The Toronto Raptors will attempt to end their 4 game winless skid taking on the Utah Jazz tonight at the Air Canada Center in Toronto. Utah comes into the game with 3 and 2 record including wins over the Dallas Mavericks and new look Golden State Warriors and losses to the New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns. The Raptors will have their hands full containing Jerry Sloan's pick and roll to perfection offense and constant defensive pressure. The Raptors barely lost to the Jazz in preseason losing 102-101 in overtime but this game will be a much truer display as many of both Utah and Toronto's preseason players are no longer with their respective squads.
In order for the Raptors to steal the win tonight it will be essential for the Raptors to defend much better then they have in the past 4 games. Rebounding will once again be a huge factor as well. The Jazz lead the league in rebounding yet do not have a single player in the individual rebounding leaders column. This simply demonstrates the team dedication to rebounding, something Toronto must start doing to overcome their dearth of big men. With the exception of Mehmet Okur (who plays more of a high post role), the Jazz have only Greg Ostertag to contend with down low and therefore the Raptors should have no excuse for being outscored in the paint this evening. Without power forward Carlos Boozer, the Raptors starters should have an advantage at both this position and the shooting guard position manned by Gordan Giricek. Giricek is a dealy shooter but lacks the athleticsm and defense to contend with Jalen Rose, especially in post-up situations. Look for the Raptors to exploit this matchup and the one featuring Chris Bosh in the low post. The Jazz in contrast will attempt to run screen and rolls with Okur who is a great shooter from both mid and long range. He'll in all likelyhood be attempting to draw Toronto's center's outside of the paint with his shooting ability allowing Utah's guards a clear path to the basket. Hopefully Raptors' coach Sam Mitchell has been preparing for this.
The Raptors will in all likelyhood be without forward Eric Williams for tonight's game. Williams has re-injured his rehabbing right knee and although it will likely only require a few days rest to heal, he will not be dressed for at least tonight's game.
One player who will be available to the team tonight at long last is RaptorsHQ favourite Pape Sow. "Spider-man" Sow had been rehabbing a groin injury but has practiced with the team all week. His rebounding, defence and athleticsm would be a welcome addition to the team.
Raptors GM Rob Babcock recently admitted that trade talk has heated up around the league. With several teams off to slow starts including the Hawks, Knicks, Kings, Rockets and of course the Raptors, NBA GM's are starting to make some calls to see who is available and who may need a change of scenery. Babcock reconfirmed that while it's still too early to deal, he is listening to everything that comes his way.
As a final note, RaptorsHQ would like to extend well wishes to all of Canada's Veterans and the member's of our Armed Forces on this Rememberance Day. Their sacrifices past, present and future have enabled Canadians to lead the lives we've become accustomed to living and we offer our thanks.