Lacing Them Up:
Both Franchise and I have had the opportunity to vent about Friday night’s loss and we agreed that this Minnesota game was an important one. Besides, if you were the T-Wolves and you saw the Clippers beat this team you had to feel that you at least had a chance at home. Of course this match-up was essentially a no win for the Raps…a win is expected and nothing to get excited about and a loss would have led to a number of questions about this team.
In the end the Raps did everything they were supposed to do and pulled out the W putting them five games over .500. It was a solid team win led by the PGs.
A Numbers Game:
The former is the number of assists handed out by the Raps two-headed monster at the PG spot. Both Calderon and Ford played extremely well. Not only did they repeatedly set-up their teammates but the large lead late in the game allowed TJ Ford to get some more burn as he continues to get back into the groove after the long lay off. Ford also did a great job getting Jason Kapono looks at the hoop. Kapono had his best game on the offensive end in some time and much of this can be attributed to the fact that he was on the floor with a real PG. As much as we have been critical of Jason as of late, it’s important to remember that without Ford or Calderon manning the second unit Kap-One hasn’t exactly had a lot of open looks. If anyone will benefit from the return of Ford it is number 24.
5 and 11
Five represents the number of Raps who were in double digits for scoring and 11 is the number of players who found the bottom of the hoop. This win was definitely a team win as a variety of guys contributed. The Raps are always better then they get scoring from all over the floor and they don’t have to rely solely on CB4. Of course the Raps numbers got a boost in the second half when the T-Wolves essentially mailed it in and baskets came a whole lot easier. Nevertheless, this was a good confidence building game for a variety of guys.
The Turning Point:
I guess it would have to be half-time. For much of the first half the T-Wolves did a solid job sticking around. Although the Raps second unit helped the Dinos get a double digit lead in the second Q, that slowly disappeared by half-time. Sam Mitchell likely had some firm words during the break and the Raps took care of business in the third. The Raps came out strong in and this young losing team couldn’t get back into it.
Heating Up – Andrea Bargnani – Well this has been a long time coming. Slowly Bargs has found his way out of the deep freeze and is now playing much, much better. His has found his shot and tonight he even did some work down on the blocks. If he can continue to improve and play within the offence it takes a lot of pressure off the other members of the starting five.
Hot – The Raps Bench – The Raps bench with 42 points. Now that is what I’m talking about and exactly the type of production that has been missing for so long with TJ on the shelf. This team needs both PG’s healthy. What this game tells you is that it really doesn’t matter who starts and who comes off the bench provided one of Ford or Calderon is running the second unit.
Cold – Everyone Except Jefferson – The Wolves knew what they were getting into when they traded KG for a bunch of young guns. There is no question that there is a lot of youth on this team, the question is whether anyone, outside of Big Al, will develop into a solid contributor. Green can’t crack the rotation on a 10 win team, and none of Telfair, Gomes, Brewer or McCants are playing anywhere near consistent or even above average basketball.
Well, good on the Raps. They won and now it’s time to look forward with a much bigger match-up on the horizon against the San Antonio Spurs. Here are the three keys:
1. Team Basketball: Much like on this evening the Raps are going to need a full effort from all the troops to sweep the Spurs in this mini-series. If the Raps think they can rely on CB4 to carry them they are very much mistaken. With the Spurs a little shorthanded the Raps second unit will have an opportunity to be the difference makers in this game.
2. PG Play: Currently the Spurs are starting Jacque Vaughn at the point with newly signed Damon Stoudamire backing him up. The Raps clearly have a distinct advantage in this department and the pressure will be on Calderon and Ford to expose this weakness. Neither Vaughn nor Damon can keep up the Raps PGs which will force the Spurs defenders to help out. This should create easy opportunities for the other guys on the floor.
3. Get Out and Run: This is the end of a back-to-back for both teams and the Raps have the distinct advantage in being at home. The fans will be looking for a better effort than Friday and the Raps need to come out fast. The Spurs don’t have the athletes to get into an up and down affair and the Raps need to take advantage.
If the Raps can pull out a win here we will all easily forgive and forget Friday’s loss.
PS - For those who haven't seen it yet, check out Jason Kapono's 3-point contest display recently, at the Raptors' practice facility. You can see it here at Jamario-Moon HQ along with some other new dunk contest goodies...