Pump Up Music: The Living End -- "Roll On"
The Big Picture: The Toronto Raptors have won four in a row, a home and home against the Pistons, home against the Hornets, and home against the Nets. That's a good thing for them, but it's no indication of major change from the last time we saw them, a month ago. In that game, in Charlotte, the Bobcats crushed the Raps 116-81.
The Raptors' defining feature is probably their horrifically bad defense. They have the worst DRtg in the league, by a good margin, and they create the fewest turnovers. Fortunately for them, they're in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt because their offense is excellent, fifth in the league in ORtg. I think this is all a function of matchup problems they cause for their opponents when on offense that bleed over to the other end of the court. Most centers and power forwards can't really deal with either Chris Bosh or Andrea Bargnani, defensively. They'll pull them outside and shoot over them or put it on the floor and use their quicks. Or if the defense goes small and tries to play them with long small forward types, Bosh, especially, will punish them on the block and in the midrange.
But that goes both ways. On defense, Bosh and Bargnani can get muscled by those guys who can't keep up with their speed and outside shooting, and they're not exactly noted for their help defense against quicker guys, which is a particular problem with Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu are on the perimeter. Calderon's defense has never been spectacular, and I sense that Turkoglu's defense was hidden quite a bit by Dwight Howard the past few years. Without that guy in the middle, the defense suffers, but without that guy in the middle, the offense prospers.
Key to Victory: Last time around, the Cats put 'em away with a 20-5 third quarter run, and they didn't have an answer for Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson. Bosh and Bargnani got theirs last time around, but Turkoglu was completely shut down, and both Wallace and Jackson will be tasked with repeating that tonight. The game becomes a lot easier when one of your opponent's key players can't do what he normally does.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Somehow, some way, and this doesn't sound right -- but Wikipedia is always right, eh? -- Jay Triano is the first Canadian-born coach, assistant or head, in the NBA.