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Game 27 Preview: Raptors vs. Blazers

The last game against the Raptors was one of the ugliest of the season, Toronto not having Chris Bosh and us not having Zach.  We won it anyway, which is what counts.  It's official that Chris Bosh will not play tonight due to lingering injuries.  The Raptors did come off a win in L.A. however and indeed have won four of their last five.

A Look at the Raptors

As would be expected, the Raptors' scoring took a dip when Chris Bosh went down.  They've rediscovered it somewhat in the last three games, including a 120 point effort against Golden State.  Without their main man they spread the love around.  Jorge Garbajosa, Mo Pete, Anthony Parker, Andrea Bargnani, T.J. Ford., and Fred Jones have all led the team in scoring within the last eight games.  Of those six, we are probably most vulnerable to Ford, as we have trouble stopping lightning-quick point guards.  However if Ford is scoring and not passing the Raptors have trouble winning.  Oregon fans will remember Fred Jones' high-wire act and I'm sure they already know he's developed a long-range shot in the NBA too.  His disadvantage, as always, will be his height.  Peterson has always given the Blazers fits.  He's one of those silent assassin guys who cleans up the mess while you're busy worrying about the bigger names.  You cannot leave him along on the perimeter or he can go for 25 off jumpers alone.  As Jason Quick pointed out, Bargnani has great offensive skills for a rookie but gets lost frequently, especially on defense.  I anticipate him having a harder time scoring against the constantly-switching Blazer defense (which often leaves bigger guys watching the perimeter anyway).  He'll likely draw the job of guarding a center, as they won't risk him getting abused by Zach.  Przybilla won't make him pay but the other three Blazer candidates might.  Garbajosa didn't play the last game because of a calf injury, but if he's back he provides grit and European sneakiness along with a little bit of rebounding and a fair amount of scoring potential.  Spanish point guard Jose Calderon has also been battling injuries and may return tonight.  Much like our own Sergio Rodriguez he's a nifty assist guy and a tricky cover.

Much like Portland the Raptors are a slick offensive team with real defensive problems.  Unlike Portland they get hammered on the boards on a nightly basis.  Aside from Mo Pete and Stephen Graham's brother Joey they're not accomplished outside shooters.  And now with Bosh out, at least in theory they shouldn't be good inside scorers either.  Nevertheless 80% of the teams who thought that recently have found out differently.  They have just enough kids who don't know better combined with a few veterans who won't quit.   If the Blazers do not bring effort the Raptors are quite capable of ending our streak here and now.

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  Zach...abuse...everyone.  Go get `em.
  2.  Sag off.  Make them bomb away.  Points in the paint will be a big stat tonight.
  3.  Don't run against this team.  There's no need to get into a random track meet.  Control the ball, control the game.  This means no turnovers and winning the rebounding battle.
  4.  After Zach as (this time the legitimate) options 1, 2, and 3, we need to take advantage of their relatively poor guard defense.  T.J. Ford will drive by you but will also let you drive.  Fred Jones is quick as heck and can leap, but I don't think he'll handle Brandon Roy.  I don't see this as a game where we want to take a lot of outside shots (as we did against Houston).  Post, drive, slash.
  5.  I bet if we make more free throws we win this game.
  6.  We will have to worry a little bit about their bigger guys on the perimeter and their littler guys inside, which means that good help defense needs to be there.  Outside it should look like active switching, helping on picks, and not leaving Z-Bo or our centers completely exposed.  Inside it should look like quick collapsing to cut off the lane when a guard drives.  Ime Udoka is usually pretty valuable in these cases, and really Lamarcus Aldridge has been too (though apparently he's less likely to play).
  7.  If we're going to have a winning streak, let's pretend we can do things a winning team should do.  So...let's jump on them early, put them down hard, and never let them think they have a chance.
The news of a bad practice (see the Quick Chat review below) combined with the natural tendency to be overconfident makes me think this game won't be as easy as it should be.  However I do trust a few of our players to overcome that, namely Jarrett Jack and Brandon Roy (who both have good heads on their shoulders and play with a kind of cold-blooded professionalism anyway) and Zach Randolph (who has seen it all before and who will be happy and energetic anytime he gets to score).  Since those are our three main guys anyway that bodes pretty well.  For the first time this year if we don't see confetti falling at the end of the game I'll be (legitimately) disappointed.

--Dave (