Tag:Chris Bosh
Posted on: December 19, 2008 10:56 am
 

Raptors - Thunder - A Game Preview

Tonight, the Thunder play host to the Raptors who are starting a 6 game western road trip at a critical point in the season. Having fallen to 10 – 15, this team is suddenly out of the playoff race in the Eastern conference looking up at the Bucks, the Knicks, the 76ers and the Bulls and are sitting in 12th place in the Conference and last in the Atlantic division. To say this was not the start envisioned by this team would be quite an understatement. At this point they are 12.5 games behind the league leading Celtics and 1 game behind the 76ers in the division. The Nets are 2.5 games up in second place in the conference, but they themselves sit in 6th in the conference. The Raptors are not out of the playoff race at this point, but the team needs some good things to happen at this point having lost 8 of their last 10 and are 7 – 15 since starting 3 – 0 this season.

The Thunder bring the worst record in the NBA to the game tonight which is not much consolation for these Raptors. With Kevin Durant averaging 23.2 points, Jeff Green averaging 15.5 and Russell Westbrook averaging 12.8 this team has some dynamic players on the floor. Add in Nick Collison, Chris Wilcox, Desmond Mason and others and this team has a solid core of players who are looking see some of the success they enjoyed before the move. I would not look to this game to be an easy win by any stretch of the imagination as this team has the shooters to eat up our perimeter defense.

Tonight, the Raptors will need to see some sort of return to form of Chris Bosh who has dropped from 26+ points per game and 12+ rebounds per game to 23 and 9.7 over the past 2 weeks. Jermaine O’Neal has had some trouble maintaining a consistent game as well and these two are major reasons why this team has struggled on offense the past 10 games. Defensively, they both need to step it up on the glass as well at both ends. Andrea Bargnani seems to have lost his touch again, but continues to grow defensively which has been a valuable weapon and nice to see. Jason Kapono and Jamario Moon have looked much better and they need to return to the games that got them to the starting lineup. Jason needs to shoot and Jamario, who collected 9 rebounds last game against the Mavericks, needs to continue to attack the rim and turn in a solid game on defense. Jose Calderon will need to keep the team moving and look to the inside and move the ball up the floor better looking for the break when it presents itself taking advantage of Joey Graham and Jamario Moon who both love to run the floor. I like Anthony Parker off the bench as he provides a lot of energy and a good balance to Roko Ukic who seems to be the only player attacking the rim with any consistency lately. Together, they are a solid back up duo.

Should we win tonight? Yes, we should, we have a lot more pieces than the Thunder do at this point, but are struggling to make them work. Will we win tonight? That is only known in the hearts of this team. Jay will have them ready, but it is really a simple matter of will.

Category: NBA
Posted on: December 17, 2008 11:00 am
 

Raptors - Mavericks - A Game Preview

Tonight, the Raptors host the surging Dallas Mavericks who have won 7 of their last 10 games with wins over the Grizzlies, the Bobcats, the Suns, the Hawks and the Pacers. They are 3 games above .500% right now and are .5 of a game out of 8th in the tough Western Conference. Having lost to the Nuggets in Dallas on Monday, they come into Toronto to start a short 2 game eastern swing, with the Nets hosting them on Friday, home to the Grizzlies again on Sunday, then they head out on a tough pre-Christmas tour of the West with games against the Trail Blazers, the Jazz and Clippers. They are looking to Toronto to be the start of a push back up the ladder in the West.

The Raptors are coming into the game with the memory of two stinging losses fresh in their minds losing to the Hornets on Sunday and the Nets on Monday. Both of those games the Raptors seemed to play aspects of the game well but could not play well in others and it cost them. Sunday, they were able to use their new defensive schemes to contain Chris Paul and hold him to 12 points and Peja Stojakovic was held to 10 points, but James Posey was left virtually alone all the time and scored 20 on 6/10 3 point shots and David West outplayed Chris Bosh scoring 29 points from the low post area. The Nets game was very much the same thing as they were forced to shoot and shot only 38.1% as a team, but when Ryan Anderson outscores Chris Bosh in the PF position, something is not right. Offensive rebounds allowed have become the team’s demise. The lack of rebounding coupled with a 0 – 14 shooting stretch in the 4th quarter allowed this game to get out of reach.

Tonight, the Raptors will be looking to Jermaine O’Neal and Andrea Bargnani to provide some solid work in the post as the Mavericks have been running a 3 guard offense and Eric Dampier averages only 6 points and 8 rebounds a game. Dirk Nowitzki leads this team with 26 points per game and with Jason Kidd on the floor, the duo looks to make sharp passes and find cutters and hit open shooters off dribble penetration which has been the weakest aspect of the Raptors defense all season. With Devean George and Jose Juan Barea on the floor, this Mavericks team looks to feed Nowitzki who is always happy to shoot.

