Rip the C**tics

Get the Opening Tip, make a thousand copies of it and distribute it at the game. We’d appreciate it.

Orlando was great, Milwaukee was terrible and Washington and Memphis were routine, today and tomorrow is what people will remember. I’m thirsty for some C**tics blood and I pray the Raptors are too. The results of the next two games could either give purpose to our season or further endorse our status as wannabe-contenders. We’ve played these sorry excuses for human beings twice already and sad to say, got beat quite convincingly. In the first game we had a 16-point lead but then we sat back and expected to coast only for them to up their defense and for us to fold. That’s of course the same game Garnett pulled this stunt which I still can’t believe didn’t receive a technical. In the second game in Toronto, Rondo pushed the ball against Calderon early and the Raptors were under too much defensive pressure to do anything on offense, we were out of it so early that those classless creatures started working on their golf game. Insulting? You bet. Humiliating? For sure. Motivation for this game? I sure hope so. In both games Chris Bosh was neutralized and then some by Kevin Garnett. Those two games put a real damper on his MVP talk and reignited the “Bosh is a choker” chant, and rightfully so.

I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing but the C**tics have lost 7 of 9 and 4 straight. Its good because by all indications they’re struggling and we might be able to capitalize. It could also be bad because seeing the whimpering Raptors might give them some design ideas about a quick 2-game win streak. Whatever the case may be, Chris Bosh needs to show up against Kevin Garnett. I’m tired of him calling in choke for these games and putting up meaningless stats in meaningless stretches of these games which is usually good enough to earn a reprieve in the eyes of the Toronto media. That stare-down after the Memphis game is still rubbing me the wrong way, those things should be saved for games like today.

That Orlando win has given us some reason to have hope. We were actually able to hang with a damn good team in the fourth quarter and come away victors by executing our offense for points and coming up with stops. Wins like those are rare in Raptorland and if we’re able to replicate the offensive efficiency we displayed in that game we could stay close and that’s all you can ask for. We’re not going to be blowing them out, best we can do is NOT get blown out in the first half, play a tight third to stay close till the fourth and then play great possession-by-possession basketball from there.

Tony Allen missed the defeat in Cleveland and Jose Calderon is a game-time decision. Jermaine O’Neal is doubtful as he’s still nursing his <insert body part> and is day-to-day-to-week-to-month-to-season.

Some keys to the game:

Big 3 Containment: All three matchups are are won by the Celtics, Pierce and Allen on pure talent and Garnett on intensity. Pierce is the best in the business when it comes to creating space between him and hid defender for a jumper and Moon/Graham are going to have their hands full. Pierce is a fourth quarter player who wants to take the shot in crunch time and it’s important that we force somebody else other than him to beat us. Even if we’re having success with single coverage on him in the first three quarters, I’d still send help in the fourth. Success through single coverage is rather unlikely but it’s something we should aim for, if it doesn’t happen then the doubles need to be smart and the rotations tight.

Anthony Parker leaving Ray Allen to help out on Garnett in the post was drawing Oh Nos from the AC crowd before Garnett even kicked it out back to Allen. They put Allen on the strong-side corner and posted up Garnett on the block. Parker inexplicably left Allen who received simple passes and drained back-breaking first half threes. Then again that was under Sam Mitchell and so far we’ve only seen one bone-headed moves by Triano (pulling Roko against Milwaukee).

Garnett owns Bosh. Sad to say but its true. He gets in his head, makes him take bad shots, pressures him out of the paint and to the perimeter where Bosh just wants to get rid of the ball. Garnett has success fronting him because Bosh is unable to fight for proper position and our guards are unable to make a proper lob or entry pass and end up wasting half the shot clock. When Bosh does catch the ball in a face-up or post-up situation, Garnett remains one of the few players that doesn’t need help when checking Bosh so there goes the double and ball-movement that comes from providing help. It’s already a tough matchup for Bosh basketball-wise but when you add Garnett’s trash-talking, intensity and desire to the mix, Bosh ends up looking like he wants to crawl into a corner and close his eyes. Will today and tomorrow be different? I hope so. Whatever Triano’s strategy pertaining to Bosh is, I hope it’s not as dumb as the “decoy” idea Mitchell had. I know it’s already been said a million times but Bosh needs to catch and make his move instantly, waiting around with the rock works against him every time and I’m surprised he hasn’t figured this out yet. If his jumper isn’t clicking against Garnett he needs to abandon it and start attacking, he’s third in the league with 9.0 FTA per game and that number needs to be around 20 if he hopes to make up for a bad shooting night.

