You might recall the last Bobcats game, it’s the one where you almost stopped being a fan. You know how in movies when a violent crime is committed against somebody, the memory is a bit hazy and they only remember the most shocking parts, and when the police asks them to recall the events of that miserable night, they burst into tears because they just remembered how awful it all really was. That’s how the Raptors talk of the Charlotte game between themselves, that is, if someone summons the guts to bring it up. It’s usually forbidden to talk about what happened, whenever someone does accidentally mention the night, a lull of silence descends on the locker-room and one of the victims tries uncomfortably to change the subject. The conversation does move on, but deep inside every soul recounts the Horrors of Charlotte.
Jarrett Jack, refusing to publicly talk about the massacre, scrawled this note from underneath his bed:
“It was rough. I think we were at a point where we were playing well and then we kind of took a slide against those guys. I think that’s where our confidence kind of wavered in each other. I think when you lose by 40, I don’t think anybody can forget that”.
Jay Triano mustered up the courage to inspire the troops:
“We got embarrassed down there. They turned us over. They had 41 points in transition, 60-some points in the paint. It’s definitely motivation of what we have to stop heading into the game”
What I’m trying to get at is that the Bobcats kicked our ass like it’s never been kicked before. They actually ripped the ball out of our hands, ran back down the court while we retreated the other way and then dunked it with such ferocity that we feared inbounding the ball again. Tonight they come into our building trailing us by 1 1/2 games for the sixth spot, they recently lost 6 of 8 and are currently on a 7-game road losing streak which includes dropping one to the Nets. The Raptors have won four straight at home. We still hang on to the league’s 4th ranked offense but Charlotte counters with their 2nd ranked defense.
Last time around the Raptors were too easy going in their offensive approach and thought they could coast their way to scoring against the Bobcats, a clear sign of unpreparedness by Jay Triano, shocking once you figure in that it’s a Larry Brown team they were facing. The Bobcats’ defense jumped on us early and we were flustered into turnovers leading to points and the game was over before it started. With knowledge of Charlotte’s ploys through experience, the Raptors should be ready to take on the challenge of executing against a very athletic defense headlined by Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson.
Maintaining energy for 48 minutes is going to be key and Triano might want to go deep into the bench to find it. Pops should likely figure into this one as Triano is under direct order from Colangelo to use the end of the bench (save POB) when facing athletic teams. How do I know this? Well, if you paid attention to those little segments during the broadcast where some poor chap gets to ask Colangelo a ridiculously easy question, you would know. Weems only played garbage time that game but look for that to change too. I would also throw in Rasho in there to slow the pace down and maybe have them adapt to us, rather than the other way around. Nazr Mohammed’s 11/9 including 4 offensive rebounds in 18 minutes played a big part in our dismantlement and perhaps Rasho (DNP-CD) could’ve done something about it. We do catch a break as Tyson Chandler is out a week with a foot injury.
Here’s an obvious suggestion, Charlotte are 29th in the league (only ahead of the Nets) in making jumpers between 16-23 feet, they’re hitting only 35.4% from that range. They shoot 31% from three, that’s 24th in the league. Last time they had 74 points in the paint, 41 fastbreak points and 29 points off 18 Raptors turnovers. Taking care of the ball and making them shoot jumpers is the way to go; perhaps we should also flirt with the zone defense that worked rather well against New Orleans. How Jack, Banks and Turkoglu handle their aggressive trapping will be crucial. For a more visual representation of how much Charlotte would rather attack the rim than shoot the three, check this well researched article out.
Jarrett Jack will go up against Raymond Felton, a model of point guard that he’s suited to do well against. Felton’s smaller, a little quicker and a candidate to lay off of even though he’s upped his 3-point and field-goal percentages by 12% and 5%, respectively. He’s still only a career 32% three-point shooter and 40% from the field. Stephen Jackson will try to initiate switches and exploit you by using his size and post-presence, and Gerald Wallace will assault the rim against Hedo Turkoglu forcing the Raptors to help. How we respond in those situations will determine how well we neutralize their primary offensive threats.
Antoine Wright figures to play this one for tactical and trade showcase reasons. I can’t recall too many games this year where he’s been given the assignment on the other team’s top scorer and has come up big. I remember him guarding Ben Gordon well in the first Pistons game but not much to talk about after that. Nobody would disagree that his abilities were over-hyped in the pre-season, but it’s still surprising to see him fall out of favor so fast. I suppose not many anticipated Sonny Weems to account for something so soon. For once, I’d like to see Wright do a shutdown job on an opposing wing and be interviewed at either halftime or post-game, maybe Wallace or Jackson could provide that opportunity tonight? Whatever the case, he’s being a gentleman about it and not demanding a trade, something I was sure he’d do by now (unless he’s been secretly promised it as long as he behaves).
The upcoming four game stretch will test the theory of whether the previous four game stretch saw the team finally find its feet. Judging based on the poll, 65% of us would be okay with a 2-2 record, I’m assuming that means wins against Charlotte and Philly, and losses against Boston and Orlando. That is exactly what you would’ve hoped for last year if we had played these four teams in a row. So I ask you, have we really improved if our measures of success are still the same? So much for dreaming big.
The early line for this game has Charlotte laying 5 1/2, I say you bank on the Raptors’ pride and the “Reggie Evans Bench Intimidation” factor and take the points.