Chris Bosh needs a break out game and tonight would be a good time to find it. With Jamario Moon or Joey Graham at the 3 spot, Chris should have the room he needs and if we can keep Dirk out of the paint, I like our chances. Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker as well as Roko Ukic should all have good nights as a group, but will need to continue to improve closing out on shooters on the perimeter. I think that this game will go a long way to revealing the character of this team and I hope the guys are up to it.

 

Posted on: December 15, 2008 1:13 pm
 

Raptors - Week 8 in Preview - Another tough week

Week 8 for the Raptors feels like more waves of a tsunami as we have the Nets again in Toronto, then Wednesday we host the 13 – 9 Mavericks who play the Nuggets tonight. Friday we are in Oklahoma to play the Thunder then head south to play the Spurs. Combined records of the Spurs, Mavericks and Nets – 39 – 28. We start the week 10 – 13 in 4th place in the Atlantic division and 10th overall in the Eastern Conference with the Knicks and the Bulls 1 game up and the Nets 1.5 games ahead of us for 8th spot. Considering all this team has gone through, we are still positioned well at this point and a few wins now would help not only mentally but over all in the playoff race as well.

Monday, December 15, 2008 – Raptors vs. Nets @ the ACC

Not much more to add from Friday’s game. Devin Harris and Vince Carter will have to be held to 17 points again and the Nets as a team need to be held to 31.1% shooting again. Can it happen? Sure it can. With Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono not having to guard players man on man for extended minutes, this Raptors team has developed a solid interior defense that has cut the points in the paint for the opposition to under 30 a game the past 3 games. A far cry from the almost 50 a game they were allowing. With Josh Boone back in the lineup and playing near 100% again, this will be a tougher Nets team who will be looking to rebound from the loss in New Jersey.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 – Raptors vs. Mavericks @ the ACC

The Mavericks are sitting in 8th place in the tough western conference, .5 of a game ahead of the Suns who have 14 wins. Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 26.3 points per game and Jason Terry is averaging 20.8. Beyond those two, they have no one over 10 with Jason Kidd averaging 9.7 points per game. They have a weak spot at Center offensively but Eric Dampier continues to be a solid defender and provides them strength up the middle. With guys like Antoine Wright and Gerald Green and Brandon Bass, this team has a solid group behind Dirk and JT. This will be a huge testing game for Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh and will reveal whether or not or to what extent our interior defense has developed since December 3rd.

Friday, December 19, 2008 – Raptors vs. Thunder

At 2 – 23 and only 1 game this week against the Clippers, this Thunder team has almost a week to prepare for this game. The starters look solid as a group with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nick Collison, Damien Wilkens, and either Johan Petro or Russell Westbrook, this team has solid offense but struggles defensively sitting at 25th in the league in opposition scoring per game.  The Raptors are currently sitting 20th which is improving every game. This is a game we should win and I look to our defense to stifle the Thunder all night long. I suspect that Jay will prepare them a bit more than that!

Saturday, December 20, 2008 – Raptors – Spurs

Rumors of the demise of this Spurs team were swirling as Manu Ginobili started the season hurt then Tony Parker went down. Too old, too slow, no one other than Manu could lead this team. Tim Duncan just wasn’t enough. Well, after 23 games, Manu is back, Tony is back and since starting 1 – 4, this team is 14 – 4 sitting third in the West with 6 straight wins over the Mavericks, the Nuggets, the Hawks, the Warriors, the Timberwolves and the Thunder. In the past 10 games they are 8 – 2 with losses to the Pistons and the Rockets. Aside from Tony and Manu and Tim, this team has more players averaging 10 or more points per game. Tony Parker averages 21.3, Tim Duncan 21, Manu Ginobili 15.5, Roger Jr. Mason 13.3 and Michael Finley averages 10.3 points per game. George Hill sits at 9.9 so that is 6 players at 10 or more points. Balance on offense and hard work on defense keeps this team at or near the top every season and why they can beat teams when one or two “star” players are not 100%. This will be a tough game for the Raptors as we don’t play well in San Antonio as a rule. The Spurs play two on the road this week at the Hornets and the Magic.

