steph
Toronto Raptors Minnesota Timberwolves February 4, 2011

Tonights game has nothing to do with match-ups, and everything to do with playing-with-purpose; that purpose being stopping this losing streak now! After tonights game, the Raptors play 7 of their next 9 at home, but only 2 of those are actually winnable. I don’t even want to entertain a 20+ game losing streak, we’re NOT dead on the inside like the Cavs.

Got a chance to chat with Benjamin Polk from A Wolf Among Wolves:

He’s made some suspect decisions, but there seems to be a method to the madness; I’m not sure what it is, but a great deal of the anti-Khan rhetoric has died down and the teams playing well. How do you rate Khan’s performance since taking over from McHale?
You’re right that the anti-Kahn rhetoric has been dying down, but I would attribute that more to the fact that a) since he’s no longer showing up in the press nearly as much as he used to, he hasn’t had the chance to irritate anybody with his personality or say anything weirdly provocative b) at this point in the season people have much more pressing things to worry about. I would say that I am still deeply agnostic on Kahn’s performance. Although certain decisions are starting to look less good (drafting Wes Johnson over Demarcus Cousins) and others are outright debacles (drafting Jonny Flynn over almost everybody), I still believe there are far too many unknowns to make a definitive judgment. What will happen with Ricky Rubio? How good will Johnson become? Can Darko become even remotely consistent? What will they do with all that cap room? I think these things will be decisive in judging the Kahn’s tenure.

Trading for Beasley seemed to be no brainer in the summer, and looks like a jackpot now. Was getting out of Miami all he needed to take it up a notch?
Trading for Beasley was definitely a no-brainer, but so far I wouldn’t argue that its such a jackpot. One reason that the Wolves have struggled offensively is that although Beasley has by far his team’s highest usage rate, at 28.0, his true shooting percentage is a seriously below-average .527. We’ve learned that Beasley is massively talented, and capable of real offensive explosions–but I think we knew that already. Unless he becomes less reliant on midrange jumpers off the bounce, learns to get himself easy baskets and get to the line, and most importantly learns to attain consistent in-game focus, its not clear that he’ll ever be a real first option.

Don’t hate me, but I have to ask about Rubio. What’s the deal with the kid?
The truth is that nobody really knows. Kahn sounds really confident that Ricky will come over next year (of course he does), but this recent NY Times piece by Jonathan Givony casts some serious doubt on the whole thing. Its clear that he’s in no hurry to commit to the Wolves before he gets his game back together, before we know more about the next CBA and, maybe most importantly, before we know what the Wolves plan to do with Jonny Flynn. Don’t worry, I don’t hate you.

After thumping the Raptors the last time they played, what will be the strategy heading into tonights game? Do you think you can keep Bargnani and DeRozan off the scoreboard again?
I think that, as far as matchups go, Darko and Brewer are certainly capable of dealing with Bargnani and DeRozan. The real issue with the Wolves–and the reason they’re currently 26th in defensive efficiency–is that they are grotesquely inconsistent when it comes to playing team defense, sustaining the kind of effort, awareness and concentration that a team needs to compete. No offense intended, but I think you’d agree that the Raptors were worse than terrible in that game; the Wolves are more than capable of returning the favor. I think this game will come down less to any one particular strategy and more to which team will be able to successfully execute that strategy and even do it with a little passion.

Injury Report

Toronto
Reggie Evans – Out
Linas Kleiza – Out
Jerryd Bayless – Day to day
Leandro Barbosa – Should play

Minnesota
N/A

Jose Calderon
There’s only so much Jose can do, but he needs to tighten things up. Attack. Attack. Attack. Come off that high screen; turn the corner and invade the paint. Get some open space; stick the jumper. Pissed off; cuss someone out. Anything to make yourself a threat offensively, which in turn, will open up some space to create for others. Ridnour won’t be in the lineup, so the Wolves pg’s (Flynn and Telflair) are vulnerable. Take advantage.
Your box: 16pts 12ast 4rebs

DeMar DeRozan
You’ve had a week to get reacquainted with Sonny in the mix; now find your mojo. The jumpers nice, but you need to do your damage from the line, meaning you need to draw fouls, meaning you need to put the ball on floor and get to the rim. Get the Wolves perimeter defenders scared of that drive, let them give you space, then hit ‘em with jumpers that are IN rhythm. You cant be a one-trick pony though: defense and rebounding are part of your steez tonight.
Your box: 23pts 5rebs 2stls

Sonny Weems
I need you tonight son, don’t rupture my ulcer; I beg you. Your hands will be full with Beasley, so D the man up and contest his jumpers. Fill the lanes in transition and run Michael ragged; remember, the guy is still a lazy bastard. Your offense needs to come from lay-ups/dunks in transition, and not from jumpers in the half-court; that’s what we got Bargnani for. Please.
Your box: 11pts 6rebs 3ast

Amir Johnson
Fouls need to be held under control and we need 35min+ from you tonight. Love’s a handful, and he’s going to be pissed off from the all-star snub, so expect an angry performance. Really though, when you play under control, good things happen; I’m not so worried.
Your box: 15pts 11rebs 2blk

Andrea Bargnani
You need to treat this game like prison: are you pitching or catching? Darko lives in the paint, so you won’t have to stretch yourself thin on defense; but the offense needs to show up. I’ll forgive all your indiscretions if you just score the f*cking ball in an efficient manner. I know think hope Just do it dude, please.
Your box: 28pts 4rebs 1blk

Bench
While your contribution will be key, the starters need to carry the brunt of the load. If this game is to be won, it’s going to be won by the guys getting paid to do the job (except Weems, he depends on the per diem). Bayless looks to be out with injury, but Barbosa is coming back (again, game time decisions for both). It will be nice to get some of Leandro’s kamikaze offense back in the mix off the bench, hopefully he hits the ground running. Ed will have a big part in the front court tonight, and we need another big game from the rook. Sucks that he is counted on for so much so early, but it’s good for his development. Kleiza’s done for the season, so it’s going to be a tight bench rotation with Wright filling some of the hole at 2/3, and as long as he defends and rebounds, we’re good.
Your box: 31pts 18rebs 4ast 2stls

The Line

The Raptors are 2 point favourites tonight, that’s a possession folks. This game will be a tight one right down to the wire, and I’m actually looking forward to witnessing a Raptor win. Yes, I’m calling a win, you can’t lose twice to the Wolves in a week, it’s ridiculous. Raptors by 5 (Bargnani with a clutch 3 to ice the game).

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