Reggie Working Hard To Comeback

When things started for the Raptors back in September on of the new Raptors that quickly was embraced by the fans is Reggie Evans. In the first pre-season game in London Ontario the crowd broke out into a Reggie chat almost right away. No one could have expected that Reggie would not make it to the regular season. He would injury his foot in a pre-season game vs Boston and it has been a long frustrating time since. That being said Reggie gives a lot of credit to the the Raptors training staff and says if he was somewhere else he might be going crazy by now. He also says even though he is asked about it often he appreciates that fans are anxious to have him back. We also talk a little football as Iowa where Reggie went to school take on Georgia Tech in a bowl game. He offers some thoughts on that and how his Georgia Tech Alum team mates even know Iowa will win. Never did get a reply from Jarrett Jack or Chris Bosh to defend their school. Have a listen to Reggie in the Starting 5.

#9 Georgia Tech take on #10 Iowa in the Orange Bowl on January 5th. That is the night before the Raptors will take on Orlando for the final time this regular season. A few interested observers in the Raptors looker room for that one. Reggie just had another MRI on his foot and is doing all that he can to get back in the line-up. If you want to pass on a word of encouragement to Reggie hit him up on Twitter @ReggieEvans30 as he said it helps him keep working hard. I think everyone looks forward to him working hard on the floor sooner rather than later. He is the first one up on the bench encouraging his team. You have to love his passion and feel for what he has gone through. Hopefully 2010 will be the Year of Reggie in Raptorland. You will not meet a more kind guy off the floor. When he gets back on it is still not known but as Reggie is doing more things it is a positive sign he is heading in right direction. He continues to work hard behind closed doors to make it happen ASAP. Happy New Year to Reggie and to all of you that check out the Dino Nation Blog on a regular basis. May you all have a safe and health 2010. If you are out having fun tonight please stay safe and don't drink and drive.Want everyone to make it into 2010 in one piece.

Raps Close 2009 On The Posiitive Tip

It is always a lot different checking out a game at the ACC rather than at home. It was a pretty decent sized crowd with the Bobcats paying a visit to the ACC. Actually was in a new spot checking out the game last night. Normally I am way up high but I was down in the lower bowl next stop press row. Just kidding truth is I just feel fortunate to be covering games. It has been a year of learning for me and it has been a great experience. Each time it gets a little easier and I don't feel as much like...what the heck am I doing here? It is a different perspective to get to be around the players and see them off the floor as well as on it. I mean you can watch the post game media scrums and get a little sense of it. There is lots of other stuff though that you don't see on Raps T.V.

The best example for me is Chris Bosh talking proud about his hometown Cowboys. There is not a lot I have in common with Chris Bosh I would imagine, but we do have that. Never asked him this but I wonder who Chris thinks is hotter right now? His Boys or his Cowboys? Both are riding high heading into 2010. But seeing as this is a basketball blog will stick to the Raptors. Another fun thing that goes on is the verbal banter between Sonny Weems and Demar DeRozan. There has been an on going friendly debate on who would win a dunk off between the 2 players. Both claim that it is no contest and that the other would lose. Nothing like some internal competition. The point to all of this is you get to see a little of what all these guys are like as people beyond stats on a sheet.

On the injury front still no clear idea on when Jose Calderon or Reggie Evans will return. Jay Triano said prior to the game that Jose is starting to do some things but does not expect him back in the near future. Best case scenario he is still a couple weeks away. In terms of Reggie it is still very much in the dark. More on him later on but there is a game to talk about. It was a pretty good game at that. It would see another Raptor go down with an injury. Hedo Turkoglu left the game at halftime with a bruised knee. The injury did not happen in the game though as it was said by Jay Triano that the knee had been bruised in practice.

The Game, almost forgot about that. The Bobcats for whatever reason can not play well on the road. At least not well enough to win. They had to feel some level of confidence though playing the Raptors who they had scored their largest win in franchise history against. This would turnout to be a very scrappy affair at the ACC. The Bobcats to a lesser extent offer many of the same problems that a team like the Hawks do for the Raptors. Raptors would get a solid effort from both Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani through out the night. When both Bosh and Bargnani have it going on the same night the Raptors make for a tough win for anyone.

