Toronto Raptors New Orleans Hornets March 1, 2011, 20110

Injuries

Toronto
Reggie Evans – Out
Linas Kleiza – Out
Andrea Bargnani – Should play

New Orleans
David West – Should play
Emeka Okafor – Should play

Match-ups

Jose Calderon
Loved his performance against the Mavs: 15pts 8rebs 8ast; great balance. If he plays off Paul a bit, and forces him to shoot more than he drives and passes, the Raptors can surprise tonight. The Hornets have a nice point guard situation; you have a top-2 point guard in the league with Jarrett Jack, who could potentially be a top-5 back-up point guard. The only thing Paul doesn’t do is block shots. For those of you who don’t have ESPN Insider access, this is what Hollinger has to say about Paul:

  • Devastating pick-and-roll operator with superb quickness and impeccable handle.
  • Not a great shooter, but a fantastic passer and outstanding rebounder for size.
  • Disrupter with league’s fastest hands, but size limits ability to challenge shots.

Paul’s not been playing like himself the last few games, averaging 12pts 9ast 4rebs over his last five. Not surprisingly, the Hornets are 2-3 over that span, and have failed to score 100 points in a winning affair since January 26th.
Box: 8pts 14ast 4rebs

DeMar DeRozan
I have one knock on DeMar since his resurgence as a legit scoring threat: he doesn’t do much of anything else. And it’s not like he plays a very high-level of defense either. Now that the jumper is primo, how about working on the drive-and-kick. He does such a good job of getting into the paint, might as well find the open guy on the perimeter looking to shoot the ball. Willie Green is going to be a tough cover tonight and has been doing a great job in the starting unit. Over the last 5 games, the kid is averaging 15pts a game while shooting over 50% from the field. Time to focus.
Box: 19pts 3reb 1ast

James Johnson
This is exactly the kind of game where he will be useful; against a tall-athletic wing (Ariza) who can go inside-and-out. I like his defense and shot blocking ability a lot, but he has shown little else. Still don’t know what to expect form him, but if his offense doesn’t start to pick up, it’s going to be a drag on the starting unit to compensate. Not saying it’s not possible, but when your effectively playing 4 on 5, makes things hard
Box: 6pts 7rebs 1stl 2blk

Amir Johnson
You have to like the dudes who quietly go about their business and earn their pay in full. David West qualifies as one of these cats. He’s not flashy, and just makes things happen. Offensively, he’s a poor mans Karl Malone who comes off the roll like a pit bull. Im putting the over/under on pick-n-roll dunks at 3; its going to be nasty. The good news for the Raptors is that between Johnson, Davis, and Bargnani (on certain match-ups) they have quite a few different looks to throw at West. Again, the front court is where the Raptors can make their stand, but the depth they have may not make up for the quality of the players and system around them. I’m convinced Amir is straight-up injured, and while I totally love and respect him playing through pain like he has been, I don’t want things getting worse for the kid. If it’s getting bad, shut it down and heal a bit.
Box: 16pts 9rebs 3ast

Andrea Bargnani
A healthy Chandler is probably better suited as a pick-n-roll partner for Paul, but Okafor has done a pretty good job in his place. While he doesn’t possess Tyson’s raw athleticism, the guy is fundamental, and can be counted on for a double-double, as well as elite level defense in the low-block. The Raptors missed Bargnani against the Mavs. I’m not convinced the defense woud have been worse off with Bargnani in the middle, but the Raptors would have had the chance to stick a few key shots at key times and maybe (I’m happy this morning, leave me alone) could have held on. The match-up with Okafor is rife with mis-match opportunities, with rebounding being the lone challenge. While the Hornets are a good rebounding team, both West and Okafor do it rather well. Bargnani can impact the game much more with his rebounding than scoring since I suspect this will be a slower paced, more deliberate type of game.
Box: 22pts 6rebs 1blk

Keys to the Game

Aggressive Pick-n-Roll Defense
I’m anticipating another Triano f-bomb sound byte today, but there is a glimmer of hope: the weakest part of Paul’s offensive game is his jumper. If the defender of the guy setting the pick jumps out and takes away the lane, the guy getting picked sticks to the roller, and the rest of the team stays home on defense, then Chris’ options on he roll will be limited. I can live with CP3 scoring 30 If it means he isn’t getting folks involved. However, loots of ‘ifs’ and perfect defensive execution is required for this to work out.

Zone
The zone will also help battle the pick-n-roll, as well as disrupt scoring lanes. David West does like to play in the high-post, so he can bust it with some dead-eye shooting from the elbow. That being said, no matter the defensive set/strategy, the Raptors will need to play it very aggressively because of Paul’s ability to get to the ball to the right guy at the right time.

Bench Production
With Jack, Landry and Belinelli coming of the bench, the Hornets bench is quite formidable. Landry gives the a very good low-post presence off the bench that they haven’t had

The Line

The gamblers have the Hornets as 5.5 point favourite with an over/under of 192. It’s not that the Raptors can’t play a slower paced game, they dropped the last meeting 85-81, but this one has the makings of a defensive battle which doesn’t play to the Raptors strengths. Tip-off at 7pm.

  • Milesboyer

    “I like his defense and shot blocking ability a lot, but he has shown little else.” ??

    He wasn’t that far off of a triple double last game; 8pts-7reb-7ast-2stl-2blk – that’s a pretty well rounded game if you ask me. Yeah his scoring could be higher but we generally have enough of that. I think he could be a solid, if unspectacular contributor to the team.

    • Guest

      JJ TOOK TOO MANY SHTS to score only 8 pts last game. His earlier games in which he didn’t shoot were better. He’s a guy from whom you want efficiency on offence because Bargnani is shouldering the load of an SF on offence. JJ needs to be efficient like a C. We don’t want JJ to shoot volume.

