It’s been incremental, but there has been improvement in this team as the season progresses. We’re not going to morph into some serious playoff team that will be a pest come the post-season, but things are happening. Also, I should have had Evans dressed at PF in my fantasy league instead of Odom, but the truth of the matter is that we learned something last night about Reggie, he’s legit this season. He may not average 13.8 (5.2 offensive) for the season, but he’s giving something in the front court the Raptors have been missing since Davis, Oakley and (Jerome) Williams: a legit forward who gets at it.
Not hating on Bosh, him and Anthony Parker are my favourite Raptors of all time, but he was never an energy guy who went to war every-single-freaking-night. I’m not too proud to admit my mistakes, but I really thought the Raptors were in big trouble with him as the starting PF. However, the way he devouted himself to rebounding and defense like he has (and if you did, you’re the same liar who also claims to have known Bruce Willis was a ghost in 6th Sense), while his offensive production has become an after thought, reminds me of a poor mans Dennis Rodman.
Depending on their energy levels tonight, the same things the Raptors did against the Lakers, will give them a boost against the Blazers, namely rebounding and hustle.
I quickly checked in with Andrew R Tonry of Portland Roundball Society about his team:
I know his contract was structured interestingly, but it definitely raised an eyebrow or two (namely mine). How has he performed since getting here?
Who are we talking about? Wes Matthews? He’s show moments of brilliance, and all kinds of scrap and hustle. The contract people thought was a toxic offer may turn out to be a fine pickup after all. Some in Portland think he’s a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Matthews is currently in terrific shape–December shape. And while he’s almost single-handedly turned around a game in Milwaukee, he’s had some bumps along the way.
With both Oden and Pryzbilla (and Pendegraph who got injured then released if I remember right) out, the Blazers were still able to start the season 4-1, with 3 of those wins coming on the road; what’s the secret sauce?
Until the Blazers re-stock their inside presence they will, as Charles Barkley always says, “live by the jumper, die by the jumper.” It’s that simple.
How long before Oden gets back, and what are the teams long term plans for him seeing as they, rightfully so, didn’t extend his rookie contract?
No on has any idea. Maybe not even Oden himself. He’s got tendinitous in the knee that’s slowing the recovery from a broken patella. At this point, few are expecting anything–it’s more of a, whatever he ends up bringing is gravy sort of situation.
What can you tell me about what happened with Pritchard?
Let’s instead talk about Rich Cho. People here don’t seem as upset anymore. Cho seems like a smart, uncompromising, ruthless dude–one who’s ruled by rationality number, while unconcerned by glamor and stardom. So far, so good.
Ed Davis – Out (can’t remember why, but as someone said yesterday, never forget)
Greg Oden – Knee
Joel Pryzbilla – Knee
Rudy Fernandez – Back
Fabricio Oberto – Heart palpitations, retired
PG – Jack vs Miller
Should really be Calderon vs Miller the way Jack has been playing of late, but I digress. When the Blazers
settled for signed Andre last summer, I thought it was a pretty decent move to free up Roy to score more. The move seemed to work, and Miller is having a mini-resurgence in his 30s. He’s not a great shooter, but will knock them down if given the space. What he does a great job of is penetrating and getting into the paint. After last nights game, Jack really has nowhere to go but up, but he needs to be focused. Too many times last night, Fisher and Blake had WIDE-OPEN shots, and too many times they knocked them down. It’s really not as simple as it sounds, but all Jack (and Calderon) needs to do is limit Miller’s penetration, and force him to be a jump shooter; if Miller goes for 20 from the perimeter, I can live with it. I can’t live with Miller get into the paint, having the Raptors D collapse on him, then he finds a teammate for a good shot.
SG – DeRozan vs Roy
The kid had a solid homecoming last night: loved his aggressiveness, took good shots for the most part, and made Kobe work on defense. That was really all we could ask for from DeMar. Tonight, I’m asking for the same thing. Wont be easy chasing Roy around the court a night removed from chasing Kobe, but that’s what is needed. Roy makes big plays from different spots on the floor (much like Kobe but not as devastatingly), and has a nights rest, so it wont be easy for DeMar until he finds his second wind early. Still, it will be nice to see these two chase each other around the court, but DeMar has a size/athleticism advantage he needs to exploit, should be fun.
