Toronto Raptors Charlotte Bobcats November 10, 2010

You joke about a team starting the year winless, or 2-18 after a quarter of the way in, but you never think it will actually happen. A lot is at stake tonight against the Bobcats, namely the tag of worse team in the East. It’s been a few years since we’ve had to worry about that tag, but it’s quickly approaching.

The good news is the Bobcats are right there with us, and we have a chance to stop the bleeding, yea…

I had a chance to speak to Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops about the Bobcats:

The trading of Chandler (along with the cutting of Dampiers non-guaranteed contract), then signing Kwame Brown to fill the void seems contrary to Michael Jordan’s stated goal of making the playoffs. I was almost waiting for the other shoe to where Adam Morrison gets an invite to camp. What’s going on?
With the re-signing of Tyrus Thomas, the Bobcats payroll for this coming season was beyond what MJ was willing to pay for a borderline playoff team. If Tyson was still in Charlotte (and stayed healthy most of the year), the Bobcats ceiling is still, what, 48 wins? That’s based off the 44 last year, and Tyrus Thomas and Stephen Jackson being in Charlotte for the full season (and ignoring going from Raymond to D.J. at the point). Apparently, MJ and the front office think that the core of Jax, Crash, Boris, and Tyrus are still a borderline playoff team, and now a little cheaper (but just a little).

The Bobcats seem really thin at the point. Letting Felton walk was real suspect considering Livingston is the backup at point. The Bobcats have the luxury of Stephen Jackson at the point-forward, but this isn’t an ideal situation. Brown and Augustin seemingly haven’t been on the same page, but to his credit, he has played pretty well to start the season all things considered. How do you see this playing out?
D.J. had a really strong rookie season, providing some instant scoring off the bench. Based on his size, and skill set, that seemed like a great role for him. Cost considerations have forced him into a bigger role – and so far he has handled it well – at least offensively. In fact, despite some concerns that D.J. was too much of a shoot-first point for Larry’s taste, LB has been chiding D.J. to shoot more early this season. However, defensively, concerns still exist – D.J. is only an inch or so shorter than Raymond, but Raymond had a bit more heft to him that helped him defend and get through screens a bit better than D.J. has been able to. That is going to be the greatest concern – can D.J. defend well enough to justify starter’s minutes.

1-6 to start the season, but the Indiana and Detroit games were very winnable. Looking at the schedule, The rest of November isn’t horrible in terms of quality of opponents, can we expect to see an improvement, or are you guys bound to the same fate as Raptor fans?
The Cats started slow last year as well – and turnovers were a big part of the problem then as well. Early in the season, this is a team that is going to struggle to score, as switching point guards from last year is a significant change from last season. The roster turnover was somewhat low for a Bobcats team – but just for a Bobcats team, as the team has 2 different starters, 2 new players in the rotation (Livingston and Kwame Brown expected to garner minutes when he gets healthy), and 5 new players overall. That unfamiliarity (and Larry Brown’s general complex/detailed playbook) takes a while to gel.

Additionally, the Bobcats are still figuring out how to defend with this different group of players – last year, they relied on Tyson Chandler and Theo Ratliff to lock down the post, and Nazr played with a focus on scoring. WIth Nazr starting this year, the Cats defensive strength is missing so far. DeSagana Diop and Kwame Brown are going to be counted on to provide those minutes – Diop’s been solid so far and we’ve yet to see what Kwame will provide.

Anything else you want to add about this squad?
It’s been a slow start – but rather than the some of the older squads of the past, there is some reason to be excited about this one, even in losses. Watching them run out a long, athletic group with Livingston, Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown, Tyrus Thomas, and Boris Diaw – it’s fun basketball to watch. Boris may seem like an odd fit with these lanky athletes -but his skill set and versatility on defense are a good complement.

