On paper we win this, but on paper we should’ve also won against Philadelphia and Sacramento. It’s a matchup of the third and fourth highest scoring teams, and the worst and third-worst defensive teams. The Warriors have 17 wins on the season and have lost six straight by an average of 10.2 points. I wish their recent poor run would fill me with some sort of confidence heading into this one but no such luck. Wait, maybe this will: Our 10-26 record against teams over .500 might make you question whether we can handle good teams, but there’s no doubt about whether we can kick the crap out of the minnows: we’re a whopping 22-5 against teams under .500.
This back-to-back thing, we’re 4-10 in them and the wins have come against New York, New Jersey, Washington and Chicago. The only road win has come against New Jersey so with all due respect to the Raptors, tomorrow night in Portland is a write-off. I hope Triano sees this as the gettable game and goes all out instead of holding back for Portland or Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Warriors have been hit by injuries and have lost Andris Biedrins, Kelenna Azubuike, Raja Bell, Anthony Randolph and Brandan Wright for the season. Even that doesn’t fill me with confidence because you just know one of their scrubs will be eyeing this game as a chance to get some points on the board. My pick for who that scrub will be is C.J Watson, profiled here by our TrueHoop colleagues or of course, the great rookie Stephen Curry. Even though the Warriors are clearly a rather pathetic injury-riddled squad, the oddsmakers seem to have little faith in the Raptors making them only a 1.5 point favorite. I really am torn which way this game will go. Also of note, this will be Monta Ellis’ second game back after missing the previous six due to a back injury.
I’m sure this will be an up-and-down no-defense game but as with any NBA game, it’ll come down to playing fourth quarter defense (or in our case, third quarter defense). After a fairly solid first half, we gave up 43 in the third quarter, the Warriors did something similar against Portland. They led them 96-83 heading into the fourth but scored just nine points in the final quarter. They shot 3-14 shots and had six turnovers in the fourth, completely blowing their solid play of three quarters (shot 53%). RaptorTalk did some analysis of our third-quarter struggles and concluded that Jay Triano’s talk at halftime does us no good.
This will be Marco Belinelli’s first game back in Golden State so I’m looking forward to seeing him in the first half tonight. If I don’t, Triano doesn’t know what he’s doing. We’ll need to maybe even see if he can use his length to cover Curry as I’m sure PG defense is going to be a high-priority after Beno Udrih’s impersonation of an in-prime Isiaiah Thomas. We cannot expect Calderon and Jack to cover these types of guards, if they would’ve been able to do it they would’ve done it by now. It’s time to start getting creative defending this position and perhaps even throw Marcus Banks out there who I recall as someone wanting to play defense.
Tom Liston was busy flogging dead horses on Friday night and trying to come up with a starting lineup that would fix our issues. He concludes that replacing Wright with DeRozan makes the starting lineup better defensively, yeah, no kidding? Other than Bosh’s offense and Jack’s desire to get to the rim, there’s hardly a consistent element on this team and even though Wright might have a couple good games (after doing nothing for the last 8 – 16/56, 29% + countless blown coverages) by getting the nod as a starter, there is simply no way he’ll maintain that level of play for more than 4 or 5 games and we’ll be having this same discussion two weeks from now.
DeRozan should not have played the entire third quarter against Sacramento, as much as I like him his defense has been disappointing and he should’ve been yanked after failing to fight through the pick set on him in the first minute. However, to state that taking him out of the starting lineup is going to mend some of our problems is a fallacy, the first quarter has been DeRozan’s strongest, he gets about 50% of his points in the first and is very attack-minded, something you need to be early in games. I hardly care though, take him out or leave him in, players like him are red-herrings when it comes to identifying problems.
There’s an article in the Star today which is talking about how the Raptors have been plagued by injury. Really? Losing 96 man-games is now considered being ‘plagued’? Especially when Reggie Evans accounts for 51 of them which the article fails to mention. From what I recall, the only significant injury we’ve had is to Chris Bosh recently and to Jose Calderon a while back. Injury cannot be used as an excuse this season.
Taking a quick reluctant peek at the standings we find that the Raptors are now in 8th spot after wins by Miami and Charlotte. The good news is that we’re three ahead of Chicago in the loss column who, like us, also blew a back-to-back road assignment (Miami and Orlando). They’ve lost 7-straight and have road dates with Memphis and Dallas before returning home to face Cleveland. Chuck Swirsky must be pulling his hair out. If the Raptors current slide continues, we have every chance of making the playoffs only because Chicago is playing awful basketball. Question becomes what does making the playoffs really mean if it’s going to happen like that? BTW, there is no chance for another team to come and steal that 8th spot as Detroit in 10th is a full 10 games back of the Raptors.
Finally, March Madness is around the corner and we’re having a pool. Get the info here, create the bracket and prepare to have your ass kicked.
GSW tonight, let’s do this now. Love the late-night games.Follow @raptorsrepublic