After grabbing a win at home the Toronto Raptors have once again packed their bags and they are off to the West Coast for another road trip. Up first? LA's other team...the Clippers.
Could the Raps make it two in a row in this late night match-up?
Here is what I know about the Los Angeles Clippers.
- The have a good team (on paper).
- They have to love the fact that Elton Brand decided to skip town and end up with the 76ers.
- They have to be somewhat disappointed with the play of Baron Davis.
- They must be chomping at the bit waiting for Blake Griffin to hit the court.
- They have one of the worst owners (Donald Sterling) in all of sport and I can't help but wonder if he and Al Davis are not the same person.
- Mike Dunleavy is a horrible coach and this team looks like it is in complete disarray on both ends of the court.
- Their three wins this season have come against Minnesota, Golden State and Memphis.
- As much as the Raptors frustrate me sometimes, I am grateful that I am not a Clippers fan.
For those living in the Eastern Time Zone I don't think there is a worse opponent for the Raps to have with a 10:30 pm start time on a Friday night. Just a hunch, but I think viewer numbers are going to be down for this game.
Nevertheless, this is an important game. Given their upcoming schedule against some of the elite teams in the league this is a great opportunity for the Raptors to build of the second half of the Bulls game and secure back to back wins for the third time this season. I have said this before, if the Raps can get some momentum early on this season it is going to go a long way down the stretch.
Despite all my points above I don't think this Clippers team is simply going to hand the game over to the Raps as an early Christmas present. We all know that the Raps have a propensity to let the opposition score at will and this Clippers team with the likes of Baron Davis, Chris Kaman and Al Thornton can, if given the opportunity, fill it up.
Speaking of Chris Kaman, he alongside Marcus Camby, makes for an interesting match-up against the Raps two-headed monster in Andrea Bagnani and Chris Bosh.
After the win against Chicago there was a lot of talk on the site about Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh and which player is the most challenged on the defensive end of the court. It sparked quite the debate.
Well, now it's really time to evaluate and the NBA's schedule makers have provided a number of opponents, Clippers included, who will really help resolve the debate.
Kaman is an excellent back to the basket player and a very good rebounder. Camby, over the course of his career, has been a great paint presence with shot-blocking ability and a terrific nose for the ball. It's going to be a test for the Raptors bigs no doubt about it. Let's see how Raps defend these two bigs and see who, if anyone can step up their defensive game. Bosh? Bargnani? Or will Triano be forced to look at Amir Johnson to help provide the required resistance.
The match-up between the big men is really what I will be watching but here are three other keys to tonight's game:
1. Perimeter Defense: For those who have not seen a Clippers game this season, if it wasn't for the nasty beard, you probably wouldn't recognize Baron Davis. He has really taken care of his body and is much more fit and slim this season. He is looking more agile on the court and although his shooting percentages still leave much to be desired, he has a little pep in his step. He will undoubtedly be looking forward to his match-up against Jose Calderon in hopes of using his quickness to attack the paint. Al Thorton is another Clipper who loves to attack the rim.
If the Raptors defenders can't stay in front of the Clippers guards and small forwards it could make for a long night. It will also make it more difficult on Bosh and Bargnani to defend their respective match-ups. For all the talk about the lack of defense being shown by the Raptors bigs, it is all a rather moot point if they are not getting help from their teammates.
2. Shooting Contest: These Clippers have no hesitation when it comes to shooting the rock. Given the lack of game plan on the offensive end I am sure you will all make note of each of their player's willingness to jack it up at every opportunity. They also like to shoot the three ball, much like the Raps.
If we learned anything from the Bulls game it is that the Raptors have a better chance at succeeding when they focus on getting the ball inside and then looking for the three. As Franchise pointed out the Raps took 16 three's in the first half of the Bulls game and were down. When they finally started to get aggressive on offense in the second half it helped turn things around. In my opinion the Raps simply take too many three's. Against a team like the Clipper's it would be natural to get into a three ball contest but the recipe for success is a heavy dosage of Bosh and Bargs in the paint either drawing the foul, making a hoop from close range or drawing the double team and then, and only then kicking it out for the three ball.
3. Play Above Your Opponent: As mentioned from the top this Clippers team is good on paper but the results simply are not there. The Raps cannot play down to their opponent tonight. A loss here could set a bad tone for the next week. As someone mentioned on the site yesterday the Raps are treading water around the .500 level right now which is respectable given the early schedule of games. It would be nice to see that trend continue.