After being totally shocked by the Raptors performance in Game 1 of the regular season, Howland wonders whether the Raps will maintain a high level of play against Memphis, or revert to their old ways and play down to their competition...
Talk about polar opposites.
The Raps, after facing a team with heavy expectations, now matches-up against a team will little to no expectations.
This game is however, no less important.
As exciting as it was to see the Raps stun almost everyone in their home opener win against the Lebrons, given the schedule ahead, securing a W against the Grizzlies is as close to a must-win situation as there is at this point in the season.
Ok, so it is probably a little early to talk about "must-win" games, but let's be realistic here and understand that if the Raps intend on being at least a second tier team in the East, beating the likes of the Grizzlies is essential.
Now make no mistake, this Grizzlies team is not nearly as bad as in years past...at least on paper. Rudy Gay is a maturing and explosive player, OJ Mayo had a terrific rookie season, and Marc Gasol is proving to be a solid center in a league almost devoid of traditional centers. They also acquired a PF who is is constant 20 and 10 guy, which would be a good thing if his name wasn't Zach Randolph.
Actually it's hard to determine what exactly they are trying to achieve in Memphis. They drafted Hasheem Thabeet who is light years away from being anything close to an NBA player, yet at the same time brought in Allen Iverson who, once healthy, will undoubtedly take minutes away from other young players who need to develop like Mike Conley.
Besides, what exactly are these young players supposed to learn from AI (who hates practice) and Zach Randolph?
Moves like this?
Aaah the classic Zach Randolph "i'macrossyouoverandlosetheballsoIcanairballa3" move.
And don't get me wrong, I love AI, I just don't get why he is there.
I have to wonder whether their GM Chris Wallace didn't just decide to make like a mad scientists and hope that somehow he catches lightening in a bottle. Is there any other explanation? Just writing this makes me realize I need to reach out to Straight Outta Vancouver to get their take. I digress...
For the Raps this will be their first road game and it will be interesting to see how they respond after beating the Cavs. The talk after the game was that although the victory in game 1 was nice, it really was just a small step on a long journey. Well, action speak louder than words. The Raps will need to come out focused right from the get go and hopefully play another solid all around game.
Here's what I will be looking at tonight.
1. The Battle of former USC guards: Mayo vs. DeRozan. I mention this match-up more out of interest than because I think it will have a huge outcome in tonight's game. Triano is watching DD's minutes carefully and Mayo (subject to foul trouble) will be on the court most of the game. Nevertheless, it will be an interesting match-up for DeRozan. OJ is a quick, athletic scorer who will need to be closely defended and a good test. If DeRozan and others are able to keep Mayo on the perimeter and force him into another bad shooting night, it will go a long way to securing the W. Mayo, in comparison to DD has been excessively hyped. I can't help but wonder who, at the end of the day, will be the best guard out of USC in the long run. Tonight might give us a glimpse.
2. Battle of the Bigs: The Bosh/Bargnani duo did a great job against the Cavs big men and in many ways tonight's match-up will be similar. Bargnani should be able to draw Gasol out further than he would like, and Bosh has a distinct quickness advantage over Randolph. If Bosh and Bargnani play anything like they did on Wednesday night the Grizz bigs could be in for a long evening. I can't even imagine Thabeet trying to guard either of these guys at this point but wouldn't it be great if the Raps blow this thing open early so we can see Thabeet vs O'Bryant??
3. Working on the D: In the game against the Cavs, the Raps played some solid D but also benefited from some poor shooting from the Lebrons. The D will be tested again this evening as the Grizz have guys that can make their way into the paint. The Raps perimeter defense was atrocious last season so we should get a taste of whether we can expect improvements in that area as well. It would have been particularly interesting if Iverson were healthy enough to play...
Don't forget, we will be posting our live Game Day Thread for this game at tip-off time. Grab your beverage of choice, a seat on the couch, and flip open the lap-top for the always lively discussion as the Raps look to secure victory number 2.