Preview and Chat: The Toronto Raptors

Kurt —  March 11, 2008

Records: Lakers 44-19 (1 seed); Raptors 34-28 (5 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.7 (3rd); Raptors 112.9 (6th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.8 (5th); Raptors 107.8 (11th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Raptors: Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Andrea Bargnani, Rasho Nesterovic.

Lakers Notes: I’ve already got one Lakers post up today, so not going to add a lot here. I will say I think we learn something about the Lakers tonight — how do they bounce back from a poor effort? Is this the kind of team that gets pissed at itself and takes it out on the next opponent? Or do they not take the loss to seriously and come out flat again? We shall see…..

Cuban Banning Bloggers: I’m not going to try and do more than Henry Abbot did today over at TrueHoop. He sums it up well.

I’ll throw in what I think this is about — trying to control the message. The upside of the Web is that teams can through their own sites get more information out to the fans. (The Lakers.com site is amazing for this.) However, the wide, wild world of the Web also makes it harder for teams to control the message that gets out, to spin it how they like. Bloggers like the Brothers K at the LA Times do a great job providing more information to we fans than the beat reporters have time to, they add to the coverage. But, it is information not controlled by the team. I find it very hard to think Cuban did not read the critical post by the Dallas Morning News blogger that triggered the new policy. I find it hard to believe that controlling the message the team wants out there did not spark this. Just my two cents.

The Raptors Coming In: Chris Bosh, the focal point of the Raptors attack, has missed the last week and a half of games, and is expected to miss tonight’s game as well.

The fact he is out figured prominently in answers to questions by Kinnon from Hoops Addict. Since the Raptors, like us, are looking forward to the playoffs, the questions focus on the future.

Right now Toronto is the five seed in the East. What are they going to have to do to win the first round of the playoffs? What are the expectations for the team along those lines?

The most important things for success this year are that the Raptors have Chris Bosh back to full strength, and that TJ Ford gets the second unit and his own game in the proper rhythm.

I can’t stress the importance of Chris Bosh returning to the lineup, and in a proper mindset and energy level. As we’ve seen in the past, his injuries are usually recoverable and in this case, he’s sitting out as a precautionary measure. However, he’s not going to be at his best upon his return. It’s going to take a few games for him to get into the proper rhythm, and proper mindset. When it comes to mindset, Bosh has a tendency to take a lot of outside shots as he can hit them with a high accuracy, and is part of his pick-and-roll game. However, his most effective plays are when he can get to the line consistently. This requires two things. The first is that Bosh has to drive the ball to the basket consistently and pick up fouls. The second is that Bosh needs to keep a good handle on the ball, as he’s been prone to turnovers on drives.

TJ Ford, on the other hand, has struggled upon his return. There are signs that he’s finding it within himself to play more like a team player rather than a very, very expensive Rafer Alston-type. TJ Ford’s mentality is such, that he believes that he can make any shot, and as a result, he tends to dribble himself into trouble and also make questionable decisions at times. When he’s on his game, this makes him an extremely effective and necessary player on the Raptors squad. However, the problem is that it’s inconsistent, and TJ has far more effective weapons playing on the floor at the same time as he is. At the beginning of the year, he made a commitment to play a more “team oriented” style, but with his injuries and the issues that have come up since his return, he hasn’t been able to find that sweet spot between being “the man” and being “the team man”.

What is needed for the Raptors to take the next step? A stronger presence inside to pair with Bosh? Time?

Time is going to be an important factor. The Raptors, being one of the youngest in the league, are going to need to develop the experience to play smarter basketball. However, there are definite needs that need to be addressed. The main two are for a stronger rebounding presence and for an effective wing player that can create a shot, play within the offense, and get to the line.

I’ll address the rebounding presence first. During the trade deadline, I suggested the Raptors needed to go after a Nick Collison-type of player, as he’s one of the few players that have a reasonable contract, with a strong rebounding presence and a high free throw percentage – things that Bryan Colangelo has publicly stated need to be addressed. However, I don’t believe this is going to be as urgently needed as previously thought. I believe Jorge Garbajosa can address these needs, and while Andrea Bargnani has had difficulties getting rebounds, he’s going to get better in the future. In addition, a lot of the times, the Raptors have difficulties rebounding due to the lineups that Sam Mitchell places on the floor. As he’s prone to do, he’ll often leave Bargnani on the floor with four smalls. This lineup, while usually replaced with Bosh, can be efficient at times, does nothing but exasperate the Raptors’ rebounding troubles.

