Pump Up Music: Fall Out Boy -- "Of All the Gin Joints in All the World"
The Big Picture: The Toronto Raptors are in the midst of an epic slide that could see them actually drop out of the playoffs. They're 4-13 in their past 17 coming into tonight's game at the Cable Box, and they've lost their last three, including a heartbreaker in Miami last night. They're only a half game ahead of the Bulls, and they've been openly freaking out. For their fans, I'm sure, it's tough to watch a team that just a short time ago looked like they'd give the Hawks a tough time in a tremendously entertaining 4-5 slugfest, and now looks like they're doing everything in their power to not choke away the season. (Update: Including going clubbing the night you missed a game with a stomach virus issue...)
Key to Victory: I'm a huge Andrea Bargnani fan. He's still a face up shooter at heart, but I love that his shots at the rim keep increasing from year to year, to the point that he takes as many shots at the rim as from the midrange as from three. Sure, he's got defensive problems, but everyone on the Raps has defensive problems, and it was one of Bryan Colangelo's major failures this year that he didn't figure out a way to get a lockdown wing defender like, say... I don't know... Jamario Moon.
Anyway, hardly anyone in the league has an answer for both Bargnani and Chris Bosh; their frontcourt offense can do anything, from shooting threes to putting it on the floor, to muscling on the block, and all we can hope for is containment on that end.
On the other end, though, is where the Bobcats have to figure something out. Bargnani -- how to put this politely -- has holes in his defense, while Bosh is such a great athlete it's kind of tough for him not to be adequate on D, which he is. However, none of our available centers are going to challenge Bosh much, and Boris Diaw's skills match up to Bargnani's such that Bargs probably feels more comfortable on Monsieur Nonchalant than anyone else we'll throw out there. So, of course, the solution is to play more Tyrus Thomas. I've no doubt he can wreak havoc on Bargnani, and that would free up Boris to play nominal center, where he'd give up a lot to Bosh, but could be much more of a challenge for CB4 to defend.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Someday, I'm convinced, Marco Belinelli will make a team extremely happy as their sixth man. Until then, he can always take solace in the knowledge that he scored 37 points in his first summer league game, tied for second-highest scoring summer league game, ever.