Here’s a fun fact to kick off our pre-game: after averaging just 85.7 points in their first three games, the Charlotte Bobcats hung 102 on the New York Knicks last night.

Was it a pace thing? No. These teams both play glacially slow so far. The Knicks just happened to lay a bit of an egg defensively. Additionally, the Bobcats used Tyson Chandler’s injury to go to town on the glass, grabbing 16 offensive boards and securing an 18-rebound advantage.

The Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, leveraged a big rebounding advantage early against the Miami Heat before going small and losing that advantage completely, along with the game.

Why set the pre-amble up this way? Well, rebounding could be a key to Wednesday night’s game – the Bobcats are slightly above average on the offensive glass and slightly below average on the defensive glass, so it’s not a major gameplan concern, but it does appear to be the key strength of the Raptors in the early going.

It’s also an area where the Bobcats do well because of effort, not because of any innately dominant rebounders.

With that said, it sure would be nice if Dwane Casey took the training wheels off for Jonas Valanciunas and let him go to work against a big-man corps that is lacking in talent, to say the least. Josh McRoberts and his Charlie Kelly impersonation? Attack. Bismack Biyombo and his up-and-down defense? Attack. Cody Zeller and Jeff Adrien? Attack and attack.

The defensive focus will be on the Bobcats guards, but the offense should run through Valanciunas in the early going. With Al Jefferson sidelined, the Bobcats are painfully thin in the post.

Here’s one more fun fact, this time pertaining to the big-man battle: Valanciunas and Amir Johnson are allowing opponents to score at the rim at near-league high rates in the early going, as are McRoberts and Biyombo. The key difference? The Raptors bigs also shoot a high percentage in close, while the Bobcats rarely give their non-Jefferson bigs touches.

Anyway, that’s the key to this thing for me – pound it inside early and often.

Position Breakdown
Point Guards: Kyle Lowry and Blake Murphy vs. Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions
Edge: Bobcats
Walker and Sessions are volume scorers, but they’re actually not bad creators for teammates either. Expect the Bobcats’ point men to have the ball in their hand to start just about every set, and expect Walker to continue to try and prove he’s more than ‘just a scorer.’ According to the NBA’s fancy new stats tool, he’s made more passes than anyone in the league except Chris Paul and John Wall so far , but those passes have created fewer than 10 points a game for the Bobcats. That’s probably more to blame on his teammates, but it also shows these passes aren’t leading to easy buckets so far.

Defensively, the ability of both guards to score and the lack of talent in the post means the bigs have to be ready to seal off the guards out of the pick-and-roll and be ready to help on drives (Sessions, for example, has the third most ‘drives’ in the league so far).

It’s a tall task for Lowry, too, but he should be rewarded by a favorable match-up at the offensive end. Walker is merely alright defensively and Sessions is awful (if they run two-point line-ups, the Toronto shooting guard better make hay).

As for the back-up point guard spot, well, it’s been terrible so far, and it might be worth a change, even at this early juncture. Dwight Buycks isn’t sound defensively yet, and the team might not trust a still-recovering Julyan Stone for anything other than garbage time, but ‘garbage time’ is exactly what the game has looked like when D.J. Augustin is in the game. He’s basically playing like a more turnover-prone me with less rebounding effort right now – 4-for-16, 11 points in 52 minutes, two rebounds, seven assists, seven turnovers.

Wings: DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross and Landry Fields vs. Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor
Edge: Raptors
I’m not a big fan of Henderson, but Taylor is really solid (especially on defense) and I still think MKG has a lot of potential as a do-everything kind of guy. The nice thing about guarding these wings is that only Taylor is a moderate 3-point threat. Instead of being catch-and-shoot guys, they’re quick and can get to the rim (they’ve combined to take over 40 percent of their shots in the restricted area), which isn’t any <i>easier</i> but it allows for help without too much risk of being burned by shooters.

Offensively, again the mentality should be attack due to the relative lack of depth at the positions. The Bobcats go two-point guards often, as mentioned, and that will allow a shooting guard to go to work (hello, DeRozan post-game). Taylor and MKG are hard workers defensively, so it appears it could be another tough night for Gay, though his recent rebounding efforts certainly help.

One more thing about the Bobcats wings – they tend to over-help, perhaps due to scheme or because they’re quick and can usually recover. Either way, drive-and-kicks and pick-and-rolls with a wing as the screener could be effective.

Bigs: Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough and Aaron Olajuwon vs. Josh McBob, Jeff Adrien, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo
Edge: Raptors
This was mostly discussed above, so I’ll keep it brief. Attack with Valanciunas, be ready to help on drives, and keep an eye on Zeller running the floor.

Wrap Up
Overall Advantage: Raptors
There’s little excuse for not bouncing back with a victory on Wednesday. The Bobcats have some talent, sure, but it’s really hard to look at each match-up and suggest the Raptors are at a deficit overall, even on a back-to-back on the road (the Bobcats are also on a travel back-to-back, by the way).

Bookmakers Say: The Raptors are favored by 2.5, with nearly 60 percent of the action currently coming in on Toronto. 60 percent of bettors are also taking the over on 186, which I’d probably take as well, but not with a great deal of confidence. I’ll take the Raptors giving up the points.

You can catch the game at 7 p.m. on Sportsnet, and/or follow along in the live chat here, as usual.

  • youngjames

    If Rudy Gay has another awful shooting night – then, I think he needs to go back to the “eye correction” facility and make sure they gave him the right operation…they might need to up the “correction” dosage!