The wing player, on the other hand, is something that can’t be developed internally. The Raptors have relied heavily on both Carlos Delfino and Jamario Moon to provide the needed defense and scoring punch from the wing positions, but there’s just no dancing around the issue. The Raptors definitely need a Corey Maggette-kind of player. A player that can get to the hoop, yet make his free throws will take pressure off of Bosh, and also play passable defense. If we look at the overall stats, the Raptors have one of the lowest Free Throws Attempted per game averages, and yet, they have one of the HIGHEST Free Throw percentages in the entire league. Even more important is the fact that Chris Bosh is one of the top free throw attempt players in the league, and yet the Raptors still don’t play up this inherit strength to the fullest because the team as a whole, doesn’t get to the line often enough. It’s a pressing issue that must be addressed in the off season.

The Last Time These Two Met: It was the day the Pau Gasol trade was announced, and the Lakers came out with incredible energy and just destroyed the Raptors, winning by 25.

Keys To The Game: While they miss Bosh, what Toronto wants to do — kill you on the perimeter with open jumpers — will not change. This is a drive and kick team and in the absence of Bosh Anthony Parker has taken on more scoring. The Lakers are going to be spread out and have to be smart about their help defense tonight (and they have to be good on defense in transition).

Among the things the Lakers have to do is not sag off the three-point shooters of the Raptors. Calderon, Parker, Bargnani, of course Kapono and Delfino all can drill the three. The Lakers can at time collapse as a defense in the paint when an opposing guard penetrates, do that tonight and they will pay a steep price. Also, better perimeter defense to stop that penetration in the first place would be a big help.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 pm (Pacific) with a broadcast on Fox Sports Net in LA and League Pass nationwide.

Kurt

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40 responses to Preview and Chat: The Toronto Raptors

  1. in laker notes- Or do they not take the loss to seriously … I believe it should be “too”…
    being a professional writer and all, thought you might want to fix this.
    someone recently mentioned starting Ronnie at the 5, moving Pau to his natural 4, and swing LO to the 3, so 2 of the 3 could start feeling what this will be like. plus it brings more energy to the starters with Ronnie…
    maybe they will try this when Mihm comes back, cause if they do it now, that depleats the bench.
    thoughts…

  2. Ronnie is to foul prone and it wont be the same because as good as Ronnie is he is not Bynum and if Ronnie gets in early foul trouble your asking a guy who has been out practically all year to step in and contribute but it is interesting and deserves at least some consideration possibly for a stretch in game. I just don’t think you want to lose Rad’s ability right now he is just reestablishing his confidence.

  3. I think if Kobe and Fish RE-commit to protecting the perimeter, it will go a long way to shoring up our d. The next thing that needs to happen is for our SF to play helpside d.

  4. Is anyone else worried that alot of guys on the team seem to think that ‘good D’ means strictly packing the paint?

  5. these are the times where ariza’s prolonged recovery time hurts even more. well, uncertainty in his return hurts more i guess… at least we know bynum could be back in april…

    anyone know about the latest update on ariza?

  6. LO has the highest FG % in the NBA since Feb? Yup, believe it.

  7. Other sites to watch from? Janeiro and channel surfing don’t work!!

  8. jellosjigglin’ March 11, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    BYNUM UPDATE:

    ESPN reports that Andrew ran on a low gravity treadmill for the first time, today.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3288772

  9. Cobly Karl givin us a nice boost. Machine has been sputtering, good to see Phil show him that he has to maintain his level of play to get minutes. Also good to see Turiaf knock down that high-post shoot.

  10. Coby Karl! I cannot believe that was a flagrant though. You would think that the Lakers would come out w/ more intensity on the defensive end, especially on the defensive glass.

  11. Hi ny name is Coby Karl. I’m the son of George.

    Great game by him so far. He’s +7.

  12. On East Coast, can’t watch or listen to the game. Can someone tell me why Sasha has only played 4 minutes and Coby Karl was put in before the 4th?

  13. 12-The team was playing listless, especially on the defensive end. The Son of George had a highlight reel BLOCK SHOT, a couple boards, a three-ball, good passes, just overall positive impact, his best minutes of the year in my opinion.

