I’m probably not in any shape to be writing a pre-game at 8am with a hangover, but then again, this is the shape I need to be in to think clearly about a March game between Charlotte and Toronto.
Yes, the Bobcats roll into town sporting a shiny one game winning streak after having lost six straight, dropping them all the way to 27-38. Sadly, that mark has them in the playoff hunt, sitting ninth in the East, losing the tiebreaker at the moment to the Pacers for the eighth seed. So yes, the Bobcats need this game more than the 18-47 Raptors, however, the Bobcats haven’t looked like a team that wants or needs a game too often of late.
The Republic population will be the only group watching this game, I’m sure, and forgive me for not being too excited about the Raptors trying to build on Friday’s win over the equally brutal-of-late Pacers. Still, allow me five questions.
Which Bargnani Do We Get?
Bargnani has had two battles with the flu this month,and hopefully that’s his excuse for a 1-of-13 shooting performance on Friday. After averaging 25.6 points a night in February (wow!), Bargs has cooled off to shoot just 36% in four March contests. We know Bargnani can be a streaky offensive player – The Hardcourt Kessel – but it’s tough to bet if today will continue the slump or end it. He’ll be guarded by some combination of Kwame Brown, Ty Thomas, Boris Diaw, and Joel Przybilla, so he won’t be posting up a lot….oh, wait, nevermind. Regardless, the Raps will need an interested Bargnani as usual, though his defensive shortcomings will probably be hidden guarding that group.
What Jose Do We Get?
Calderon has been even more inconsistent than Bargnani on a game-to-game basis, and oddly it hasn’t been based on matchups nearly as much as you’d think. I’m challenging Liston to come up with some sort of standard deviation statistic that captures game-to-game inconsistency, just for Calderon. Since a string of four straight six-point performances in February, Jose has put up 10, 5, 6, 6, 0, 15, 22, 6, 9, 14, and 13. Over that stretch he’s had double digit assists six times but he’s also had three or more turnovers four times. The Bobcats will counter with D.J. Augustin, who has great potential defensively, but again the matchup doesn’t seem to effect Jose as much as some other random factor. On defense though, Jose is basically screwed.
Who Guards Captain Jack?
Jackson leads the team at 19.2 points per game, and it’s unclear who will guard him. With Gerald Henderson at the two-guard, Jackson will draw the stronger defender, which on this squad doesn’t necessarily mean a lot. Julian Wright is probably the best candidate but he’s been glued to the bench of late, so the task will fall to the duo of Silky Johnson and Sonny Weems. That could be trouble, but this Bobcat team has looked checked out for some time, and nobody has worse body language than Jackson, so we should know early whether this question is even relevant.
Who Will Show Up?
The Bobcats just got Jack and Ty Thomas back from injury, and the Raptors just got Bargs and Evans back. I can’t find a definitive answer on the Amir Johnson question (sprained ankle), but it sounded earlier in the week like he’d sit through the weekend. The combo of Ed Davis and Reggie Evans have played well since Reggie’s return, so there’s no need to rush him back. Who guards Ty Thomas if he sits is a good question, but Ed will have to give it a shot.
Who Will Win?
Simple question, of course. The Bobcats have won two close ones and a laugher against the Raps this year, but those were different looking Charlotte teams. The Raptors have lost 23 of 27, so you don’t exactly love their chances, but they are 1.5-point favorites in Vegas. Sooo you’re saying there’s a chance! In honesty, this is a game the Raptors should probably take – they’re more motivated (even with the chance to reach the playoffs with the worst record in recent memory, the Bobcats are very obviously in lose-now mode), they’re at home, and the statistical noise associated with close losses should smooth out over time, favoring the Raptors today after two close losses earlier. Maybe I’m trying to talk myself into it, but I’m calling for a W!
Bonus Question – How Much Attention Will I Pay?
Yes, I’m covering the game here, but it’s Championship Sunday in the NCAA, so it’ll be tough to keep focused if this one is a laugher or a slopfest.
*Ed Davis currently holds the Raptors rookie record for field goal percentage at 60.5% and needs just three field goal attempts to qualify for the record officially.
*Apparently the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund is moving forward with their plans to sell their 66.7% share of MLSE, and this story will dominate the headlines in coming weeks as we all wonder what type of direction Rogers (or someone else with $1.5B sitting around?) will take the organization in.
*Silky Johnson. Say it with me now. SILKY.