Lacing Them Up –
What a difference a game makes.
Or maybe I should start this out by saying "what a difference playing the Miami Heat makes."
In Toronto's blitzkrieg victory last night, one which had Chuck Swirsky bringing out the salami and cheese in the second quarter, Toronto took advantage of a decimated Heat team that hadn't a hope in hell in winning as it turns out.
No Shawn Marion, no Dwyane Wade, no, Udonis Haslem, no Marcus Banks, and not even a J-Will. Williams was diagnosed with a jammed right thumb and was said to be out unless it was an emergency…
…I guess Pat Riley figured he still had too much talent on his roster after Tuesday's accidental win over Milwaukee...
Tank talk aside, this was indeed a big win for Toronto.
We saw the return of Chris Bosh and like magic, the return of Jamario Moon (four vicious dunks and 14 rebounds), Jose Calderon with 10 points, 10 assists and four steals, and Il Masko, Andrea Bargnani. Andrea, Hannibal Lector mask and all, looked like he wanted to tear down the basket at every occasion and finished with 14 points on a very efficient six for 11 night.
With a big game against the Cavs looming tomorrow night, seeing the entire team give a complete effort (right down to Joey Graham) was particularly encouraging...
A Numbers Game – 25.6%
I’m not going to chalk this win up to the Raptors great defence, but holding ANY team to 25 per cent shooting calls for a few pats on the back.
Beside some solid D and crisp ball movement, Toronto had 29 assists, the Raps smoked Miami on the glass 49 to 34 and generally outplayed them in each way possible.
The Turning Point –
Not much to say here. How about the turning point was when I saw that Miami was going to trot out Chris Quinn, Daequan Cook, Mark Blount, Ricky Davis, and Earl Barron to start the game with a bench of Bobby Jones and Joel Anthony. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that at least 32 of the 64 teams facing off this afternoon for the NCAA men’s tourney would rather have played this Miami team than the one they currently face in their opening round.
Temperature Check –
Besides Chris Bosh’s two of 10 from the field, the rest of the team could do no wrong.
Put it this way; Joey Graham looked like second coming of Josh Howard against this Heat club, gracefully moving without the ball and hitting jump shots. Even the much-maligned TJ Ford played an excellent all-around game off the bench, controlling the tempo and dishing out six assists while scoring eight points.
I’m not really sure anyone on Miami even deserves a mention as high scorer Chris Quinn did have 14 points, but it took him 14 shots to get them.
Nope, for those who missed this one, it was not something you’ll see on ESPN classic anytime soon.
Moving On –
Ok, let’s move on to more important matters here.
First of all, Friday’s game against Cleveland.
The East is tightening up as Washington edged Orlando last night, Philly played an excellent game to best Denver, and Toronto’s Friday foe took down the Pistons.
Lebron and co haven’t perhaps been as dominant as many expected after their blockbuster deal at the trade deadline but make no mistake, James looks like he’s ready for the playoffs to start now.
Therefore last night’s win by the Dinos was even more important not just to keep pace in the standings, but to get a dose of much-needed confidence before tomorrow night’s contest.
Cleveland has always been a challenge for Toronto thanks to James, and the Cavs’ big bodies up front. Well post-trade deadline the Cavs have gotten even bigger and it’s something we’ll be discussing at length in our pre-game chat tomorrow morning.
But for now, let’s move on to the next plate on the basketball menu, today’s NCAA tournament kick-off.
I’d be lying if I said I was only SLIGHTLY excited about the tip-off in about three hours so with that in mind, a final reminder to all who wish to participate in our HQ March Madness brackets (Go to Yahoo.com’s fantasy tournament pick’em site,
click on "join a group," enter the group ID 85910 with a password of beasley) and we now turn to some tournament scouting talk.
Some of the bigger names in the tournament likely won’t warrant much consideration from Toronto (unless we witness a season-ending losing streak of epic proportions) so here at the HQ, we’ve decided to concentrate on five players we haven’t discussed much on the site as of now. Names like Kevin Love, Hasheem Thabeet, Bill Walker and Chris Douglas-Roberts have been on our "watch list" for some time now and of course, we’ll be keeping tabs on their performances…but what about some other options come June? There are some players who are currently thought of as second-round picks, but a solid tourney could do wonders to boost their stock.
Here are the HQ’s top five:
1. Brandon Rush – Rush reminds me of Morris Peterson. A good but not great athlete at the college level, a solid long-range shooter, a superior defender, and great all-around glue guy, Rush looks to be only now rounding into All-American form. Kansas is one of the deepest teams in the league so at times it’s been hard for him to stand out. In addition, he still seems to be recovering from a torn ACL that he had surgery performed on in the off-season. However Rush is my "Corey Brewer" of this tournament, a solid glue guy who could earn himself a nice contract in the first round if he has a great tournament and helps take Kansas all the way.
2. Tyler Smith - One of my favourite prospects from a Raps’ perspective, Smith is a high-flying, 6-7 small forward for Tennessee. His club is an offensive juggernaut and is primed for a long tourney run. Smith has drawn comparisons to Josh Howard for his all-around abilities and in my opinion, would eventually look great manning the 3 for the Raps. He’s an extremely aggressive player who likes to get to the rim, and even better, is a horrific 3-point shooter meaning Raps’ fans won’t have to watch another athletic swingman settle for J’s. If he has a solid tournament and helps his Volunteer club get to the final four, he should be locked and loaded for a nice spot in the draft.
3. Courtney Lee – Lee is one of the lesser-known players in the country at present. The 6-5 SG from the University of Western Kentucky though has a bit of that "Kevin Martin appeal" being a top scorer from a smaller program. He’s a 40 per cent 3-point shooter who can score from anywhere on the court, does a good job drawing fouls, is extremely mature and sound fundamentally. In fact the knocks on him are many of the same ones Martin experienced coming into his draft class; not being physical enough, playing against inferior competition as a mid-major etc, etc. However Lee could be the talk of the West bracket if his club can upset Drake and make a George Masonesque run.
4. Joey Dorsey – Comparisons to Ben Wallace abound for Memphis’ 6-9 PF/C. Dorsey is a beast inside using his size, strength and athletic ability to punish teams on the block and rebound over players much taller than him. He hasn’t quite been the force this year that many expected but a lot of that has been attributed to him forcing things in front of scouts. He’s probably a boarder line first-round pick due to his almost complete lack of an offensive game, but for a Raptors’ team in dire need of some strength, grit and glass-gleaning, Dorsey may be a guy Toronto wants to keep a close eye on.
5. Sonny Weems – Weems is another unheralded prospect who is starting to raise some eyebrows. His Arkansas team was a late entry to the big dance however has a great shot at knocking off an inconsistent Indiana club led by freshman sensation Eric Gordon. Weems is one of the most athletic players in the country (check these clips out) and at 6-6 has the necessary size to make it at the next level. He’s not exactly a well-rounded player yet offensively but is a solid defender using his length, quickness and athletic abilities. Right now he projects as a second-round pick but a solid game locking down Gordon and the Hoosiers could send him into first round territory.
We'll be keeping tabs on these and other prospects as the tourney goes on and providing our thoughts leading up to the draft. And as is our annual tradition, we'll be chatting with Draftexpress' Draft Master, Jonathan Givony at some point to discuss these and various other players who might be on Toronto's radar.
Happy March Madness everyone!