  14. I think Walton should enter for Vlad. Ground control to Major Tom?

  15. game’s a lot closer than i’d like ;)

    meanwhile, shaq has 2 pts, 3 blks, 6 assists and 8 rebounds on the phx beatdown of memphis.

    Kwame has 4 pts and 5 boards, 1 stl in very little PT, i hope he finds his way along Darko and someday make it one people’s most improved list…

  16. Win or lose, this is a disappointing effort. Listless is a good word for it.

  17. Is Ariza suited, and on the bench?? Yahoo cannot be right.

  18. I would like to officially retract my post from a few weeks ago about Pau’s arrival potentially transforming our defense to something Spurs-esque. He’s really just lost on defense most the time unless he’s guarding someone with their back to the basket. He also just looks a little sluggish on defense — not a ton of activity. When Kobe’s in gambling mode, Pau is sucked out to the perimeter on pick and rolls, and our point guards face speed, we really struggle. If I were Phil, I’d probably feel the need to sit him in big defensive situations down the stretch in playoff games. (I await Drrayeye’s forthcoming car analogy.)

    This is disappointing. We’re clearly an elite offensive team, but I worry that we’re another version of the old Suns or Steve Nash Mavs. Lots of flash and regular season success and then fizzle in the playoffs. When you watch Boston, Detroit, San Antonio, or Houston, they just have a way of making offense hard for other teams — everything is contested and out of sync. Seems like teams get a lot of easy looks against us.

    I know Bynum and Ariza are missing, but I still don’t get why the talented players and athletes we have can’t play consistent, hard nosed, smart, effective defense.

  19. Man, Farmar can’t guard anyone….

  20. Reed- His biggest problem seems to be P&R recovery, as you mentioned previously, it has really allowed teams to get layups. However, his helpside needs to do its job too, and for the most part that help has been late. All around, the D needs to improve, there is no sugar coating this, we are beating teams by outscoring them, and that aint gonna win titles.

  21. did the other teams learn something that we didn’t? pau’s offensive efficiency seems to have dropped considerably…

  22. 20. Agreed.

    Also, it seems lately that our collective transition defense is just miserable (aside from the odd Kobe highlight reel block). Some of it is too much gambling (kobe, point guards, radman), some is speed (gasol, walton, radman), some is complaining to the refs (everyone), some is simple effort.

    We’re overperforming — not playing anywhere near our recent record or the hype. If something doesn’t give, this 4 game road trip could be a disaster. I hate to be a downer, but there are many realistic first round matchups that scare me without a fully healthy Bynum, not to mention the later rounds.

  23. The way the lakers played defense tonight, I predict a career high in assists and possibly points for cp3 this friday. Their overall defense has to improve especially Pau’s d. Even though they won tonight, it was a real disappointing effort. They should’ve easily won by 30 pts instead of the 9 pts. Not really looking forward to this 4 game road trip…

  24. I honestly think that the players are a little intoxicated with their success. We have won games with lackluster performances, boosting our confidence but also creating a false sense of our overall quality. Players aren’t immune to that feeling of superiority that develops from everyone touting your virtues. And, c’mon, the Lakers are the betting favorite to win the title…no one can tell me players don’t know the betting lines and who the favorites are.

    But the one thing I think we have in our favor is Phil’s coaching. At this point in the season, I know that we don’t have the defensive players or execution that would win a title, but so much of playoff basketball is about the game plan and the adjustments that come from facing that same opponent over the course of a series. Phil is one of, if not, the best game planning coaches in the league. Basically, like the Suns series from 2 years ago, I think Phil can come up with schemes that limit the offense of any potential opponent. Maybe I just haven’t gotten to that breaking point yet that some others are at, but I still think that if we give this coaching staff one opponent to focus on we’ll see a much more effective defense.

    And Reed, I feel you on Gasol, but I have not given up hope yet. We still have not seen him paired with Bynum. I still think help situations will change when It’s Bynum helping on the backside of that screen roll play when Gasol is out showing on the ballhandler. I still need to give it some time. I’m just glad we’re still winning games, even if it is mainly on offense. The West is so deep, we really can’t afford to lose, so I’d rather have some issues and win than have these issues and be losing.

