I’m just putting this out there, but the Raptors are 1 of 3 remaining teams left in the league (hi, Milwaukee/New Orleans) who haven’t won a game against an above .500 team; 0-10 in fact. That number doesn’t sit well with me; it’s not that “oh, the Raptors suck, they can’t beat anyone over .500,” no, it’s that by now, they should have at least one win under their belt. Both the Houston (the Jazz beat the Rockets ffs) and Portland losses in overtime were there for the taking. Just floating this, but IF the Raptors split one of those two games, AND beat the Nets like they should have (I’m not over that win…hate the f****** Nets), this team is .500 and Ujiri would be working overtime to get this team back to the lottery.
But if if was the fifth…yes yes…
As it stands, the dice landed where they did, and the Raptors only trail the Celtics by a game for the Atlantic and 4th seed in the East. For the first time in a while, it’s been fun to watch this team play hard and have some success in-spite of Colangelo’s grubby fingerprints still lingering all over the place. Which brings me full circle on this ridiculous tangent: Colangelo was the worst GM in Raptors history. He was handed a dream situation by Embry, and spent the next 7 *sigh* years ruining our lives.
Go nuts in the comments.
Ok, I’m done…sorry…
After going 3-1 since moving Gay for General Greivis & Co., the Raptors have a chance to make amends for past coaching transgressions; not all of them, just for this one:
The Bobcats have been moving in the opposite direction over the last week, dropping 3 of 4, but are coming off a convincing 95-87 win over the Kings last night. They started the game very fast, running the score up 35-22, never really letting Sacramento back in despite Boogie going off for 30pts 17rebs.
This is the games key match-up. It all starts and finishes with the Kemba and Ramon, who are a formidable combo, and give the Bobcats (can’t wait till they change back to the Hornets) different looks throughout the game and a pretty solid 48 minutes of point guard play. But surprise, mother f*****, the Raptors have their own 1-2 punch with Lowry and General Greivis that will keep the Bobcats defense honest. Yes, they have the 2nd ranked defense in the league, but they also play one of the slowest paces, and without a real rim protector, there is real pressure on Walker and Sessions to defend the perimeter. I like Lowry’s and Greivis’ size in this match-up, but will be tight.
With MKG out, Ben Gordon gets more time than he should, but Henderson will occupy a bulk of the minutes at the 2-guard. What the Cats lack here, is defense. Henderson, and especially Gordon, will be giving up lots of good looks, giving Ross the opportunity to make them pay. However, I want to see the slashing/attacking Ross tonight. There will be open lanes and sub-par rim protection; there’s no reason Ross can’t drop 15+ and get to the line 7-8 times. MKG’s injury also shortens the options at the 3 significantly, which gives Casey some match-up options he normally wouldn’t have. Jeff Taylor’s been getting the bulk of the minutes at small forward, but again, the wing position is short (in stature and depth). Expect a 25+ point night from DeRozan. Between DeMar, Ross, and Salmons, the Raptors should own this match-up for a full 48.
This is where things start to get interesting; marginally. Josh McRoberts is a nice stretch four that sees the floor well, but things drop-off significantly after him. The Bobcats have been heavily playing on a front court rotation of McRoberts, Jefferson, Biyombo and Zeller, and as you can see, there is something, but not a whole lot. This can’t happen again. Fortunately, with Gay out of the picture, the court has opened herself up for Amir and Jonas to get to work in the paint. Both have responded to the call and started to reverse the slow start to the season. Al Jefferson is a ball-stopping black hole in the paint. Biyombo is a raw 40 year old who is probably at his peak. Zeller was selected far too high and McRoberts…I have no problem with Josh; just that he’s not a starting PF in the league. What I’m trying to get at here is that even if Hansbrough doesn’t dress, the Raptors front court should be able to handle the Cats front court.
Keys to the Game
- Don’t start the game flat. The Bobcats are on the second night of a back-to-back, and can’t be spotted a 35-22 lead. The Raptors need to make them work hard on both ends of the floor, and wear them down so they fold down the stretch.
- Protect the perimeter. The Bobcats shot 8-17 last night. Tired legs will work some of that out, but if Walker, Sessions, McRoberts and Gordon get going, it could open up the floor for Henderson to slash and Jefferson/Zeller to bang in the paint.
- Get the ball to Amir and Jonas in the paint. This just makes good sense; should be a standing strategy going forward.
The Raptors are 5.5 point favourites with an over/under of 191.5; sounds about right. After tonight, the Raptors play 8 of the next 10 games on the road. Wins will start getting harder and more expensive, so they need to handle business tonight. I like the Raptors. You like the Raptors. The gamblers like the Raptors. The Raptors by 8; no pizza.