      • Nilanka15

        But if he’s intentionally left wide open, he really has no choice but to take the shot (especially in short-clock situations). He did take a lot of shots on Sunday, but rarely were they forced shots.

      • KJ-B

        Agree with Nilanka here…pause…Johnson doesn’t yet know the offence and still manages to not look lost. He has decent form on his jimmy, and is starting off at a better place fundamentally than DeMar did at the beginning of the season–nothing a lil pt, fitness and Coach English can’t fix in time…provided he works hard!

      • tonious35

        Remember that James Johnson knows he is in a team that is tanking. I mean, any idiot can tell the “urgency” of a team being in a +25 games over 0.500 team and a 30 games under 0.500 team. In a lost season, you might as well play around what you are weak at. At least he is trying to defend. If our team is a winning team, he’ll not take many shots at all.

    • Sam Holako

      Let’s see if he comes close to 7 assists again before we start anointing him a triple-double threat. He’s been playing pretty good, just wanted to temper it a bit.

      • http://twitter.com/Buddahfan Buddahfan

        James Johnson aka Magic II?

        Magic couldn’t shoot either when he first came into the league.

        • Raptoronto

          Too late, we already have Magic 2.0…Il Mago!

          (67.3% of Raptors just stuck a fork in their eye in complete despair).

  • Nilanka15

    Paul’s weakest part of his game is his jumper (no doubt), but it’s anything but a true weakness. He’s averaging 42% from 3, and 47% overall.

    But I agree, he’s much more dangerous when he’s creating for his teammates (like Nash). Calderon/Bayless should be playing 3 feet off him on every possession, and going under every screen.

    Then again, Triano is so clueless with his pre-game prep, that I wonder if he even knows the Hornets don’t play in Charlotte anymore…

  • KJ-B

    Chris Paul’s J a weakness–who said that??? James Johnson has impressed me MAJOR in that he gets to wherever he wants to on the court, when his legs get under him as he alluded to in not playing these kinda minutes since college, he’ll be legit and then some… Honestly, he might end up being better than Deebo…BIG statement right there but the handles and getting to his own spot and the SIZE, not sure if DeRozan can catch up to that! They’re gonna be a dynamic duo for years to come, “G’Bye Clarence!”

    I just hope he’s gonna work as hard as DeMar in those late night sessions and visit the TRUE coach of the Raps, Alex English on the regular… JJ is gonna break out large some time soon and show folks just what he’s all about–even though I’m very pleased with the returns already, *8 Cat player …

    • tonious35

      I want James Johnson to stick to his bread and butter right now. Knowing he is not the focal point on offense, I want to see tip-ins, rebounds, blocks, steals, FTs from simple drives, alley oop cuts& layups, 5-10 ft short OPEN jumpers (at least i have more faith in that than JuJu), and coverages on the opposing SF.

      • Raptoronto

        We need to keep JJ away from the bread and butter at all cost!

        My biggest concern with him is his mental motor and whether or not he can stay movitated in the off-season…especially once a long term contract is in play.

      • KJ-B

        Did you happen to catch the game last night, layups, dimes, blocks, boards, and a trey! That dude’s a primo stat-sheet-stuffer!

  • Nilanka15

    Not really going out on a limb by saying this (considering our defensive weakness at PG, and the fact that he’s playing his former team), but I’m expecting a big game from Jack tonight. It’ll be fun watching him matchup against Bayless. They’re both hot-heads who think they’re better than they actually are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Radpoy Alex Taylor

    Myself, I don’t want to see JJ shoot at all… just defense, assists and layups…
    Think Garbajosa, except with the occasional layup instead of the occasional three…

  • hateslosing

    Who is Demar supposed to kick to? The only guys on this team who have ever been able to shoot the three are Bargs, Jose and Barbosa, and none of them are exactly lighting it up this year. I’d much rather see Demar playing more two man games with Davis, Amir and Bargs than looking to kick out for a jumper. If James Johnson plays good defence and rebounds I could care less how much he scores so long as he isn’t jaking shots. I think the Mavs game can be attributed to the fact Bargs was out and there were shots to go around.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Radpoy Alex Taylor

      Agreed, we desperately need some reliable three point shooters

    • Nilanka15

      The kickout doesn’t necessarily need to be to 3pt shooters. When DeMar drives, and help defenders step in, someone is open somewhere (it could even be one of our bigs 5 feet from the hoop).

      With or without shooters, the drive-and-kick skill is something that could help DeMar’s overall game.

      • hateslosing

        Valid points and your right that the drive and kick is something that would be very useful to Demar’s game. I would personally rather have him work on the pick and role at the moment since that is probably going to be more important but I guess he could do both at the same time. After all, every well designed pick and roll play should have an option to kick.

      • tonious35

        Demar knows his teamates, they non of them are reliable 3pt shooters…don’t argue that Barbosa is a reliable 3pt shooter, he is not.

    • Raptoronto

      IMO the bigger issue is that we have very little presence in the key so defenders don’t lang off the shooters….we need to improve both aspects of the game before we can make real progress as both are linked together.

  • http://twitter.com/Buddahfan Buddahfan

    Bargnani – AWOL for three days according to Triano

    Andrea Bargnani, Toronto’s leading scorer, did not play last Sunday, and missed practice Monday with flu-like symptoms.

    “I have no idea,” Triano said when asked if the seven-foot centre would be ready for Tuesday. “He’s been AWOL for like three days now. We’ll see. Hopefully, he’s getting better.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/basketball/jose-calderon-needs-to-be-selfish-raptors-coach-says/article1924262/

  • RapsM

    JJ’s probably going to light it up…and i’m not talking about James Johnson. Any boos for Jarrett today? Or will people not care?