Injury Report

Toronto
Ed Davis – Out

Charlotte
Kwame Brown – Out
Boris Diaw – Day-to-day

Match-ups

PG – Jack vs Augustin
Must be my curse, but as soon as I picked up Augustin for my fantasy league, he had two pretty games in a row, and I was forced to drop him. Overall he’s had a pretty good start to the season considering he’s essentially the load at point on his own. I suspect he breaks out from that funk tonight because he is a quick guard who has 3-point range: a recipe for playing well against the Raptors. Jack bounced back from a couple pretty brutal games with a solid outing against the Warriors, all things considered of course. I mean, when Curry puts up 34pts 5rebs 4ast 3stl on a bum ankle, his 24pts 8ast is put into perspective. Jack can give Augustin some problems with size and strength, and with Calderon on the second unit, they can really take it to the Augustin and Livingston and Collins all night. We have the horses here, just have to go at them and want to put a thin point guard situation to a test. One thing that has me concerned is Augustin’s passing ability that comes off his quickness…whatever….
Edge: Augustin wins the individual dual, but the Raptors win at point overall

SG – DeRozan vs Jackson
The league is filled with quality shooting guards, so DeRozan wont be walking into many match-ups where he has an edge. Jackson is a world champion, wiley vet, and destructive force all wrapped into a nice bull-dog of a package. If he’s on, this is going to get messy. He does so much, so well, that DeMar will be tested in all facets of the game. What DeMar has in his pocket is his athleticism and quickness, as does Weems. Running the floor and making Jackson run around screens is the only chance they have at slowing him down. Get him frustrated, and hopefully he implodes.
Edge: Jackson

SF – Kleiza vs Wallace
Kleiza hasn’t had to deal with a kamikaze forward who crashes the boards and plays off the ball very well. This is a key match-up for the game, and I would be totally down on this one, except that Kleiza is coming off a strong performance against the Warriors that should carry over. I’d like to see Kleiza go to the post, and try to get Gerald into foul trouble. On the offensive glass, Wallace is one of the best, and if it comes down to a hustle match-up, will grab everything Evans doesn’t. It’s really going to be a long night for Linas, I don’t see any two ways about it.
Edge: Wallace

PF – Evans vs Diaw
Diaw was a nose hair away from being the Raptor, so it would only be fitting if he killed us tonight. Evans should own on the boards, and it’s a draw defensively, but Diaw is crafty and can contribute in all fronts on offense: passing, shooting, in the post. He has been playing big minutes, and with his conditioning (as far as I remember), it might take a toll on him. It should be noted that Tyrus Thomas could potentially move into the starting lineup as a result of his solid play in limited play off the bench. If this is the case, he will give Evans a hell of a time since he’s longer, faster and more athletic. I’d expect to see a lot more of Amir Johnson tonight since he can negate what Thomas can bring to the table.
Edge: Even

C – Bargnani vs Mohammed
The Raptors have given Nazr a career over the years, affording him opportunities to put up big games (by his standards anyways). If Bargnani can’t win this match-up, I’m putting ‘Vegetable Lasagna’ back on the table; I think that’s fair.
Edge: Bargnani

Keys to the Game

Protect the Ball
Even without Chandler, the Bobcats are 8th in the league in points allowed, giving up 95.6 a contest. They put pressure on the ball, rotate well, and play solid man defense. With Jackson and Wallace playing big minutes anchoring the perimeter, crisp passes and ball movement will be crucial to peck at the brick wall.

Play Big
This is one of those games where Amir has to keep his head in it. The Bobcats are the second worse rebounding team in the league. Control the glass, get more possessions and run it down their throat. The Raptors offense can put a lot of pressure on the Bobcats if they get out and run, which all comes down to grabbing the rebound on starting the break. The Bobcats are also the worst offensive team in the league, so there should be plenty rebounds to grab, especially with the questionable shots Jackson takes. No excuses for Bargnani either; saying he scores and doesn’t need to grab rebounds is simply ignoring the fact that scoring is only one dimension of playing ball. Bargnani will never become a wicked defender, but he at 7 feet, can grab rebounds. Stop pussyfooting, take off your panties and do something already.

Sense of Urgency
1-6 to start the season with a winnable game against an equally inept team. The Bobcats have starish type players who can take over a game, but the Raptors just can’t let them. Enough’s-enough boys, it’s time to put the women and children to sleep and perform.

The Line

The gamblers have the Raptors as 2 point favourites, with an over/under of 194.5. This game is prime to be ground out. The Bobcats have the personell to win these sorts of games since they are so defensively efficient. Still doesn’t mean the Raptors can’t impose their style of play against a team that isn’t playing very well right now.

You can support the team by following the #RTZ (Raptors Twitter Zone) hashtag. Regardless of how bad this team is playing, we’re all fans and want to see them find their way. Respect to Nat from Heels on Hardwood for putting this initiative together.

We got Twitter, Facebook and Live Chat; what say you?

Sorry there aren’t any shot charts, if you’re so inclined, you can check out their last game against the Spurs here.

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