The key for the Raptors this week will be to allow the system the chance to work. Defensively we have come along way since December 3rd. We can now shut aspects of teams down and as we continue to work on the defensive game, we will develop that transition game that the good teams use to score the easy break points. Our rebounding needs to improve as it did cost us the game Sunday against the Hornets. A rebound at either end, and a couple of free throws were all we needed to win that game. Quality minutes from our bench seems to be the trend and this week we will need them to continue to improve and contribute more scoring as well as work hard defensively to keep games in check. They will not be able to let teams come back into games we are leading or let teams pull away from us and they have been doing both very well this past week.

Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal need to develop more desire to drive the ball. The 15 foot shots are nice, but they are then out of position for the short boards that often result from the mid-range shots. Andrea Bargnani will be looked to from the bench and perhaps the addition of Jake Voskuhl will add some grit underneath. Jose Calderon looks much more at ease with a guard for a coach and seems to be freer to shoot when he sees the spot. Let’s hope that guys like Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono continue their improvement and work to stick their bums on people and box out at both ends. Anthony Parker I suspect will be hard pressed to get back into the lineup any time soon as the team suffered during his minutes on the floor on Sunday afternoon. Roko Ukic looks very good and relaxed with the ball and seems to be the only one who still drives the ball on this team. Should be a very interesting week for the Raptors.

Posted on: December 15, 2008 10:58 am
 

Raptors - Week 7 in Review

Week 7 in the Raptors season saw the team move far away from the Sam team and become the Jay Triano lead Raptors. With games against the Trail Blazers, the Cavaliers, the Pacers and the Nets, we knew it would be a rough week. 3 of those games were against teams above us in the standings and one against the team we made our huge trade with last season so emotionally, that Pacers game had a lot of mystique around it as team looked to recover from the brutal road trip against the Lakers, the Jazz, and the Nuggets.

Sunday, December 7th, Raptors vs. Trail Blazers @ ACC

Trail Blazers 98 – Raptors 97

Steve Blake scored on a 3 point shot that they borrowed from Vince Carter and the Nets to ruin Jay’s bid to win his home debut. Scoring 19 points on 5 – 8 3 point shots he kept the Trail Blazers close enough to win on the last shot. The Raptors played a much better defensive game allowing only 24 points in the paint which is half of what they had been averaging. Andrea Bargnani was a first over all pick, that, we are well aware of, but the Trail Blazers have the 2nd and the 6th picks in LeMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. Bargnani has shown improvement but has not accomplished nearly as much as these two to this point in their careers. Andrea has not completely grown into the role he was projected to fill to this point, though this season he has improved in a lot of areas and I believe could be a solid player. Aldridge finished with 20, Roy with 15, Bargnani had 5 points. Player of the game for the Raptors was Jermaine O’Neal, for the Trail Blazers, Steve Blake. A game we should have won again exposed our weak wing defense and perimeter defense.

Tuesday, December 9th, Raptors vs. Cavaliers

Cavaliers 114 – Raptors 94

LeBron James – 31 points and didn’t play the 4th quarter. Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal, Anthony Parker, Andrea Bargnani – 34 points. Jose Calderon had 14 as our starters looked awful as a group. Joey Graham had 17 and was Player of the Game for us and Roko Ukic had 10 points or this game was even more laughable than it was. Wally Szczerbiak had 16 points and looked like he was 24 again. Not a pretty game for the Raptors, but it did signal a change as Jay had to overhaul the starting lineup as Anthony hurt his ankle.

Wednesday, December 10th, Raptors vs. Pacers @ ACC

Raptors 101 – Pacers 88

With Anthony Parker hurting, Jason Kapono stepped into the lineup and scored 25 points to lead the Raptors to their first victory under Jay Triano. Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal, Jose Calderon, Joey Graham and Jamario Moon all had 10 or more points as a balanced attack kept the Pacers off balance all night long. Danny Granger scored 22 but most of the time looked out of the game shooting 9 – 25. The Player of the Game for the Pacers was Troy Murphy who had a 20 – 20 game. Marquis Daniel added 21. This was a much better overall defensive game by the Raptors who would not let T.J. Ford loose to drive and his team could not shoot well enough to keep the game close.

