The Back Story:
First meeting of the season. Raptors swept the season series last year 2-0.
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have lost two straight without Eric Gordon, to go along with the 0-4 record they compiled without him last season. The two losses were each difficult to stomach in their own way - they got blown out by 28 points against the struggling Hornets, and then managed only 14 points in the final 16 minutes to blow a nine point lead against Oklahoma City. It's really great that the Clippers have two great 20 year olds as the foundation of the franchise - it really sucks that neither of them are playing. Without them, no one on the Clippers' roster played well Wednesday. I guess Al Thornton has the distinction of having been the least terrible, which is a major improvement for him, so at least he's trending up. Chris Kaman, who had been a major bright spot for the team so far, took a career high 26 shots against the Thunder - but the nine he made were not a career high unfortunately. His poor performance may or may not have had something to do with a virus he's fighting, which may or may not keep him out of tonight's game. And so it seems to go for the Clippers.
The Raptors underwent some significant changes since last season. By my count, only three players were with the team in January. It's a pretty significant three: Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon and Andrea Barganani. But even so, that's a lot of roster turnover to deal with. The Raptors came up with one of the prizes of the summer in Hedo Turkoglu, whose wife apparently decided that the shopping was better in Toronto than in Portland (and I have to say, she's right - you can't argue with her on that one). Putting Turkoglu with Bosh and Bargnani makes the Raptors starting front line a matchup nightmare - these guys are all 6'10" or taller, and they all have skill sets you don't generally see in guys that size. And they're all playing well so far - Bosh is averaging 29 points and 11 rebounds, Bargnani is just under 20 points per game, and Turkoglu is all over the stat sheet as usual. Even so, they've got a mediocre record so far. They've got a couple of nice wins over Cleveland and Chicago, and one terrible loss at Memphis - but mostly (and this bodes well for the Clippers this game) it looks like they've been pretty good at home, and pretty bad on the road.
- Matchup problems. This is not the front line that Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby want to see. Chris Bosh is a tough cover for anyone, who happens to torch the Clippers most anytime he sees them. Meanwhile, Bargnani is a 7 foot scoring machine, whose taking 5 threes a game this season, and making almost half of them (46%). So who gets to hang with Bargnani at the arc, and who gets to try to cope with Bosh? On the other end, one would hope that the new and improved Kaman could hurt either of them one-on-one - if he's healthy, and if Wednesday's performance was an aberration from a new norm. If he's not healthy? Well, get ready for a lot of Craig Smith and DeAndre Jordan.
- DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan spent last season playing for new Hornets assistant coach Tim Floyd before being picked in the lottery by the Raptors and being installed as the starting shooting guard. He's a major athlete, who probably isn't ready to be an NBA starter yet. But he could be good for some highlight reel dunks tonight.
International Incident. The Raptors have two Italian players (Bargnani and Marco Belinelli), a Spaniard (Calderon), a Turk (Turkoglu), and a Slovene (Rasho Nesterovic). The Clippers don't have a single foreign born player on their roster. However, Chris Kaman's grandparents are from Germany, so there's that.
- Butler and Thornton. With Gordon out, the Clipper starters on the wings have got to play well. So far, it hasn't happened. Thornton was a little better last night, and hopefully he can find his mojo again soon. Butler just hasn't shot well. He's at 36% on the season after going 2 for 10 Wednesday night. After Wednesday's game, Thornton is actually shooting better from the field (38%) than Butler - but neither is shooting well. If these two guys continue to be ineffective, the Clippers have little chance to win any games until Gordon gets back.
- Road trip coming up. This was supposed to be the part of the schedule the Clippers were getting fat on. But after home losses to two teams with losing records, and leaving for a short 3 game trip after this one, this slide could easily stretch to a six game losing streak. The Clippers have had no home court advantage to speak of for a couple seasons - their record has barely been better at home than on the road. That really needs to change and soon. This season they're 2-4 at home so far.
Byron Scott. The Hornets fired Byron Scott yesterday after a 3-6 start. I haven't heard about any other coach's on the hot seat. Any ideas?
- Movie Quote:
Try to imagine yourself in the Cretaceous Period. You get your first look at this "six foot turkey" as you enter a clearing. He moves like a bird, lightly, bobbing his head. And you keep still because you think that maybe his visual acuity is based on movement like T-Rex - he'll lose you if you don't move. But no, not Velociraptor. You stare at him, and he just stares right back. And that's when the attack comes. Not from the front, but from the side, [makes 'whoshing' sound] from the other two 'raptors you didn't even know were there. Because Velociraptor's a pack hunter, you see, he uses coordinated attack patterns and he is out in force today. And he slashes at you with this... a six-inch retractable claw, like a razor, on the the middle toe. He doesn't bother to bite your jugular like a lion, say... no no. He slashes at you here... or here... or maybe across the belly, spilling your intestines. The point is... you are alive when they start to eat you. So you know... try to show a little respect.
Dr. Alan Grant - Jurassic Park (1993). Was Jurassic Park really 16 years ago? Oh, and by the way, when did they get a franchise in Toronto? Oh that's right, 1995. I always thought 'Raptors' was a terrible choice for a team name. For one thing, the have the name pretty much wrong. A raptor is a bird of prey, like a hawk or an eagle. To call the team the Raptors with a dinosaur logo is pretty much tying them directly to the movie, since essentially no one ever associated a raptor with a dinosaur before then. It would be like naming your team the Ewoks. Or maybe the Mighty Ducks. I don't know. Anyway. 16 years. Wow. Anyone read Michael Crichton? I went through a phase where I read all of his crappy books. I'm not proud of it.
- Get the Velociraptors perspective at Raptors HQ.