The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have shot under 40% in each of their last two games. One of those came against a very good defensive team in Milwaukee - the other came against the second worst defensive team in the league, the Golden State Warriors. Tonight they face the only team in the league that is worse defensively than the Warriors in Toronto. Can the Clippers find their shooting touch against the Raptors, or will it be more of the same? The Clipper bigs actually looked pretty solid against the Bucks, but the guards were down below 30% shooting. They're going to have to make some shots to have a chance in this game, because the Raptors can certainly put points on the board.
Toronto is 5-13 in their last 18 games, taking them from comfortable in the playoff race to vey uncomfortable indeed. For a while, Chicago was the only team in the race that was playing worse than the Raptors, which is the only reason the Raptors are still in the eighth position. But the Bulls have started to turn it around, and the Raptors had better do likewise, as their lead on the Bulls is down to a game and a half. Fortunately for the Raptors, they have some pretty easy games among their final nine - Clippers, @Sixers and Warriors over the next three, with the Pistons and Knicks still to come. So right now my money would be on Toronto to sneak in, if only because they have the easier schedule of the two teams. The Raptors absolutely have to win games like this one tonight if they expect to make the playoffs.
- First meeting. When the Clippers played the Raptors in November, the Clippers jumped to a 17 point first quarter lead, that they stretched to 22 at the start of the second quarter. And then the wheels came off. The lead was down to 9 by halftime, the game was tied after three quarters, and the Raptors closed the game on a 16-0 run to win by 15. That's a 37 point swing from early in the second quarter to the final score. Among the Clippers' unusual powers this season (in addition, for instance, to the ability to lose to bad teams missing their best players) has been the ability to lose big leads.
- Turkoglu coming off the bench. The Raptors worked very hard to pay Hedo Turkoglu $53M this off-season. They lured him away from Portland, paid him all that money, and put together a complex sign and trade to get him. And now he's coming off the bench. What happened? Well, if you ask Kelly Dwyer, he was never that good, and he should never have gotten that much money. Monday night in Charlotte was the first time Hedo came off the bench this season. Coach Jay Triano, asked before the game if he was concerned if Turkoglu would accept his role as a reserve replied, "Probably more readily than not playing at all." Ouch.
- Wholesale lineup changes. In trying to get his team back on the right track, Jay Triano has made several changes in the last few weeks. Eight games ago, Jarrett Jack went to the bench in favor of Jose Calderon (Jack and Calderon have shared point guard duties most of the season). Then, three games ago former USC and Compton High star DeMar DeRozan was benched after starting every game of his pro career to that point. Now it's Turkoglu. It all seems a little desperate, which I suppose the Raptors are.
- Matchup problems. This is not the front line that Chris Kaman and Drew Gooden want to see. Chris Bosh is a tough cover for anyone, and he just so happens to torch the Clippers most anytime he sees them. Meanwhile, Bargnani is a 7 foot scoring machine, who's taking four threes a game this season, and making a bunch of them (37.5%). 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 a focused Kaman could hurt either of them one-on-one.
- 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.
- The summer of Bosh. Chris Bosh is likely to be the third best free agent available this summer, in perhaps the greatest free agent market of all time. But there's a pretty big gap between the big two (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) and Bosh. Bosh just turned 26, so he's a year and a half younger than Amare Stoudemire, without Amare's worrisome injury history as well. He's also two years younger than Carlo Boozer, and the difference between 26 and 28 is pretty significant when you're considering a 5 or 6 year contract. But is Bosh worth a maximum deal? When in the seven seasons he's been in Toronto they've had a winning record once?
- 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, 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 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.