 

 

Friday, December 12, Raptors vs. Nets

Raptors 101 – Nets 79

Vince Carter and Devin Harris as a tandem had come into the game averaging 47.7 points per game and Raptors fans were concerned that they would explode against Jason Kapono and Jose Calderon who are not the greatest man up defenders in the game. What we saw was a team defense that funneled two of the best guards in the East to a waiting wall of big men. Jermaine O’Neal and Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh would not allow the penetrating attack the Nets so love and they were reduced to shoot. With Josh Boone just coming back from an injury, they had no real inside game as Brook Lopez was held to 6 points. Vince and Devin were held to 3 points and 14 points as Vince was 0 – 13 from the floor. Yi Jianlian was the Nets most consistent big man scoring 14. For the second game in a row, the Raptors had 6 players in double digits while Jermaine had 8 points and 9 rebounds. The Nets ended the game shooting only 31.1%

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, December 14th, Raptors vs. Hornets @ ACC

Hornets 99 – Raptors 91

Well, a tough loss to the Hornets Sunday on a day when the Raptors could just as easily pulled out the win. After a solid defensive effort in the 1st quarter, the Raptors began to lose track of shooters like James Posey and Rasual Butler as the team ranked #1 in 3 point shooting in the league put up shot after shot as the Raptors struggled as they have all year with perimeter defense. Over-all, this game was exciting and very well played by both teams, but the Raptors continue to struggle working the ball inside to Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal consistently. Yes, Chris Bosh scored 25 points and 8 rebounds as well as 6 assists, but in the 4th quarter, he began to settle for jump shots again which is out of the context of the offense and too often leads to shots from the top of the circle with no rebounding support late in the shot clock. Jose Calderon played a very good game with 22 points and 7 assists to Chris Paul’s 12 points and 12 assists. Very solid games from 2 of the premier PG’s in the league.

I think that even though we lost 3 of 5 games, this team has come a long way since December 3rd. They understand what is required of them at both ends of the floor and have shown they have the heart to compete at the highest level. As they continue to work on the schemes the coach is instilling in them this team will have the opportunity to win more games than they will lose. A good week for a struggling team with a new coach and a new attitude.

Posted on: December 14, 2008 4:02 pm
 

Raptors - Hornets - A Game Review

Well, a tough loss to the Hornets Sunday on a day when the Raptors could just as easily pulled out the win. After a solid defensive effort in the 1st quarter, the Raptors began to lose track of shooters like James Posey and Rasual Butler as the team ranked #1 in 3 point shooting in the league put up shot after shot as the Raptors struggled as they have all year with perimeter defense.

Here are the keys to the game as I saw them.

Keys for the game:

1)  Protect the Paint – allowing only 34 points in the paint to the Nets was a huge victory for this Raptors team that had been averaging 47+ points in the paint nightly. Against the Hornets Chris Paul and Rasual Butler will look to force the Raptors out of the defensive lanes that held Vince Carter to 0 – 13 shooting with no lanes to penetrate. Sunday, the Hornets outscored the Raptors 28 – 20 as the Raptors seemed to have no desire to attack the teeth of the Hornets defense with NO Tyson Chandler.

2) Perimeter defense – Not letting Mo Pete and Peja Stojakovic will be looked to shoot over top of the 1 – 4 structure that Jay has implemented. With Jose Calderon being pulled out of man coverage on Chris Paul, the defensive movement of Jamario Moon and Joey Graham will be critical to putting pressure on the array of shooters this Hornets team will bring to the game. Morris Peterson did not play, but the Hornets took 32 3 point shots, and made 12 of them. James Posey hit 6 mostly open shots as the Raptors could not keep the shooters under pressure at all.

3) Rebounding – I will say this every game until the Raptors begin to assert themselves on the glass consistently. Against a smaller front court like the Hornets, there is no reason why we can’t dominate this team on the glass, especially if Tyson Chandler does not play. With him out, David West becomes the leading rebounder on this team and he should have a difficult time against Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal all afternoon with Andrea Bargnani in the mix, the Raptors should be able to work toward a more balanced rebounding effort. Sunday, the Raptors started the game strong on the glass but down the stretch, their weak rebounding kept the game out of reach. They ended the game -7 to the Hornets as the Raptors were only able to grab 2 offensive boards in the second half while the Hornets were able to grab 6. David West grabbed 3 offensive boards.

4) Transition defense – This Hornets team will look to take advantage of turnovers as Chris Paul is one of the league leaders in steals with 53. The Raptors will have to contain the transition offense and early baskets that the Hornets will attempt to capitalize on. The Raptors on Sunday were able to hold the Hornets to only 7 points in transition, but were only able to get 2 themselves.

5) Control the Ball – Turnovers will be a huge factor as the Raptors will be hard pressed to keep the ball and keep the number of turnovers closer to 10 than to 20. As this team becomes more comfortable with Jay’s systems, I look to Jose Calderon to have more than 3 assists as well, but more critical, this team needs to keep the assist to turnover ratio closer to 2/1 to continue its success. Sunday, the Raptors had only 10 turnovers while the Hornets had 11, both teams had 13 points off of turnovers.