SF – Kleiza vs Batum
Kleiza has to make a big adjustment from Artest’s physical style to Batum’s length and athleticism. He did a good job of attacking Artest off the dribble, something he needs to repeat to put some pressure on Batum’s offense since he’s either shooting threes or getting in the paint (both require legs).
PF – Evans vs Aldridge
You can’t fault Evans for Gasol dropping 30 points (him being best big in the game and all), but he did a great job of protecting the glass against Odom (9rebs) and Gasol (7rebs); even grabbing 14 for himself. Aldridge is a different beast, he shoots well from the mid-range, and has some decent post moves. Closer to Bosh than Odom, but not as good as either; he is having a career year so far though. Reggie will need to keep Aldridge out of the paint and put a hand in his face when he’s going to shoot since he will own him on the boards. After playing Millsap, Gasol and Odom for the last two nights, this should be a tad easier for our boy.
C – Bargnani vs Camby
He was bound to have a bad game offensively, but was pretty rough towards the end of the game. Some of that was not getting the ball in the right spot, but some of that was just plain bad. For those of you counting, Camby’s been playing since the second year the Raptors have been in the league; whodathunk he would be so durable? What’s kept him in the league is his defense (rebounding and shot blocking), both of which are a product of his ridiculous length. I can see Bargnani checking Camby on defense, since Marcus doesn’t have much of a post game and can only hit wide open jumpers. Keeping him off the glass will be paramount, and with his Andrea’s size, it shouldn’t be a huge stretch. That being said, he needs to commit to boxing out and hustling for loose balls. He did it against the Jazz, and I don’t see any reason why he can’t tonight against a front court that isn’t in the same league as either Utah’s or LA’s.
Keys to the Game
After last night’s game, Kobe Bryant had this to say about the Raptors:
They’re a very unorthodox team, you’ve got rebounders coming in from all over the place. You’ve got the floor spread, and very athletic guys that are crashing and jumping, so it’s just their style of play.
Sounds like a bit of a compliment if you ask me. What everyone’s been saying about the Raptors is the hustle and athleticism these guys have, and it seems to be giving teams some issues. Since the Blazers are a jump shooting team, the best way to counter them is to run folks around and make them work hard on both ends of the floor, so that in crunch time, you’re a bit flat. Will be difficult on the second night of a back-to-back, but it needs to be done.
Pound the Ball Into the Paint
The Blazers front court is ravaged by injury, and the Raptors are bigger, stronger and more athletic. They just don’t have the horses and you have to take advantage, simple as that. Against the Lakres, a far better front court, the Raptors scored 58 points in the paint. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this.
Don’t be afraid to play the bench
Both Weems and Barbosa played strong first half’s, but didn’t see the floor at the right times in the second (Weems didn’t see the floor at all). The bench was key in the 2nd quarter resurgence against the Lakers, but wasn’t properly utilized afterwards…do we see a trend developing here? Triano needs to manage substitutions much more efficiently and effectively. It’s not going to happen overnight (literally), but if he just rides the hot hand without concern for who’s feelings he’s going to hurt…it’s a step in the right direction (having a hard time expressing myself here, forgive me).
Vegas has the Blazers as 12 point favourites with an over/under of 202.5. I must admit, I’m a bit surprised by the big spread since the Raptors do match-up well, maybe I missed something or just not accounting for how tired they might be. Regardless, 12 points is ridiculous, I’d take that bet if I had a bookie.
Tags: Andre Miller, antonio davis, brandon roy, Charles Barkley, Charles Oakley, Demar DeRozan, Dennis Rodman, Derek Fisher, Greg Oden, Jarrett Jack, jerome williams, Joel Pryzbilla, Kevin Pritchard, Lamar Odom, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers, Reggie Evans, Rich Cho, Sonny Weems, Steve Blake, Wesley Matthew, Wesley Matthews