  25. Lakers thinking about signing Ira Newble to help with their defense:

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-lakerrep12mar12,1,4257875.story

    Thoughts?

  26. Radmanovic makes me angry. I dont know if I can handle another 3+ years of him on our roster.

    Agree w/ pts 18 and 19. We are playing nowhere close to championship-caliber D right now. We can’t stop penetration or defend the p & r with any consistently. Hopefully Pau’s (lack of) p & r D is due to effort and not something he can’t fix. The threat of playing Golden State in the first round is scaring the —- out of me.

    Also, w/ regards to post #21, it seems as though Pau isn’t being as aggressive in looking for his own shot. Teams are starting to anticipate him passing the rock whenever he gets it. He has to come out shooting to keep the D honest. I don’t think it’s something he won’t be able to get himself out of.

  27. Warren Wee Lim March 12, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Darius, I second that. Its nice to have these problems while winning so that the proper adjustments can be made in time rather than face them amidst losing.

    The secret is out: Pau is no defensive gem. However, there can be many things we can do with him IN SPITE of these concerns and still come up with a proper formula to win.

    I think a lot still hinges on Drew coming back. Just today, ESPN reports he is now on a $75,000 treadmill that can monitor the progress of his knee as well as its forthcoming strength and conditioning.

    My take on the defense, rebounding and the necessary things to win: Should the Lakers find success in the playoffs this year, not one individual could claim the glory for himself – not even Kobe. Drew coming back may also need time to be integrated but having a backup center this way is such a nice problem to have. Rather than be Camby-like in his return, I expect Drew to take it easy and be re-acclimated to the weather before he exerts himself to a point of agravating the injury.

    Instead, what I would love to see would be how Phil could teach the boys to defend as a group. Pau is weak on the show, and Farmar is rather late to recover. Say this 47 times in one game and it gets boringly useless. Still, the coaching staff needs to get something done because looking for “better” players to do these things is not an option. Whether its Farmar getting mixed assignments on defense as Sasha bothers the ball-handler or ultimately experimenting on a funky lineup I don’t care – we need to run the offense so that we could get past the 1st 2 rounds.

  28. I honestly believe that Ariza’s return will impact our game tremendously. He will be able to guard perimeter players, improving our D and getting us more fast break points… Let’s just wait for Ariza and Bynum…

  29. I worry about the defense because I think it’s a reflection of attitude and effort. Pau, Farmar, etc. could be really effective, smart defenders, but right now they’re putting tremendous strain on our team defense by constantly getting beat or being out of position.

    Darius makes a great point about dealing with success. Besides Fisher and Kobe, no one on the team has experienced this kind of overwhelming media love fest. They seem to be playing with a sense of entitlement, rather than showing a veteran, hard nosed work ethic. I think that explains a lot of the complaining with refs (which Phil apparently talked to them about) and focus on scoring rather than defense. They did seem better with the refs last night — Phil must have gotten through.

    These are still good problems to have though. It’s easier to fix attitude and effort than a talent shortage. And (with Bynum) we are the most talented team in the league 1-12. Even without him, we are right there. Given the fact that if we don’t get the 1 seed we’ll draw Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans, or Houston in the first round (and probably have a limited Bynum), I’d really like to see the team show a little more energy and intelligence on defense. This road trip will be a great measuring stick and comes at a great time (a few weeks before the playoffs) — they’ll either rise to the occasion or realize they have a lot of work to do before the playoffs.

  30. I second and third and fourth everybody’s previous comments. It’s come to a breaking point — not only am I tired of thinking, “Well, a W is a W,” I’m flat out worried that I continue to say it. We are playing — and this has been the norm for a while now — nowhere near the level of hype that’s been thrown our way. Maybe it’s our youth, maybe it’s the buzz of getting Gasol wearing off, maybe it’s tired legs, I don’t know.

    It’s true that it’s better to be winning these games than losing them, but every game I expect Phil to get through to this team, to see us come out thirsty for blood, and every game it’s clear from the get-go that it’ll be a fight to finish, regardless of who we’re playing. I guess this weekend really will indicate where our heads are at.

  31. It is interesting reading that the players may have been reading their own press clippings. I have said how I feel the ‘talking heads’ are really rather empty, but I feel the fans (us people) have also been drinking the kool-aid.