Over-all, this game was exciting and very well played by both teams, but the Raptors continue to struggle working the ball inside to Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal consistently. Yes, Chris Bosh scored 25 points and 8 rebounds as well as 6 assists, but in the 4th quarter, he began to settle for jump shots again which is out of the context of the offense and too often leads to shots from the top of the circle with no rebounding support late in the shot clock. Jose Calderon played a very good game with 22 points and 7 assists to Chris Paul’s 12 points and 12 assists. Very solid games from 2 of the premier PG’s in the league.

One of the biggest differences in the Raptors the past 3 games had been the play of Jason Kapono and Jamario Moon. Today, they both struggled adding only 7 points each on offense. Balanced scoring will be a key to this team every game, with only 3 players over 10 points, the Hornets were able to focus on Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon down the stretch and no one else was even in the game other than Jermaine O’Neal who had 19 points. Another issue was rebounding again. Not one Raptors player was over 10 rebounds while Posey was able to gather in 10 for a nice double double off the bench. Someone has to decide that they want to become the rebounder this team needs to keep control of the ball and the tempo of the game. I think that we have taken a lot of steps in the right direction and Jay has done a great job getting this team to play closer to their potential. This will be a tough week with the Nets, the Mavericks, the Spurs coming up with the Thunder on Friday night. Let’s hope the climb to respectability continues.

Posted on: December 13, 2008 4:20 pm
 

Raptors - Hornets - A Game Preview

Sunday afternoon the Hornets visit the ACC to take on the suddenly 2 in a row winning Raptors with a new head coach and a new defensive attitude holding the Pacers and the Nets to a combined 34.1% field goal percentage in the last 2 games. Sunday, Chris Paul and David West lead the Hornets with Peja Stojakovic to give them a different level of test of their defensive mettle. Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal will be tested inside all afternoon as Chris Paul looks to penetrate and kick all game looking for Peja and Morris Peterson off the dribble. With Tyson Chandler questionable for the game, Hilton Armstrong will be looked upon to provide some offensive boards for this team who will be out manned up front. With Kris Humphries and Anthony Parker still in suits, it will be up to Andrea Bargnani to step in and provide solid defense up front while Jason Kapono and Jamario Moon get the start at the 2 and 3 spots.

Keys for the game:

1) Protect the Paint – allowing only 34 points in the paint to the Nets was a huge victory for this Raptors team that had been averaging 47+ points in the paint nightly. Against the Hornets Chris Paul and Rasual Butler will look to force the Raptors out of the defensive lanes that held Vince Carter to 0 – 13 shooting with no lanes to penetrate. Joey Graham will need to continue his solid work cutting off the top of the lane from the slashing guards the Hornets have.

2) Perimeter defense – Not letting Mo Pete and Peja Stojakovic will be looked to shoot over top of the 1 – 4 structure that Jay has implemented. With Jose Calderon being pulled out of man coverage on Chris Paul, the defensive movement of Jamario Moon and Joey Graham will be critical to putting pressure on the array of shooters this Hornets team will bring to the game.

3) Rebounding – I will say this every game until the Raptors begin to assert themselves on the glass consistently. Against a smaller front court like the Hornets, there is no reason why we can’t dominate this team on the glass, especially if Tyson Chandler does not play. With him out, David West becomes the leading rebounder on this team and he should have a difficult time against Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal all afternoon with Andrea Bargnani in the mix, the Raptors should be able to work toward a more balanced rebounding effort. Though they won the game, the Nets were +15 on the offensive glass. I believe that this will correct itself as the team continues to respond to the schemes and attitudes that Jay has begun to implement on this team.

4) Transition defense – This Hornets team will look to take advantage of turnovers as Chris Paul is one of the league leaders in steals with 53. The Raptors will have to contain the transition offense and early baskets that the Hornets will attempt to capitalize on.

5) Control the Ball – Turnovers will be a huge factor as the Raptors will be hard pressed to keep the ball and keep the number of turnovers closer to 10 than to 20. As this team becomes more comfortable with Jay’s systems, I look to Jose Calderon to have more than 3 assists as well, but more critical, this team needs to keep the assist to turnover ratio closer to 2/1 to continue it’s success. Right now the Raptors are 4th overall in assists per game with 22.8 per game, but they average 14.4 turnovers per game. Lots of room to improve there as a group. They are 4th in the league in A/TO’s right now, but there is a lot of room to improve ball control and work at protecting the ball. The improved play of Roko Ukic has provided a much noticed improvement in this area the past week.