The Raptors on the defensive end did not do a good job in terms of shooting percentage but what they did successfully was force Bobcats into turnovers. Triano in the post game press conference suggested that he wanted his team to take chances and be aggressive. The Raptors were very scrappy through out the night. They would fall behind in the battle on glass but would fight back and eventually win the battle.They would edge Bobcats 36-35 including 17 of those 36 on the offensive end. The Raptors would trail at the half 56-55 on the scoreboard after the had held the lead for the majority of the half.

The Raptors would get off to a slow start in the 3rd and it was not looking good for a time. They continued to fight and would eventually take the lead the lead back and Marco Belinelli would hit a clutch shot at the end of the quarter to take a 84-80 lead into the 4th. It was a quite the battle in the 4th. A foul by Marcus Banks would draw a crowd and draw a crowd. This team has come a long way from that team vs Boston that many questioned. When Bosh was hit below the belt and there was little to no reaction to it. Those days seem like a long time ago as this group really seems to have come together. In the end it would be Bosh and Bargnani that would combine on the key play to win it. A kick out to Bargnani and open look from 3 that Bargnani would drill to give the Raptors a 104-100 lead. Bosh had 33 and Bargnani 28 in the 107-103 win.

Bosh on Bargnani- "Andrea we need him to play. He's done a very good job, He did a spectacular job tonight. We need him to score and play good defense"

So the Raptors close out 2009 winning 5 in a row. Jarrett Jack has been running the offense through this stretch. Jarrett Jack said that it was more about defending home court as much as it was about closing the year on a streak.

Jarrett Jack- " I think for one, we came back and we took care of home court for the most part. Anytime you come into your building you want to use that to your advantage. When you go on the road you can use that rhythm that you build when you go on the road. That is definitely what were going to need when you go to a hostile place like Boston."

Jack also talked about there being a college like vibe in terms of the hustle and taking charges. Just an overall more aggressive attitude and approach. He said that the knocks this team had taken in the past in terms of toughness were in the past and this team has a new attitude about things. There was no talk about what happens when Jose eventually comes back. Jarrett Jack is not going to go there and that is likely a good thing. What is clear though is Jack really is growing into a leader on this team on and off the floor. It is not expected that Jose will be back for some big match-ups vs Boston, San Antonio and Orlando. If Jack plays well in these upcoming games it will only strengthen the case he should remain in the starting 5. Whatever ends up happening this should be a lot less toxic a situation. What would the Raptors be without some drama at the point guard spot.

Besides things are going well and the Raptors enter 2010 just 1 game below .500. Which when you looked at the schedule they have faced is not really all that bad. I will have some more stuff on Reggie and Demar later today before the DNB closes up shop for 2009.


Looking Ahead To Bobcats

I have been having some major issues with a toothache. Finally I sucked it up and went to the dentist this morning. I am going to have to get a tooth pulled in the New Year. So I am taking some medication and am starting to feel better. Last night I was not feeling as well but did try my best to watch the Bobcats and Bucks game. The Bobcats at home are a much different story than they are on the road. Raptors experienced that first hand. The Raptors lost 116-81 to the Bobcats in Charlotte. It was one of those awful games, where the Raptors looked truly defenseless at times. The Bobcats won 94-84 last night against the Bucks to move to 11-4 at home despite a lack of fan support. However they are a dreadful 1-13 on the road it is like night and day. Raptors have been like that as we can relate. Toronto is a fairly impressive 10-5 at home. In the year the Raptors won a division title they won 30 on their home floor that year.

In watching last night what becomes fairly obvious when you watch the Bobcats they seem to go as well as Gerald Wallace will take them. Stephen Jackson has added a scorer to the mix for Charlotte. He looked sloppy last night and made several silly turnovers in the game. Another Bobcat that has taken some steps backwards this season is D.J Augustin. He had a solid rookie season but has not been enjoying the same success in his 2nd season. Speaking of rookies, Gerald Henderson has pretty much lost his spot in the Bobcats rotation.The reason is the play of Stephen Graham the twin brother of Joey G. It is odd given the success of the Duke program that so many of their players end up as disappointments. Henderson was a player I liked a lot in this draft class but safe to say Demar DeRozan and his future looks a lot brighter.

Tyson Chandler is out again for the Bobcats that will be welcome news to both Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani. Chandler has matched up well against both in the past. He was a big factor for Charlotte on the defensive end of the floor in that big win. In fact that win against the Raptors was the largest margin of victory in Bobcats history. Raptors have far to many of those stats on the books with both teams and individuals. I have not researched it but it would be interesting to know how many players in the league have a career high against the Raps. I can think of 3 just off the top of my head. Kobe and his 81 we all know, Jamal Crawford in his days with the Bulls dropped 50 and LBJ had a huge 50+ performance for the Cavs against the Raps.

