Last call to impress before opening night

This is what it feels like to beat them. We really need to do it more often.

News Flash: We have two games left in the pre-season, one of them is today and the other one is in Minny. Take a guess which one you should be paying closer attention to when evaluating the team. We already tasted defeat at their hands once so we know what they’re about. Well, we kinda knew what they were about before that too but now we really know what they’re about. They’re about Perkins wearing you down inside, Rondo beating you at the point, Pierce slicing you open 1-on-1 and Allen making you pay from outside. The C**tics are what we thought they were. They are exactly what we thought they were so let’s beat their ass! To further quote Dennis Green, Who the hell takes the third game of the pre-season like its bullsh*t?. But that’s the NFL, treating the third game of the pre-season like BS in the NBA is common practice, but what about the second last game?

So far we’ve seen bits and pieces of good and bad from every player. Belinelli started off great but then his shot got cold, Calderon was atrocious to start camp but has picked it up of late, Bargnani’s been alternating good and bad games. Bosh started off well enough for a guy who missed training camp but regressed in the last two games, most recently being served by one Carl Landry. At this point of the pre-season you want to see a more consolidated product rather than just individual players having good sequences or games. It’s time to at least play the main guys 25-30 minutes and give them a real test with a real goal at the end of it so that when October 28th comes, it won’t be the first time these guys are “trying to win”. Winning takes practice, practice makes perfect, therefore practice winning early.

Reggie Evans is out for the game, in fact, he’s out for the pre-season. This means that Amir Johnson is going to get minutes today at a point where he’s likely to see minutes in the regular season, i.e.: when Bosh is subbed out late in the first or so. This is his chance to show Triano what he can do in limited minutes and that he doesn’t need to be playing in garbage-time third quarters where there’s zero defense being played to have an “impact”. People love his energy, I love his energy, but I want to see that energy manifest itself into something in a half-court setting in the first half against a lineup consisting of at least 3 starters. If there’s one thing that scares me about him is that he finishes weak, I’m not talking about finishing in transition which he does fine, I’m talking when he’s going up against another big and needs to go either over them or though them. He tends to avoid contact, just saying, I’m sure it’ll pass.

Reggie Evans. How’s this for a nickname – Energy Evans? Eh? No, you don’t like? Why, is it because it sounds like a drink that might rival Red Bull? OK, fine.

Antoine Wright is still out and Triano doesn’t know anything about the injury or when he’ll be back. He also says that Reggie’s injury is a bit odd because it’s a mid-ankle sprain which is hard to heal and evaluate. I’m not sure I care about Wright too much, sure he’s a good defender at the wing who we could use, but I see him more as a situational or match-up defender than a rotational player you have to have. Dallas had a plethora of offensive options (Nowitzki, Kidd, Howard, Terry) and could afford to have a one-dimensional defender on the floor and he managed to log 24 minutes a game. In Toronto, we require our 2/3s to not only defend but show something on offense as well. Take Sonny Weems for instance, he’s been excellent at pushing it on offense in transition, finding open spaces on the floor to test his jumper, and even driving to the rim when the opportunity is there. Antoine Wright is not that kind of player, he may be pound-for-pound the best defensive player on the Raptors but I would be shocked to see him come close to playing as much as he did with Dallas. Throw in Belinelli’s ball-handling and passing into the mix and you’ll find yourself struggling to make a case for Wright’s minutes.

Touching on the Houston game Triano addressed the offense and defense:

We haven’t even put in a lot of our offense and showed we can score the basketball. Our defense has been fairly solid up until last night where we played a team that shot the ball well, that’s no excuse though…The system we’re teaching will take a little bit of time. We got two weeks of skills and drills, hopefully we get a whole lot better at it…The first two weeks of the season we’ve completely focused on the [defensive] end of the floor and we’re still not there, but fatigue was big in the [Houston] game…that’s no excuse, though.

If there’s one thing I hate coaches say after a loss it’s “the other team shot the ball well” – yeah, you let them shoot well! Other than that, same old quotes, hopefully different results to follow. Our 1-on-1 defense hasn’t even been bad this pre-season, other than some abuse Calderon took in the early games, we’ve been very good. Yes, very. You just haven’t seen our wings get broken down, not even against the C**tics. The defensive issues we’ve had have to do with rebounding, guarding screen ‘n rolls, turnovers leading to points and general confusion about who’s supposed to be where. These aren’t problems that can’t be addressed if the intensity and concentration levels increase to the required levels, and that to me has been the most disappointing thing because even though we start the game active on defense, we lose it in the second half. And that brings us back to fatigue. It’s a viscous circle and I’d put conditioning and intensity as the top two things we have to work on before the regular season starts.

Speaking of physical fitness, pay attention to the Raptors’ physiques compared to their competition and you’ll notice that our home-grown players aren’t nearly as toned or defined and there’s a reason for it. There was an article last year that addressed this and quoted the trainer, Keith D’Amelio, as saying:

“The biceps curl is the most pointless exercise in the world,” D’Amelio was saying a while back, before O’Neal came up lame. “It’s vanity. It’s guys wanting to look tough. I guess that’s what they equate toughness with.””When J.O. wants to do (curls), and I know he wants to do ’em, I’m just like, `Okay, but they’re not helping you at all.’ There is no benefit from an athletic standpoint or to keep you healthy.”

It’s one of those things the Raptors do different than other NBA teams.

Tony Allen will once again miss the game for the C**tics who are idle since beating us on Wednesday. Doc Rivers has promised to use a “rare lineup” for this game which will see Marquis Daniels at the point. Eddie House and rookie Lester Hudson also figure to get a long look as Rivers considers back-up options behind Rondo.

The game is on Raptors TV at 3PM EST. Swing by the chat for a stream and such.

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