It’s time to match our longest winning stream of the season: 3! It’s already happened twice, one when we opened the gates and mowed down Philly, Golden State and Milwaukee. Then we did it again in late January against Chicago, Sacramento and New Jersey. And now, nearly two months later, we got a chance to take it to 3 and beyond. It’s OKC and future Hall-of-Famer Kevin Durant at the ACC which means maybe you shouldn’t sell those tickets on Craigslist and actually take a peek at this one. Or better yet, find a scalper at the beginning of the third quarter and low-ball him. It worked for me a couple times. Or you could do what Realizar does, buy cheap tickets and use his smashing good looks to get all the way down to the 100 level and sit next to the BMO exec and start chanting stuff with Popeye Jones and house music references which never fail to draw scornful looks.
Jose Calderon missed practice yesterday due to the dislocated finger but is expected to play. It didn’t bother him much on Wednesday in playing 38 minutes so it can’t be that big of a deal. He’s dislocated that finger about 3-4 times already this season so he should be quite used to it. I was secretly hoping Triano would rest him so we could see Roko get some extended playing time against Russell Westbrook. Westbrook’s averaging 16 points and 5 assists on 40% shooting. He’s currently ESPN’s top-ranked rookie but I can’t see them not giving that award to Derrick Rose who’s neck-and-neck with him on most categories but is shooting a much more respectable 47%. Plus his team being in the playoffs should ice the deal. There’s a great post here which talks about the various facets of Westbrook’s game including how he could be a tweener, his tunnel-vision and his tendency to turn the ball over.
Roko’s attack mentality is a welcome sight and even his critics have to appreciate the simple fact that the guy looks to get his by driving to the rim. Sometimes his rookie mistakes tend to overshadow the good things he’s shown this year, for example his hot-potato treatment of the rock in end-of-quarter spells when Calderon’s taking a breather is a killer. A 2.2 AST/TO ratio isn’t exactly terrible, consider that Westbrook is at 1.51 and Rose is touching 2.4. The PER48 assists for Roko, Westbrook and Rose are at 7.5, 7.5 and 8.0, respectively. Am I saying Roko is as good as those two? Of course not, all I’m saying is that he needs more playing time so he can develop some consistency in his game and right now happens to be the perfect time to get him some time.
Andrea Bargnani’s talking after the practice and he’s saying the reason he’s been playing well lately is nothing more than him getting extended minutes:
It’s the first time that I’ve played this kind of minutes so of course I’m doing stuff that I never did before because I never played that much. That’s the difference, when you play 40 minutes its different than when you play 20 minutes. That’s what it’s all about.
Hard to argue given his form of late. Over his last 10 games he’s averaging close to 20/6 in 34 minutes, in that miserable December he averaged 8.6/3.4 in 24.5 minutes. His development is the silver-lining to this season so far. On a side note, here’s what he’s thinking before he responds to any question posed to him by the media: Huh? What a dumb question, you’re just asking me to relay common sense but if that’s all you want, sure I’ll give to you, Paul Johnson
25.9 points, 6.6 rebounds on 48.2% shooting. That’s what Kevin Durant’s doing season and to think that Leo said the guy has bad shot-selection. To put this in a Raptors perspective consider that Bosh’s best season as a Raptor came in 06-07 when he averaged 22.6/10.7 in his fourth year. Durant appears to be well on his way to surpassing those marks on a consistent basis and is headed for stardom. So when you’re dreaming up Bosh trade-scenarios this summer just leave him out of it because there’s no way OKC is parting with him. There are two players that I would love to see on the Raptors: Monta Ellis and Jeff Green. Green had a bad rookie season coming out of Georgetown last year and might’ve been had in the summer. This year’s he’s upped his scoring by 7 points, his rebounding by 2, his 3-pt shooting by a whopping 13% and his FG% by 2. The athletic 17/7 forward is a great sidekick to Durant and it’s going to be hard to pry him away from OKC but then again, Bosh’s lure could be high.
So they asked Anthony Parker about whether he’d use Twitter and he gave an answer something to the effect of that he’d rather spend time with his kids and that all he needs is text messaging. Truth is that unless he’s divulging plays and dirty gossip about the team, nobody would care what he has to say. Parker, great guy but a potentially terrible tweeter. He’ll be matched up against Thabo Sefolosha whose name I keep seeing in the “worst case” scenario on DraftExpress.com. While he’s guarding him, I’d assume that Marion will be given the task of slowing down Durant and let’s hope he does a better job of it than he did Wednesday against Richard Jefferson. That was a weak man-defense performance by Marion, let’s see how he fares tonight.
OKC has lost 3 of 4 and are starting a three game roadtrip where they’ll play Boston and San Antonio next. If they’ll win a game this is going to be it. Nick Collison out-manned Bosh on a late rebound and gave the Raptors their most embarrassing (at the time) defeat of the season in OKC and I just don’t see the Raptors slipping up again. We shot 36% in that game and gave up 20 fastbreak points, after the game Desmond Mason dropped this quote:
It felt like we won a championship
Mason’s out for the season after having knee surgery and Kevin Durant bruised his left forearm but is listed as probable for the game. He played 40 minutes in a loss to the Lakers so really, there’s no reason he shouldn’t play. For the Raptors, Marcus Banks had toe surgery and is out for the year, Bargnani has a sore left Achilles but will play, Humphries is out and Pops – who missed Wednesday’s game with a sore knee – practiced and is expected to play. Triano’s post-practice interview talks more about OKC, their bright future and their various weapons including one Nenad Krstic. There’s also talk of that three-point shooting game the Raptors play in practice.
The Raptors are playing their fourth game of a five game homestand and are 5.5 point favorites – I’m picking them (keep in mind I’ve been wrong the last two games). For the eye-candy, I’m going with Natalie who, when asked where she wants to be in five years, says she’d like to have a job, a house and a big tree.
Just throwing this out there but John Salmons is proving to be quite a pick-up for the Bulls. One more NBA tidbit, I caught a bit of the Portland-Phoenix game and LaMarcus Aldridge took four steps on a breakaway layup. Doug Collins noticed it, brought it up as a joke, and the game went on. This was a couple days after I saw Lebron take three steps multiple times against New Jersey. I didn’t make much of this at first but at some point you have to wonder if the scoring numbers are getting a little inflated because of these non-calls. I’m no basketball purist but it’s starting to take away from the game.
Finally, a word on the moderating, swearing, using/not using threaded comments and blah. We’re not going to moderate raps unless you spam, start impersonating someone or are downright inflammatory without making a basketball point. Look at nunya as an example, he/she uses words that could give a nun a heart-attack but as long as there’s basketball substance around it, it’s all good. Truth is that nobody has time to or wants to police and hates censorship so just try to play along nice. As for threaded comments, we prefer if you use them but if you’re adamant about not using them, we’re not going to force you because we’re reasonable people. So yeah, go Raps.