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Tip In: NBDL Goes Prime Time

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Ever see that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry realizes he is "Even Steven", where something goes wrong then immediately thereafter something goes equally right? This is exactly what we should expect from the Raps the rest of the way. Two heartbreaking home OT losses followed by two games where they absolutely blow-out the other squads. If this theory holds true, the Raps should end up with 35 wins...significantly better than what many predicted at the beginning of the year. Although that means they likely won't make the playoffs, it means that this team is definitely improving. There will be some hype around this team next year.

The same cannot be said for the Portland Trailblazers. This team is DIRTY, and I mean dirty like Zanzi's. That's not to say they don't have some nice pieces. Guys like Jack, Outlaw and Webster all give hope for the future and even Khryapa looks like he could develop into a big body with a decent mid-range jumper. On the flip-side there are some players here that just don't have NBA game. Steve Blake, Charles Smith and, unless he picks it up soon, Bassy Telfair are just not good ball players at this point. Tonight, it showed as the Raps walked away with an easy 114-81 victory.

How easy you ask? Well if you caught the first 7 minutes of the game you saw the best, and closest, parts of the game. The Raps came out hot with Mo P and Space Mountain looking good, and of course CB4 making Zach Randolph wish he has been stopped at the border for some sort of possession charge. Guys like Randolph are to Bosh as cookies are to the Cookie Monster....he eats 'em up. Bosh was like a deadly assassin out there, making 7 of his 9 shots from the field and only missing one in the first Q. From then on, the Raps simply did not let up, playing some of their best defense as demonstrated by the Blazer's shooting percentage (39%) and the Raps got contributions from every player. In fact, every Raptor had a hoop other than Pape Sow. That's right, even D-Mart proved many of us wrong in proving that he was actually wearing a jersey under the warm-ups.

Now before we get ahead of ourselves, the Raps D will statistically look a whole lot better than it actually was. There were some definite highlights, CV Smooth and Chris Bosh were clearly dialed into some Bloc Party before the game, and Mo P now has 10 steals in the past two contests. BUT, and this is a major BUT, Portland simply cannot shoot. Saying they COULD hit the broad side of a barn would be complimenting them. It was not simply the case of the ball not dropping, they were just missing badly. Juan Dixon's airball told the whole story. In fact, the Blazer's only turned the ball over 9 times, one less than the Raptors, but no matter how hard they tried they could not get it together.

In the end fans at the ACC were treated to some serious garbage time. At one point the match-up was Darrick Martin, Joey G, Pape Sow, Loren Woods and Matt Bonner against Telfair, Outlaw, Smith, Webster and Khryapa. Perhaps not the best bang for the buck for those fans who attended the game, but there were positives to take from those garbage minutes:

- Joey G looked like the best player on the floor, and although not saying much considering who was out there, he was assertive, took the ball to the hole, and looked confident. Hopefully, he can build off this.

- It was an opportunity to showcase Eric Williams. Ok, so showcase seems to be over-hyping it, but he did manage to score and get more than 2 minutes of time.

- Loren Woods had the greatest single play is his basketball career. In a matter of 4 seconds Loren Woods single-handedly made the Raptors bench look like Mount Etna as the starters erupted in joy as Woods spun off his man, dribbled between two defenders and then did something we debated was even possible for him....CRAM IT. As an aside, you know you are the bench warmer when the other guys get so jacked-up over you doing ONE thing right in an actual game (although it was pretty).

In the end it was a complete team effort, with 9 guys grabbing more than 3 boards resulting in a rebound differential of +16, and the team shooting a collective 58%. A solid win on all accounts and a great boost for the last two games prior to the All-Star Game: tonight against KG and the woeful T-Wolves and then Wednesday against the lowly Knicks where Jalen Rose has quickly established himself as their best player. Yikes.

And of course....here are some quick hits:

- D-Miles was all styles with the sweet blazer.

- Loren Woods made a t-shirt this year that said "Free Pape Sow". There is no question there now needs to be a Blazers version....."Free Ha".

- Nice to see Calderon hit those two outside jumpers. Best case scenario....a B-rated Jason Kidd and I'll take that any day from someone who went un-drafted.

- The Miami win today was huge for them. Any one else see they might trade for Ruben Patterson? Maybe they should watch this game and simply trade for a wooden nickle. Better value.

- This may have been CV Smooth's most complete game. Tonight he gave me that same feeling I got from watching Bosh last year. Sky is the limit.

- I think Joey got some tips from Jalen about how to play in the post. I also think once he develops a better handle he will be better than people expect. Remember when Bosh couldn't dribble without looking at the ball in his first year? Unlike my compatriots, I think Joey is fine right where he is.

- If Ratliff is seriously hurt it could be a while before the Blazers see a W again.

- Looking forward to the All-Star weekend. Bosh against the big boys will be sweet. Too bad he won't have the opportunity to cram on VC head. And speaking of crams....someone call Kirk Snyder, his stolen jewels were found..... in Von Wafer's grill.

HOWLAND