I can see the Raptors working to improve on the effort they have begun to show and should they be able to contain Chris Paul and David West and make Peja take shots under pressure, I think it will be a good start to a brutal week with the Nets and the Mavericks coming to town before facing the Thunder and the Spurs on the road by Saturday.

Posted on: December 13, 2008 10:48 am
 

Raptors - Nets - A Game Review

Friday night in the Swamp, the Raptors faced the Nets in a game where both teams had something to prove. The Nets were looking to build on a 7 – 3 in the last 10 games and still enjoying the OT win in Toronto after being down 18 points for most of the game. The Raptors were looking to show that their defensive improvements over the past 3 games critical in the win over the Pacers Wednesday night in which they held Danny Granger pretty much out of the game though he finished with 22 points, he was held to 9 – 25. The Raptors were looking to re-establish the interior defense that they had in the 3 – 0 start of the season, but lost before the change of coaches. On a night when the Nets were still without Eduardo Najera and Josh Boone was playing his first game after missing 14 games, the Raptors were looking to exploit that thin front line.

As the game unfolded, it was easy to see that the Raptors commitment to defense had taken hold. At one point early the Nets were held to 4 points in the paint and it stayed that way as Vince Carter made 0 shots in the first half making his first FT with 8:21 left in the 3rd quarter ending with 3 points and 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He was frustrated all night as Jamario Moon would not let him have any open looks and when he drove, the defense was there with the proper rotation forcing him to pass and often, that pass was contested and the ensuing shooter was contested. It was great to watch the Raptors hustle for loose balls and attack the perimeter making the Nets take low percentage shots or creating turnovers. The Nets ended the game with 18 turnovers. When the 4th quarter started, Vince was planted firmly on the bench and the Nets were 27% or so as a team shooting. They ended up at 31.3% as the benches played out the 4th which the Raptors started with a 71 – 53 lead. At a couple places in the 4th, the Raptors were up 30 points and had a 31 point lead at one point as the Nets bench scored 26 points in the 4th to keep the numbers from being more lop-sided than they already were.

For the Nets, Devin Harris and Vince Carter came into the game averaging 47.7 points per game as a tandem, one of the most prolific duos in the league this season. Raptors concern was that this would not be contained. With Jose Calderon and Jamario Moon playing against them most of the night with help from Joey Graham on Vince, they were held to 17 points on 4 – 23 shooting Vince being held to 0 field goals. Both Jose and Jamario have had points in the season where they have been called lousy defenders and liabilities, but Friday night they broke down the Nets back court all night long with Jamario Moon ending the night with 5 steals and 1 block. Last game, Brook Lopez scored 14 points inside and was a huge reason why the Nets were able to come back as he was an active threat on the glass and created a lot of room for Devin Harris and Vince Carter to take over the game. Friday night he was pretty much held in check by Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal as they both were up to the task of keeping the pressure on anyone who ventured into the paint. Lopez scored 6 Friday but was able to grab 8 rebounds which kept the Nets in this game for the first 3 quarters. Yi Jianlian was guarded by Chris Bosh most of the night and was relegated to a perimeter player most of the night as he had no room underneath and was frustrated by Chris Bosh all night ending up with 5 fouls taking him out of his slashing game. Bobby Simmons and Trenton Hassell had 12 and 10 points. As a group, the Nets starters were held to 15 – 54 for a dismal 27.7% shooting. That speaks of them taking plenty of low percentage shots and having a terrible night shooting overall.

Let me review my 4 keys to the game and highlight some good play by the Raptors as a group.

1) Turnovers – we will not be able to turn the ball over 20+ times against this quick back court or we will pay a huge price for it. Jose and Roko Ukic or Will Solomon will have to work hard at making the right pass and keep the turnovers under 15.

The Raptors ended the night with 11 turnovers to the Nets 18 with 8 steals and 8 blocks 4 by Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors held the Nets to 7 points off of turnovers as they recovered well while scoring 24 off of Nets turnovers. Jose Calderon had 0 turnovers and 3 assists and 3 rebounds and 13 points, but played so well on defense which was the first priority for him last night. Roko Ukic again played a very solid game attacking the rim and pushing the ball up the floor. He ended the night with 10 points and 5 assists and 4 rebounds and only 1 turnover. He has grown immensely in the past few games under Jay Triano as he finds himself getting more and more minutes and handling himself very well. Chris Bosh had 4 turnovers, usually making bad passes in the post or just losing the handle. He is not usually this awkward with the ball, but he is drawing more attention from weak side help again, but last night that was exploited with great success.

2) Rebound on both ends – the Raptors will not get away with a soft night on the glass at this point. Teams know this Raptors team has no desire to get after balls and will gladly do the work it takes to control the ball and the pace of the game.