Rondo v Solomon/Calderon: Solomon can’t play any worse than Calderon did in our last meeting, if he’s able to stop Rondo from penetrating the paint just once, he’s already done a better job. The message is simple: keep him in front of you so you don’t have to send help because you can’t afford to. It’s acceptable to help off of Rondo so that Pierce doesn’t get a clean look, entirely unacceptable to help off of Garnett so Rondo doesn’t get a layup. Fine line there. Roko Ukic and his lanky 6′ 5″ frame might be able to do the best job of applying ball-pressure and recovering in time to prevent the drive. Maybe we could play Moon on Rondo but then who guards Pierce? Jay Triano’s got some decisions to make, whatever he does I do suggest doing a whole lot of this.

Bargnani’s got the advantage: If Kendrick Perkins wasn’t an NBA player he’d be the prison guard that intercepts women on conjugal visits. Hardly relevant but true. In this game he’s going to have a clear bulk advantage against Bargnani and will be able to slowly and unattractively take Bargnani to the post and get his shot on him. Nothing we can do about it but ask Bargnani to play the solid man-to-man defense he’s been playing all year, except that we’d also like him to help on the glass if Perkins misses. Whatever we do we can’t afford to send help on Perkins, our defense is barely good enough to handle rotations and recovery for one double-team threat. Jermaine O’Neal took it to Perkins in the first half in Boston but later gave it all back in the second. Bargnani needs to win this matchup because it’s the only one we have a realistic shot at, he needs to be doing more of what he did against Yao and Howard which of course means that his jumper needs to be working. If it’s not then his entire game goes in the tank because he’s not good enough to find offense exclusively through his low-post or blow-by game.

Don’t let Tony Allen et al kill you: Tony Allen’s the type of player that can give our wings fits. He loves to drive and can finish in traffic as we saw in the game in Toronto. Joey Graham could be matched up with him and happens to have a strength advantage which we’d be foolish not to at least look at. Rebounding and second-chance points haven’t been a problem in the first two games, rebounding was even in the first game and -7 in the second. Second-chance points were in favor of the Raptors 11-2 and 15-8 in both games. The real problem was that we couldn’t score against their set defense and allowed way too many point in the paint which is always demoralizing: -8 and -26 in the two games. Sometimes it just comes down to playing solid man-defense and that’s what Humphries and Rasho-lite need to do against Baby Davis, Leon Powe and Kendrick Perkins. Of course they don’t get their points by posting up and executing moves, they’re usually buckets created by Pierce or Rondo penetration so it does go back to PG defense.

If you’re going to the game, Chris Bosh has some words for you:

I keep saying this but I still don’t think our crowd knows how much of a difference they can make. It’s very hard to go into another building, let alone play against some rims and backboards you’re not used to, but when the crowd is going crazy and stuff it just makes it very tough.

This is no doubt a team-defining game. They’ve made us look bad this season and we should be angry and looking for salvation in these two remaining encounters. We need to be blood-thirsty, focused and ready to compete. All this has to start with our leader, if he comes out passively then the team will follow suit, if he brings the energy and inspires his teammates through his play and his words, then we’ll have a shot. These are the Raptors, they’re not going to razzle and dazzle you with their slashing drives to the rim followed by strong finishes or in-your-face defense that makes you feel proud of the team you support, all we can hope for is an honest 48-minute effort where we maintain intensity, execution and don’t shoot ourselves in the foot by playing right into the hands of the C**tics by taking contested jumpers.

Throw the stats, records and streaks out the window, this is a game that needs to be won and the Raptors must to do whatever it takes to continue their misery.

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