cavsraps
Toronto Raptors Chicago Bulls December 15, 2010

I can’t believe I predicted a 30/10 game for Bargnani against a half-assed front court of Nazr Mohammed and Kwame Brown, who both came out looking like all-stars. I was fully expecting another roll-call laden with profanity…whatever, the Raptors are on the second night of a back-to-back against the Bulls, and it’s going to get ugly (my enthusiasm has been tempered quite a bit).

Injury Report

Toronto
Reggie Evans – Out
Jose Calderon – Out
Peja Stojakovic – Out

Chicago
Joakim Noah – Sprained thumb, should play
Derrick Rose – Sprained hand, should play
Carlos Boozer – Healthy, but could randomly keel over at any moment

Match-ups

Point Guards
Bayless has been filling in for the injured Calderon nicely. If there was any knock on him, it’s his ball control; the guy dropped 9 dimes last night, but picked up 4 turnovers. I’m sure that will improve with time, so I’m not too worried. He did much better against Augustin then I thought he would, and took the match-up. Tonight against Rose will be a different story. Derrick is lightning fast, elite finisher at the rim, a stud in the paint with that sweet floater, shoots the ball well, athletic, sees the floor well and has that look in his eye (the exact opposite look that Bargnani has). So lets not talk about how to stop him, cause he can only stop himself. Bayless can make him work on defense…and that’s about it. Will be a great learning experience for the kid, playing major minutes against an elite point guard. I like Barbosa
Edge: Chicago

Shooting Guard
I’m pretty sure my expectations for DeRozan are too high. He’s a 15pt 5reb type of player, and I’m good with that. His jumper needs work, like 500 shots a day-everday, but he needs to drive every time he touches the ball. That dunk he put down last night was sick; dunk of the year material for sure. Tonight against Bogans, more aggressiveness will be the recipe to success. Bogans is a solid defender who likes to spot up in the corner for threes. Although he doesn’t convert at a high clip, there are only so many open looks you can give a guy until he starts to hurt you. With Rose’s ability to get to any spot on the floor he wants too, DeMar will have to be careful on leaving Bogans on help defense. On the flip side, Bogans doesn’t get to the rack much, and isn’t a great finisher, so playing up on him and forcing him to put the ball on the ground into some traffic should shut him down. It’s easy to forget about Korver coming off the bench, dude can hit threes.
Edge: Even

Small Forward
I’ve lost all faith in Weems and Kleiza. I’m very open to a trade for Igoudala at this point to improve this team. Not saying AI9 is the answer the Raptors are looking for, but the guy plays hard and is better than both Weems and Kleiza combined. I’m sure I’ll get an earful, but the Raptors need a small forward who can create for himself, play defense and be intense on a consistent basis.

Back to Deng, he’s a solid mid-ranger shooter, and his length (6″9) makes it that much harder to both his shot. If there’s a weakness, it’s shooting threes, but he converts at a 40% clip, which is pretty good. He’s a solid defender and rebounder, which only makes the problem with Weems/Kleiza that much more serious. I’m not saying that Sonny and Linas wont have a good game; just that it doesn’t matter because they need to have a series of good games to become a dependable part of the roation. As it stands now, neither of them should be playing more than 12-14 minutes a game.

Julian Wright would be ideal in this match-up. He is long and can affect Deng’s shot off the dribble; too bad Triano doesn’t know who the guy is.
Edge: Chicago

Power Forward
As much as I can’t stand Boozer, I have to respect the guy. When he’s healthy, he’s a beast. The shoots the ball very well, plays big in the post, rebounds very well, and can be a nuisance on defense with those long arms and quick movements. Amir is going to have his hands full between trying to keep a body on Boozer, and having to deal with Noah on the glass. It doesn’t get any easier when Taj Gibson plays off the bench; the kid’s been a star filling in for the injured Boozer to start the season. I don’t know, this has the potential to get really messy, Amir can’t do it alone; Ed Davis is still too raw to really go at a polished big like Boozer, and….
Edge: Chicago

Center
…Bargnani is going to justify why I would trade him in a heartbeat for Joakim Noah. Last night against Nazr Mohammed and Kwame Brown, Andrea was somewhere else. Those two are not the kind of hustle players who can outplay anyone, but did just that. Imagine what the hustle, tenacity and competitive ferociousness that Noah plays with will do? I’m getting nervous thinking about all the loose balls, offensive rebounds-put backs, blocked shots, etc that Noah is going to inflict on Bargnani. I’m not saying Bargnani wont hit a few shots, and he might just score 20; but he wont be able to match Noah’s energy, and wont be able to battle him in the paint. Noah can keep up with Andrea on the perimeter, in the post, and off the dribble. ..I can breathe now.
Edge: Chicago

Keys to the Game

Fleeting Line About Pride
After that second half sh*t-show, something needs to give…Bayless, Barbosa and Johnson can’t be the only ones who consistently show up and give a full serving of effort when they hit the floor.

Clich├ęd Line About the Second Game of a Back-to-Back
The Raptors are on the second night of the back-to-back, thankfully it’s at home game. This season, Toronto is 2-3 (I thought it was worse for some reason) on the second night of a back-to-back, with both wins coming against teams who are playing under .400 ball; Philly and Detroit.

Standard Line About Defense/Rebounding
The Bulls are a solid defensive team; 9th in points allowed and 2nd in rebounding. BARGNANI NEEDS TO GRAB SOME BOARDS. Since shutting down Rose will be next to impossible, I’m advocating the Raptors not double anyone. I don’t want to see any drives and kicks for a wide open look at the rim. Also, BARGNANI NEEDS TO BOX NOAH OUT EVERY TIME A BALL GOES UP, NO MATTER WHAT END OF THE FLOOR HE’S ON.

Desperate Line About Calling Timeouts in a Timely/Effective/Efficient Manner in the Hopes of Actually Coaching and Instructing This Team on Some In-Game Strategy
The 3rd quarter last night saw the Raptors extend their lead by 2, then go down 1 in a two-and-a-half minute run where the Bobcats scored 9 straight points. Not once did it occur to Triano to call a freaking timeout and correct the players, nothing. YOU ARE NOT PHIL JACKSON, AND THE RAPTORS AREN’T THE LAKERS, THEY CAN’T PLAY THROUGH 9-0 RUNS. Not once have I seen this happen this season, not once. So bloody frustrating.

The Line

The Bulls are 5.5 point favourites with an over/under of 202, seems about the right; the Raptors will flap around like a fish out of water, only to piece together a solid run at the end of the game to give people false hopes about how good this team is.