Reggie Evans – Out
Linas Kleiza – Out
Andrea Bargnani – Should play
David West – Should play
Emeka Okafor – Should play
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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 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.