Again, the Raptors were out rebounded on the offensive glass 20 – 5! 50 – 37 over all so they were collecting the ball on defense. Most games, I would be saying that this stat alone is one that will beat them most nights, but on a night when the Nets MISSED 57 shots, we got the ball back 56% of the time. The Nets ended with only 19 second chance points on 20 offensive boards! To me, that tells me that the Raptors were very good at recovering and actively pursuing the ball which is something they had not been doing as they were in the nasty habit of watching the rebounder just put the ball back in the net. I think it was Jermaine O’Neal who blocked at least 1 ball that was pretty much in the cylinder, but more on that later. Do the Raptors need to work harder on offensive rebounding? Yes, but when a team settles for long shots, they usually get long rebounds and that was how it went last night which is why they had so few second chance points. For their 5 offensive boards, the Raptors had 9 second chance points. I can live with that effort, but would love to see that balance itself out.

3) Balanced offense – 6 players in double digits is a good sign for this team. When the ball movement is there, Chris Bosh has his room to do what he does and take the ball to the hole and get to the line. Another double double from Jose would look great as well.

Friday night, Chris Bosh scored 18 points, had 5 rebounds and 3 assists and 1 steal. He was 6 – 8 from the field and 6 – 7 from the line. His 4 turnovers were a big reason why his numbers were down and the fact he sat the 4th quarter showed the effort the team gave last night. This is the second win in a row and the second game in a row he has not hit his season average in points. It is also the second game in a row that we have had 6 players in double digits with Chris Bosh, Jason Kapono with 16 on 4 – 9 from 3 point range, Andrea Bargnani with 11 and 7 rebounds, Joey Graham and another very solid game all over the floor with 16 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and some hard work defensively let him finish the game with 30 minutes of playing time. It is nice to see him improving every game. Roko Ukic again had 10 points and 5 assists and 4 rebounds and Jose Calderon had 13 points. That type of balance from the Raptors starters and bench will give the team more opportunity to win close games as the season rolls on. Will Solomon and Hassan Adams also played with Will adding 2 points.

4) Protect the paint – we can’t continue to give up 40+ points in the paint and expect to win many games. NOT IN MY HOUSE has to become the mantra on defense of this team.

Coming into the game, the Raptors had been giving up 47 points in the paint as teams attacked them and collected uncontested put back baskets at will. As I watched the game, I was quite impressed by the new attitude this team has begun to develop in such a short time under Jay Triano. The Nets were only able to score 34 points in the paint last night. Loose balls are now attacked and fought for, more than a few times there were 3 Raptors on the floor after the ball, including Chris Bosh. That is a great thing to see as that is an internal thing, an instinct and a desire to win, not just play the game. You see that attitude in guys like Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups and guys that are willing to go all out every play to win. I am pleased to say that this was missing for the first part of the season, and should this continue, this team will soon gain the heart to compete at a very high level, and the past 2 weeks will be a distant memory as the new year begins.

Some random thoughts from Friday night’s game.

Chris Bosh looked very much more at peace and relaxed in the new look Raptors. He tried to force a couple passes and had the ball hacked out of his hands a few times, but I believe that he is much happier in the role of being AN option on offense as opposed to being the ONLY option on offense. I think that he will return to his 20+ games, but they will be in the context of the balance that we have seen the past 3 games. The 2 shots he missed last night were both tough no calls, but he was attacking the net again and that is a very good thing to see. Jason Kapono has scored 41 points in the past 2 games and is 17 – 31 from the field and 7 – 16 from outside the arc. Not only that, he is working harder on defense and contributing rebounds and assists that fit very well in the flow of this offense. He is a very valuable asset when he plays the game he can and doesn’t force his game. With 13 boards in the past two games, he has found other ways to contribute as well and his defensive play has improved immensely. Jermaine O’Neal scored only 7 points to go with his 2 rebounds, but added 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks providing a solid support inside that contributed to the Nets having no desire to attack the rim at all. He needs to contribute more rebounding nightly, but his defense alone was enough to set the tone for this game. Andrea Bargnani scored 11 points and collected 7 rebounds including 2 offensive rebounds. He also had 4 blocks and 1 assist on a night when his shooting was off he played a solid game on the glass and keeping the Nets out of the paint.

Sunday will be another tough game as the Hornets visit, then Monday the Nets return to the ACC, then Wednesday, the Mavericks visit as the Raptors have a 3 game home stand, but they have 5 games in the next 7 days with the Thunder and the Spurs next weekend. I hope we are up to the challenge.

