ve won nine straight and what usually ends up happening is Phoenix winning close games in Toronto and blowouts at home. Here’s hoping a change is in the air, let’s quickly run down the matchups:

Barbosa vs Calderon
The Edge: Barbosa. No explanation needed here as it’s hard to see Calderon keeping up with him in transition while he attacks the rim from all angles. Barbosa’s scoring and assist numbers have gone down the last two years but he still remains a terror for teams who have issues getting back and can’t handle speed very well. He’s a 38% three-point shooter and if I’m Calderon I give him that shot until he makes it a couple times, the last thing we want is dribble penetration and dump-offs to Shaq. On the other end, let’s see if Jose can run the pick ‘n roll with Bosh and force Shaq out of position.

Richardson vs Parker
The Edge: Richardson. After burning us for 24 ppg last year he’s eased off in his two games against us by only averaging 14. Richardson, like Parker, is a streaky shooter who if you offer an outside shot, will take it. He only becomes dangerous in transition and if you’re cheating off him to help on others, something Parker gets high off. If Shaq is to be doubled let the help not come from Parker, instead we should send Marion who’s better suited to play recovery defense than Parker. If not him, then send Alando Tucker’s man. Who? Alando Tucker. Parker did have 26 the last time we played them but that was mostly him abusing the smaller Nash, that advantage is wiped out tonight.

Tucker vs Bosh
The Edge: Bosh. I had to think about 20 minutes for this one. Alando Tucker is a rookie second year man averaging 3.7 PPG. Bosh should own this matchup and there are simply no excuses. I do think Bosh is confident heading into this one, check his last couple tweets:

: Chillin in my room, bored. I think I’ll go see a movie or somethin.
I just saw Taken. It was…. Aight. Not bad, but not that good.
I’m having a blast in phoenix.

He doesn’t sound like much of a party animal. Speaking of which, there’s a missing persons alert on AltRaps who was last seen stuffing five dollar bills in his mouth and laying buck naked on the stage at the Upper Brass.

Hill vs Marion
The Edge: Marion. I’m going with defense over offense here. Marion had an off-game against Mike Miller but he strikes me as the guy that holds a grudge and coming back to Phoenix against a wounded Suns team will have him smelling blood. I expect Marion to hit three threes tonight and outscore Hill.

Shaq vs Bargnani
The Edge: Bargnani. Yup, I’m giving it to Bargnani. He looked good against Minny and I know what your’e thinking, its Minny. But wait, Shaq is slower than anybody on Minnesota and if Bargnani can stick a few early jumpers and maybe draw a foul or two, it would take out all of Phoenix’s Big 3. On the other end Bargnani needs help and this game just might be decided on who the help comes from and how quickly we rotate. It’s a problem that’s been ever-present since Mitchell’s early days and it continues to exist. Last time these two hooked up they had similar lines although Bargnani shot a poorer percentage, I say Bargnani has 20+ in this one.

Bench: Matt Barnes killed us in Toronto with 16 points on 6-11 shooting including key fourth quarter scores. He got most of those points off of Nash penetration so it’ll be interesting to see how effective he is with Barbosa creating for him or him trying to manufacture his own shot. Barnes’ willingness to drive and potential to be a scorer gives Phoenix a bench advantage, especially with Joey Graham questionable. I’m hoping Patrick O’Bryant evens out the playing field.

Story about betting. A couple nights ago the Hawks were in Denver missing Mike Bibby and Josh Smith while taking 8 and and I said to myself, “Self, you need to put at least a couple thousand dollars on this one”. I got lazy and I checked the score later to find out that Denver won by a single point. You just never know with these teams. The line for this one isn’t determined yet due to the injury situations but you could play the Odd/Even. I’m going with……..even.

Time for the softcore porn section of these posts and today we actually have a choice of gender to feature. See, the Suns have this thing called the AP Solar Squad where they seem to have male cheerleaders as part of the entertainment. Male cheerleading never made sense to me because it never followed a logical career path. The way I see it you graduate from cheerleader to stripper to escort to porn and maybe back to escort. I just don’t know what the equivalent career path is for males.

Anyway, my pick from the Suns Dance Team came from this gallery.

Can’t leave without a prediction and I’m going for the upset tonight. Phoenix is on the back end of a back-to-back missing their two best players. Upset city! For a Phoenix take on the game check out Valley of the Suns and Bright Side of the Sun.

Make sure to join us for Raptor Fan Fridays tonight at Philthy McNasty’s on King St. West. Grab the twitter!