    We were, correctly, really bummed out when Bynum and Ariza went down because we felt our defense would suffer. Well it has, big time! When we got Gasol we were so overjoyed that we forgot our problem with defense. Well, we became the most efficient offensive team and that somewhat covered it up – just like Phoenix in previous years.

    Now we are surprised we are having trouble because the ‘talking heads’ have us rated the favorite to win the title. Whoa there! Nothing has changed. We are who we said we are. Farmar is a small guard and we are beginning to see why Phil doesn’t really like small guards. Kobe roams too much – not new. Gasol is a good help defender, but not much man-to-man (the opposite of Kwame). Lamar has the need to always ‘help out’ and leaves his man at the wrong time. Fisher is too slow to handle quick guards consistently (gee, that is real news).

    These are not new things. We have to have 1-2 players who will play their positions and not cheat; and they need to be people who will play close to the basket. If we pick up anybody, they must be able to do this or we should just leave them off the roster.

  32. Regarding defense. I’ve watched a few of the Rocket’s recent games and their D reminds me alot of Boston’s, as it should as Tom Thibodeau installed both defenses. Except the Rockets player hustle more than any other team I’ve seen. There is a good article about this in this article.http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/5611886.html

    I’d like the Lakers to pick up a bit of this intensity.

    Also, for those interested in the $75,000 “anti-gravity” treadmill Bynum is now running on. This link describes the technology (originally from NASA)
    http://www.alter-g.com/alterg/bd.aspx

    Any of you getting one for your house?

  33. The first link doesn’t seem to have worked… try again.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/5611886.html

  34. Why were the Raptors wearing Lakers jerseys last night? It confused the hell out of me for how the lakers could be outrebounded by Toronto while allowing an egregious amount of points in the paint, while shooting nothing but threes. Then it occured to me that the teams must have switched jerseys and it was opposite day. It’s the only thing that made sense. There’s no way Rasho Nasterovic was keeping Pau Gasol from scoring at will.

    So anyways, this was a terrible loss for the Lakers, though Kobe showed a lot of heart singlehandedly keeping us in the game late. I never realized how much he looked like TJ Ford before…

    Seriously though, Reed is absolutely right. We are not playing as well as the media is saying. If we play anywhere near as lazy as we have been, we’ll go 0-4 over the next week. Sink or swim time coming up.

  35. Something positive about our recent play: Lamar Odom. He is doing everyything right, taking smart shots, cutting consistently, defending well, rebounding great. This all bodes well for when Bynum is in the lineup with him and Gasol. Makes me much more confident about him at the 3, especially when he is in rhythm, stepping into his shot.

  36. 34 – hilarious

    I agree that we didn’t play that great last night, but I think we’ll be OK down the stretch. After this last big roadie, we have mostly home games with easy teams for the rest of the year. We can use this time to build up confidence and continue to learn how to shut down teams in the 3rd quarter.

  37. Since Pau Gasol has been a Laker, we haven’t lost, though we ran out of time on a few games. Still, we have some Chicken Littles telling us that the sky is falling.

    The Raptors can beat you from the outside, so our defense played them tight. They took it to the basket. They packed the interior, so we shot the lights out from the outside. J. D. (34), that switching jerseys analogy is not too far off.

    Against a pretty good team, the Lakers slightly exceeded their average victory margin. It was a so-so game all the way. Maybe some of the fans were expecting Kobe to score 81 again. I guess lots of you were looking for Pau to provide some muscle with his lock down “D.” Even when his ghost wasn’t here, that’s not been how we’ve been beating Toronto.

  38. 35. Agree. This has been the best stretch of Odom’s career as a Laker. Maybe not as many big scoring games as some other stretches, but the efficiency, passing, rebounding, and defense have been superb. He’s shooting at an absurd clips and really making good decisions about when to assert himself. Having a productive Odom is huge for our playoff hopes.

    I think much of the credit should go to Pau, who perfectly complements Odom on offense with his high post passing and scoring. Pau really is one of the better passing big men in the league (and he’s a willing passer, almost to a flaw) and Odom has taken full advantage of it with his off the ball movement.

  39. New post on last night’s win up.

  40. 38- you are the kind of guy who always thinks the glass is half-empty, don’t you? don’t take it bad, but sincerelly, i don’t agree with most of your thoughts/comments about the Lakers :s