Posted on: December 11, 2008 9:39 pm
 

Raptors - Nets - A Game Preview

Friday night, the Nets welcome the Raptors to the swamp and look to return to the win column after losing to the Knicks on Wednesday evening. Having won 4 of the last 5 and 7 of the last 10, this team is playing good and since beating the Raptors in Toronto on November 21st they have beaten teams like the Jazz, the Suns and the 76ers with losses to the Lakers and the Wizards and the Knicks, consistency has been an issue as they are still without Josh Boone and Eduardo Najera. Since that game in November, the Raptors have had a very serious schedule that has been the second worse in the NBA behind the Pacers so far this year. Since that game, they have beaten the Bobcats and have been pounded by the Celtics, the Lakers, the Cavaliers and the Nuggets as well as tough losses to the Jazz and the Trail Blazers. The win on Tuesday evening was a much needed break for this team who have become weary to say the least.

With a new coach in Jay Triano and a new attitude as a group, this team looks poised to begin resurgence in the tough Atlantic division and look toward moving up the ladder in the conference as December rolls on. To say this team was in disarray would not do justice to the turmoil that must have been in that locker room the past 10 days. That being said, there is still a lot of work left to do and the players have to continue the growth and continue the energy that they carried on Tuesday.

The Nets Devin Harris has quickly developed a top level game averaging 29 points in the past 6 games including 2 over 30 and 47 points against the Suns. He will look to continue this tear through the guards in the league and with Vince Carter on the floor beside him, this is one of the top back courts in the league. With Josh Boone out, rookie Brook Lopez has logged heavy minutes this season averaging 26.5 minutes per game averaging 9.5 points and 8 rebounds on a team with a lack of depth up the middle. Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian round out the front court and there is little behind them with Sean Williams and Stromile Swift on the bench. This team is guard driven with Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling waiting to contribute. Despite a thin front line, this Nets team is 11 – 9 on the season and a threat to score a lot of points on any given night.

The Raptors have to a man struggled since their 3 – 0 start. At times they have looked D-League and at times, worse. They have struggled defensively from the outside and teams have taken advantage of the soft under belly of our defense to make large runs. This team has lost too many games in which they were up 18 points. That points directly to team defense and a will to compete on every possession. With Jermaine O’Neal brought in to shore up the rebounding, especially on the offensive glass, they have had too many nights when they can’t seem to box anyone out. Jermaine will need a strong game on the glass tomorrow as the Nets know where to attack. Chris Bosh has come under fire in some quarters as playing soft or not trying, but what I sense is that teams have once again been able to focus their entire defensive rotations to keep him outside and force him to be a jump shooter. With Jason Kapono and Jamario Moon both struggling to gain a consistent outside shot and movement with out the ball, our offense had become predictable and our turnover numbers reflect the lack of creativity with which we have been playing. The experiment with Andrea Bargnani at the 3 spot seems to have come to an end with a bang as the Raptors have seen Joey Graham emerge as an energetic force on defense and turning into a steady player on offense. Andrea will return to the front line which has been thinned by Kris Humphries injury situation so the timing of the switch in rotation has been forced, but the time was right. With Anthony Parker out, Jason Kapono will draw Vince Carter and Jamario Moon will draw Bobby Simmons. Chris Bosh will face Yi Jianlian and Jermaine will be guarded by the rookie Lopez. Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono will be hard pressed to contain the Nets tandem of Carter and Harris and those matchups will be critical for success in the game.

Some game keys to watch for.

1) Turnovers – we will not be able to turn the ball over 20+ times against this quick back court or we will pay a huge price for it. Jose and Roko Ukic or Will Solomon will have to work hard at making the right pass and keep the turnovers under 15.
2) Rebound on both ends – the Raptors will not get away with a soft night on the glass at this point. Teams know this Raptors team has no desire to get after balls and will gladly do the work it takes to control the ball and the pace of the game.
3) Balanced offense – 6 players in double digits is a good sign for this team. When the ball movement is there, Chris Bosh has his room to do what he does and take the ball to the hole and get to the line. Another double double from Jose would look great as well.
4) Protect the paint – we can’t continue to give up 40+ points in the paint and expect to win many games. NOT IN MY HOUSE has to become the mantra on defense of this team.

I think the Raptors have learned some lessons about holding leads and playing when ahead and it ISN’T about making pretty plays. It’s about doing what it was that gave you the lead. Ball control, ball movement, rebounding, hitting the open man in transition, and getting the ball in the hands of the shooter when he has the shot sound easy, but those are the things the good teams do every game to win.

 
 
 
 
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