Back-to-back time in Charlotte and it’s not going to be an easy one. After playing two tight games in a stretch of 4 in 6 nights, you have to wonder what the Raptors have left against a team that resembles OKC Thunder a bit too much for my liking. It’s also come down to scoreboard watching as all Chicago needed to do to get back into the thick of things is win two games. The Raptors had a chance to create some distance between the Bulls but some fourth quarter collapses have all but ensured that this one’s going down to the wire. Of course, another question is whether you even want this team making the playoffs because they appear so undeserving of any accolades.
The Bulls play Phoenix on Tuesday so even if we lose, we’re still likely to hang on to that 1/2 game lead (I feel pathetic writing this). For the rest of the week, they’re in Washington and then home to Charlotte whereas we got the Clippers at home and then are in Philly and then back home to Golden State for a back-to-back on the weekend. We got the more winnable games but who knows how the team responds to the two choke-jobs and Hedo Turkoglu’s lazy, cancerous attitude on the bench.
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted somebody out of Toronto this bad. He’s been the biggest free agent/trade bust of all-time for us, the relationship got off on the wrong foot by him skipping training camp under the pretense of fatigue which had to be the lamest thing this franchise has ever allowed. Well, Vince flying out to UNC was #1 but this is a pretty close second. Oh wait, Grunwald knocking on Hakeem’s door in Houston was up there too but I’d still put a major piece like Turkoglu being given half of training camp off as a pretty big blunder. After that he whined about not getting the ball enough as if though receiving X amount of touches was part of his contract, and now when the team’s struggling and he’s out of the lineup because he’s apparently sick, he’s going about the town.
NBA players have all the right to do whatever they feel like on their spare time, but given Hedo’s situation and how poorly he’s played, I’d think he owes it to the fans and organization to go home, bust out game-tape and see where he can help the team. Once he’s done that, maybe hit the gym and lose all that excess fat and at least look like an NBA player. Colangelo’s shown so much faith in him and paid him so much money that it’s the least he cold do. Instead he’s complaining about why the organization is on his case for “going out”. What are you, 16 years old?
Charlotte is the best defensive team in the league with a 102.3 rating, 7th in OFG% at 44.7%, first in OPPG with 93.55 and a defensive mentality that can’t be quantified. The reason why the force the highest percentage of turnovers is because they pressure the ball-handler up high are aggressive with their traps; this means having the two-PG lineup out there might make some sense as long as they don’t get exploited defensively. There’s also Marco Belinelli who is an excellent ball-handler and has shown an ability to make plays in the face of pressure, I’d give him some burn tonight. On a back-to-back it’s also perhaps wise to extend the rotation; Bargnani and Bosh played 40 and 37 minutes last night so maybe Johnson should be asked to be a little more conservative in his approach and try to net around 20 minutes. The last time we beat them because Bosh and Bargnani had huge games. Jack and Calderon played about 25 minutes each so they should be fresh enough to go.
We might be the only team in the league that breathes a sigh of relief on receiving the news that Nazr Mohammed is out indefinitely; he was a beast with 11/9 last time around in Charlotte. The Bobcats do have Tyson Chandler and an aging Theo Ratliff providing interior defense so absolutely nothing will come easy tonight. Chris Bosh has had two poor efforts in a row where he looked as disinterested in the outcome of the game as ever, further solidifying my belief that as good as a player he is, he is far from a leader. Not even close. Devlin often talks about him “leading by example” but those occasions are too few and far between to mean anything. Every player on the Raptors needs to find their inner strength on their own because there will be no rallying cry from any coach or player – we just don’t have that personality on the roster or on the bench. Wait, there’s Alvin Williams but with him being a rookie assistant, I wonder how much say he has in anything. I mean, Micah Nori is valued more by Triano.
Countering Charlotte’s athleticism with small ball is an approach that could prevent fastbreaks but it would leave us thin on the rebounding side – Triano has to devise a plan/lineup that does both. He can’t simply throw his hands in the air in every post-game interview and just credit the opposing team for doing the job, he’s got to be better at hiding our weaknesses (like he did when switching Weems on Billups) more often and needs to out-think the opposing coach rather than just go with predetermined lineups.
As dim as things look right now, we can still salvage something from this season because we have the opportunity to head into the playoffs with that one thing that matters most – momentum.