    • Tanks-a-lot

      I miss Corliss

  • what the

    Memo: to Raptors wings it’s ok to pass the ball when you have two or three defenders on you
    Memo: to LF pay somebody to help you with your free throw shooting.
    Memo: to cASEY too many threes from your boy TR last nite 7
    Memo: to cASEY hanzbro can play against other team starters and also get them in foul trouble because the dude thinks every rebound is his, hence is nick name…

    • What the

      p.s Memo: to cASEY the kitties claw their way out of NY with a win last nite and are feeling good

    • Lucas

      Memo: to WHAT THE, T.Ross hit 3 of those threes (i.e., 43%), and is shooting over 38% from deep so far. With those percentages he should have the green light to shoot as many threes as he pleases.

      • nottheendoftheworld

        Yeah, I would have said that the memo should read LOWRY, not Casey … he took 8 three’s, and made only 3, although he was forced into late shot clock situations by lack of player and ball movement. Note to Rudy … you’re handle really sucks, so don’t dribble into 2 waiting defenders.

        • Tim W.

          3 of 8 is .375, which is above average from the three point line. If he shoots 3 of 8 in a game, I’ve got no problem with that.

          Just a quick note. Of the 9 players on the roster than have played more than one game, the best 3 point shooter has been Ross, with .385. Second is Amir with .375. No one else is above the league average.

          Yes, Amir is now the second best three point shooter on the Raptors (not including Novak, of course).

  • 2damkule

    haha…the PGs. seriously tho, given how DJ’s played of late, having blake step in probably wouldn’t be that much of a drop-off.

  • Paul

    Raptors need to lose this game. A loss to the Cats, even at this early stage, would militate strongly towards a rebuild, given our upcoming schedule.
    I don’t even want to see them win when they do so with Rudy and Derozan playing hero ball. Even though this works once in a while, it is simply not a sustainable winning strategy. I don’t even cheer when either of these guys sinks a long contested two off the dribble. It’s fools gold.
    Trade Gay and Lowry and fire Casey.
    A season of Augustine at the point is the best tanking strategy imaginable.
    Derozan’s improved play makes his contract more palatable. Between him, JV and a top tier talent in this year’s draft, this team will be well on its way to respectability.

    • Lucas

      Actually, I think if they want to tank, they should keep Casey for this year, at least. For one, he’s a sub-par coach, which will help them lose. And two, rebuilding does not excite any really good coaches. They might be willing to do 1 year of developing in young roster with a future superstar (once that star has ALREADY been drafted), if they’re given a long contract (5+ years).

      Otherwise, no great coach will want a 20-some win season on their resume.

  • Tanks-a-lot

    “Valanciunas and Amir Johnson are allowing opponents to score at the rim at near-league high rates in the early going”

    It’s not in the interests of either player to foul out of the game cause THE WING PLAYERS SUCK AT D

    • sitnonDfence

      Quotes/stats like this floating around , and eveyone wonders why Jonas sits.

  • c_bcm

    Any chance Casey rested Val because he didn’t want him to tire out on a lost cause? This is a gettable game, so Casey wanted Val to be as fresh as possible on the back end of a b2b. Not saying I agree with the strategy, but this could explain last nights debacle.

    • Raptorsss

      I thought he did that with Val in Atlanta to rest him for Milwaukee, but that didn’t work out to well.

    • 2damkule

      uh, 4th game into the season for a 21-yr old, going against a heat team without much of an inside presence (i.e. he wouldn’t have had to do much banging), with a game the next night against another meh frontcourt…yeah, don’t think so, this was just casey scurred to deviate from some ridiculous comfort zone that dictates he match-up to what his opponent is doing. and if that was why casey rested him so much, well, that’s just a poor decision. you play for today, certainly with a team like this. there’s value in having him on the floor against world class players.

      • c_bcm

        Yeah, I wasn’t saying it was the correct decision. Just that it might be the reason he made the decision. Maybe starting to sound like that might have been the reason for the decision:

        “The coach also indicated that there’s more to his lineup decisions than meets the eye. Statistics come into play, reading into matchups and even worrying about a game the next day or in some cases, several days later.”

  • robertparrish00

    MU is watching Casey…time to smarten up.

  • Paul

    Raptors: Anthony Bennet, Andrew Bynum
    Cavaliers: Rudy Gay

    • Tim W.

      That might be good for both teams, but it can’t happen until December 15th, when free agents signed during the summer can be traded. Hopefully Bennett will hit a shot before then.

      • 2damkule

        if he doesn’t, well, that probably makes him a wee bit more get-able. desirable? no.

        • Tim W.

          He always scared me a bit. These tweener scoring big men who aren’t big enough to play the four, all the time, and aren’t quick enough to play the three. The ratio of busts to players is pretty high.

          • Paul

            2damkule hits it on the head.
            The only reason I suggest this trade is because Bennet is struggling with the potential bust label hovering over his head (even though its extremely early).

            The only way this deal happens is if he continues to struggle.
            Then again, you and I disagree greatly on Gay’s trade value (As evidenced by our discussion of the Lakers trade I proposed a few days back).

            • Tim W.

              I totally agree. I think Bennett would be worth the risk, and is exactly the type of prospect a rebuilding team should try and get. I was just saying I was weary from the beginning, with him. He reminds me WAY too much of Derrick Williams.

  • Tanks-a-lot

    43 seconds remaining Casey wants to draw up a play

    • Tanks-a-lot

      Oh man what a crappy ending.

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