The Raptors have it tough for the next 10 days; four of the next six games are against playoff teams, and three of those teams are elite. It kicks off tonight in Orlando and it’s not going to be a pretty one. We’ve talked ad nauseam about what this team is (isn’t) capable of, how good (or bad) certain players are, and the job security of one coach. What we need to consider is that this season is a wash. The Raptors aren’t good enough to do anything, and the lineup shouldn’t be tinkered with to fight for a playoff spot because it will jeopardize the teams future in doing so.
Khandor hit the nail on the head with his piece after the Bobcats game:
COMPONENTS OF A GOOD LOSS FOR THE RAPTORS THIS SEASON
- Their opponent is a team with more NBA level talent on their roster than Toronto.
- The game’s final outcome is only decided in the last 30 seconds of play.
- At no point during the game does Toronto fall behind by more than 10 points.
- At no point during the game does Toronto go ahead by more than 15 points.
- DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis – only once he is 100% healthy, again – receive at least 20+ minutes of PT, including at the start of quarters #1 and #3, plus during the last 6 minutes of quarter #4 [and, in any overtime session which might be played].
The long term objective for the Toronto Raptors this season should be focused, exclusively, on obtaining the future rights to a Top 3 Pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Anything which, in fact, moves the team closer to achieving THIS specific goal next summer is a good thing for this franchise heading towards the future.
Something to think about.
Life got in the way, and I got stood up by the Orlando blogger, but here are the questions I asked (I’ll update this with his answers if he gets them to me today):
- What’s going on with Rashard Lewis? Vince Carter got a lot of flack for his poorish performance in the playoffs, but Lewis was just as bad, averaging 12.9pts 5.6rebs 2.3ast. His play has seemed to seep into this season. I’m clearly missing something.
- Jameer Nelson has been a big part of this team’s recent success, but his injuries make it difficult for the team to be consistent (shuffling guys here and there). Williams and Duhon are capable backups, but seriously. At what point does Otis Smith say “enough’s enough” and go out and make a splash to upgrade the point?
- A lot has been said about Gortat and Bass not being happy with their playing time. Gortat especially didn’t seem happy the Magic matched the contract Dallas extended him. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but they could be valuable pieces to upgrade this roster; please comment.
- Even though they lost the first meeting with Miami, I like how this teams matches up against them. The Celtics on the other hand could pose some big problems. What are Orlando’s prospects of getting back into the finals this year?
- Almost a joke to ask, but what is the strategy coming in against the Raptors?
Jarrett Jack – Sore Knee, Will Play
Reggie Evans – Bruised Left Hip, Gametime Decision
Linas Kleiza – Achilles, Doubtful
Leandro Barbosa – Shoulder, Out
Ed Davis – Out
Jameer Nelson – Hurting, Will Play
Vince Carter – LOL, Will Play
PG – Jack vs Nelson
The guys been killing our PG’s for years: he’s quick enough to beat them off the dribble, strong enough to knock them off tilt and hits every single bloody shot he takes against us. It’s very frustrating. He is coming back from an injury, but it didn’t stop him from playing well against the Jazz (even though the team lost) chipping in 19pts 7ast. Based on everything we’ve seen so far this season, I don’t see how Jack/Calderon have any chance tonight. Might be nice to see Banks get some run and step up defensively, but we know that’s not going to happen; why would it?
SG – DeRozan vs Carter
After starting the season strong, he has utterly fallen apart the last three games, averaging 4.3pts 2.7rebs while shooting 33% from the field. Yes, the match-ups weren’t in his favour, but since when is that an excuse to put up Marcus Banks numbers? Carter owns us. Period. He might be in the twilight of his career, but he still can light it up, and is actually playing efficiently all things considered (52%FG 44%3FG 20.68PER). Only Amir Johnson is as productive as Carter with a PER of 21.39. It’s a nice game for DeMar to come out of his funk from, since VC wont be able to keep up with him if he gets going. Like most nights, he has the tools to make life difficult for folks, it’s just a matter of being focused and having your head in the game.
SF – Kleiza vs Lewis
It’s lose-lose at the 3. If Kleiza’s achilles is still bothering him, there’s no way he can hang with Lewis. If he can’t even play, the Raptors have no one who can begin to match-up here. Weems, while athletic, doesn’t have the size to bother Lewis (6″10). While Kleiza isn’t 6″10 either, he does have some strength which can compensate. At the end of the day, Lewis is only averaging 11pts 6rebs (all for the low-low price of $20mil), but if folks start doubling Howard (like I wish they wouldn’t but know they will), there’s going to be a lot of open shots for the guys on the perimeter.
PF – Evans vs Anderson / C – Bargnani vs Howard
I have a feeling the front court is going to get messy, and will see the following match-ups (humour me here):
Raptors Playing Defense
Bargnani/Howard & Evans/Anderson
We all know Bargnani wont stop Howard, but the killer part here is that since Anderson likes to live on the perimeter, Evans will be out of position to rebound on the defensive glass. Bargnani has no chance on Howard, and this could get messy fast. I expect Amir to get some heavy minutes if he can play with his head and stay out of foul trouble; even Dorsey should see some time. This situation neutralizes the only reason to start Evans alongside Bargnani, and exposes how bad this front court really is.
Raptors Playing Offense
Bargnani/Anderson & Evans/Howard
I don’t see Howard playing out on the perimeter with Bargnani. The Magic are the 2nd best defensive team, and 4th best rebounding team for a reason: Dwight Howard is a beast in the paint. Evans is a bad enough offensive player that Howard can essentially roam free and help everywhere, and recover fast enough to challenge Reggie in the paint. Anderson moves well enough that he can keep up with Bargnani, but probably wont prevent him from dropping 17+. I don’t think the Magic will care since they will basically be dictating the flow of the game, and Howard will be there to clean up anyone attacking the rim.
Edge: Anderson & Howard
Keys to the Game
Play with Heart
The expectation tonight is not to win, but rather to play with some pride. There is a moral victory to be had here if at the end of the game the Raptors can say they did their best, but still lost. The gain here is continuing the aggressive play they’ve shown us, not getting down big early, fighting for every possession, and making smart plays.
Pray to Jah
Seriously. It will take every Raptor, hitting on all cylinders, not making mistakes and sticking a lot of shots for this to be a contest. The Magics bench is pretty scary too, which compounds the problem: Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass, Martin Gortat, JJ Reddick…they are better at every possible match-up and combination of lineups.
The Magic are 14 point favourites, at home with a full days rest.
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