Kyrie Irving
Toronto Raptors  Charlotte Bobcats February 22, 2011

Injury Report

Toronto
Reggie Evans – Out
Linas Kleiza – Out

Charlotte
Tyrus Thomas – Out

Player Report

Jose Calderon
Heading into the all-star break, Jose’s was mightily struggling with his shooting. Over the last five games, he has gone 12-45 from the field (1-103FG); the Raptors went 1-4 in that stretch. He has been exceptional at getting people involved on offense with his passing, avering 10.6 over the stretch. Of his 8.9ast/game on the year, 4.2 of them result in a dunk or layup, I like that a lot. Tonight against Augustin, I just worry about the open looks DJ will get from behind the arc; he’s averaging 14pts 7ast in the two games played against the Raptors.

Truth be told, I’m more concerned about the drop-off when Bayless gets in the game. He’s going to have to deal with a hottish Shaun Livingston, who has turned it up a notch over the last few games. I have no real data to support this, just what I’ve witnessed and inferred, but Jerryd hasn’t been pulling his weight consistently enough.
Box: 9pts 13ast 4rebs

DeMar DeRozan
Should DeMar have won his 1st round match-up with Griffin? Probably, but when you’re in the Griffin’s house, and there’s buzz that he’s gonna jump over a car, you have to execute perfectly; DeRozan didn’t. Much like Bargnani, I’m running out of things to say about DeRozan. All I’m hoping is that if he wants to shoot the ball so much, that he does a better job of getting better looks at the rim from 16+ feet. Run around a few low screens, curl towards the basket once-in-a-while, mix it up. If you’re going to carve your niche out as a scorer, than you need to be damn good at it. Defenses tighten in the post-season, and nothing is easier than stopping a shooting guard who shoots more than half his shots from 16-18ft without having to get himself open (someone finds him standing around). Look, I like the kid a lot (he’s been my Twitter background since last year), and I know it’s only his 2nd season in the league, but all I’m saying is that it isn’t too early to start to develop good habits, and hone the tricks of your trade.

Stephen Jackson makes me nervous. He does a lot of things out on the court; so when that shot isn’t falling, he’s giving you rebounds, assists, steals and playing solid defense. Not saying anything other than he is someone to look too at the 2-guard spot, for the breadth of his contribution on the court.
Box:  16pts 4rebs 2stl

Sonny Weems
It’s never easy checking kamikaze wings like Wallace, but if Sonny’s size/strength is of any use at all, it’s in these situations. Not saying that Sonny has what it takes to shut Wallace down, he doesn’t (Wallace is averaging 17.5pts 9rebs 4ast 4blk this season against the Raptors), but he can make it him hard on both ends of the floor IF HE DOESN’T BAIL HIM OUT BY SHOOTING  CONTESTED JUMPER, AND ALWAYS MAKES AN EFFORT TO ATTACK THE RIM. That’s Sonny style; tight but aggressive. Get out in the open court and lay it up; get the ball on the wing, fake the shot and go baseline for a dunk. Attack the paint, spin right and lay it up with your left hand. You have great physical gifts man; please jah, show him the way!
Box: 10pts 6rebs

Amir Johnson
It was hard watching him try to make that pass off the backboard, but it wasn’t his fault. If DeMar wanted someone who could make that play, he should have brought Calderon with him. Hell, even Weems would have done a better job after that perfect pass he threw off the side of the back-board last season at the dunk-off for DeMar.

No Raptor benefited more from the all-star layoff than Amir, who has been an absolute warrior playing through injury. He’s going to get a lot of different looks against Diaw, Jackson and Wallace (the latter two from time to time), but our boy is up to it. I have no worries here.
Box: 10pts 13rebs 4ast 1blk

Andrea Bargnani
If Bargnani just did one other thing well to go alongside his scoring, I’d have no problem with him. Frankly, if he blocked 2+ shots a game, I’d be his biggest cheerleader since it would mean his defensive rotations were solid and he was aggressively challenging shots in the paint. 2+ blocks a game also means he would be affecting countless other shot attempts, which makes him a more agile, and offensively more efficient version of Andrew Bogut.

Nothing feeds my rage like Nazr Mohammed having season defining games against the Raptors front court. The guy is averaging 12pts 6.5rebs in 18.5min against the Raptors this season, well above his season/career averages. Just need to put a body on him, and box him out until he folds; there’s no secret in playing the guy. As for Kwame Brown…lol!
Box: 22pts 6rebs 1blk

Keys to the Game

Score in the Paint
It’s safe to say that with Diop injured, the Bobcats don’t have the size/strength to battle Andrea, Amir and Ed in the paint. Their perimeter defense is a different story. With both games these teams have played this season being determined by 6-points or less, getting easier baskets in the key is the way to go. I just don’t want to see Stephen Jackson stripping Bargnani at the top of arc again.

Rebounding
With the potential for the pace of the game to slow considerably, making each possession that much more critical, grabbing as many rebounds against one of the best rebounding teams is paramount. A lot of the rebounding burden will have to fall to DeRozan, Weems and Wright who have to deal with tremendous rebounders on the wing in Jax and Wallace. If these two approach double-digits in rebounds, it will spell trouble for the Raptors.

No Easy Buckets
The Bobcats are the 3rd worse scoring team in the association; with a lot of that having to do with the questionable shots Stephen Jackson takes. Defensive rotations need to be tight, and the ball needs to be protected at all times to minimize the Bobcats quality looks at the rim.

The Line

The gamblers have the Cats down as 7.5 point favourites with an over/under of 195.5. This line sounds a bit absurd with the shuffling of coaches mid-season, and the trade rumours surrounding Jackson and Wallace, but the game is in Charlotte, and the Bobcats will the luxury of drawing some inspiration from one of their Lady Cats. Raptors beat the line, but lose by 4.