It was a pretty easy win for the Bobcats as the Bucks were never really close in this game. Brandon Jennings was able to get to the hoop fairly easily and the Bucks shot terrible. They had a lot of open looks that you could imagine the Raptors hitting in the same situation. A big reason for the Bobcats win was the contribution they have from their bench scoring 43 points. Raptors have trouble with the athletic nature of the Bobcats. Gerald Wallace, Josh Smith and other players on that nature have always been a thorn in the Raptors side.

The Raptors are rolling winning 4 in a row and looking very solid on the defensive end. It will be interesting to see how that holds up against this athletic and aggressive team. Given the Bobcats struggles on the road it would be wise to get off to fast start. Raptors have actually been fairly good at that throughout the year. The key will be keeping after it for all 4 quarters. This is a game that screams for the "Young Guns" to step up and get noticed. Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems and Demar DeRozan can all battle in terms of athletic ability and they need to hustle and fight it out on both ends of the floor.

If the Raptors do not overlook the Bobcats, which they would have no business doing, this is a winnable game. While many have discredited the Bobcats I said at the beginning of the season that I felt they would be in the fight for the 8th spot in the East. They are doing that but it is more by a case of omission on behalf of the entire lower half of the East. You have to say this though they likely play in the toughest division in the East in the Southwest. The Division that some people once laughed about is now a pretty solid Division with the Magic and Hawks at the top. The Raptors have the good fortune of being in the easiest with only the Celtics as a real challenge. The Raptors will those Celtics and the Magic along with the Spurs at the start of the New Year. All though challenges and it makes this one all the more important.

I am going to be in the house for this one live so I will get a look first hand on how they make out. So no Raptors Rewind tomorrow. In fact likely not a blog at all. I am not the only one on the IR here at the Dino Nation Blog...my laptop is also on the shelf as well. So doubt I will be doing much tomorrow in terms of writing. However I will be looking to chat with a bunch of folks and take advantage of the chance to talk with as many of the Raps as I can, and get my bang for my buck in going down to cover the game. So be it bad tooth...bad monitor or whatever else...The DNB marches along and grinds it out. Just in case Happy New Year..and all the Best in 2010. Thinking some of you might be to busy to read on New Year's Eve. So I will get the all the best in the New Year business out of the way. May all of you that read have a happy and successful 2010.


DNB Back From The Break

Raptors made it 4 in a row yesterday. It looked like they were on the way to another blowout win over Detroit. They would fade in the 3rd quarter but would not fold. The Piston did have a number of guys back for this 2nd game in Toronto. That along with being beat by 30, you had to expect the Pistons would have a better effort and they did. How far has Sonny Weems come by the way? Getting minutes in the late going of that game with the outcome still very much in doubt. If anyone said the best off-season move that Bryan Colangelo made was Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems for Roko Ukic and Carlos Delfino they likely would have been laughed at. But both Weems and Johnson have been key members of the Raptors bench. Johnson on more nights than not has been the energy guy off the bench battling hard on the glass and doing a solid job replacing Reggie Evans who still has yet to play a game.

Jarrett Jack meantime continues to build his case for not just being the starting point guard now but perhaps for good. He has been solid in replacing the injured Jose Calderon and looks like he has found his comfort level with this group. No one is quite sure when Calderon is expected to return but Jack has made it far less of a concern. Even Marcus Banks has been putting in solid minutes behind Jack. He still makes at least one or two dumb plays on offense a game. That being said his defense along with Jack has been a major upgrade from what we have seen from Jose Calderon in the past.

In fact as a team the defense overall is better. The Raptors magic number looks to be 100 and it has nothing to do with fans getting pizza. When the Raps hold teams under 100 they are a perfect 12-0 which is tops in the NBA. Since camp in Ottawa the focus and message from the Raptors has been all about defense. Despite some of the most horrible defensive efforts in team history this season. They do seem to have turned a corner so to speak. Granted they do have a softer schedule they are taking advantage of at present. However it is building some much needed confidence for this team on that end of the floor. Confidence in the system itself and in each other to be where they are suppose to be.

When you look at the standings when you consider all of the doom and gloom talk that has surrounded this team you have to be shocked that the Raptors sit 6th at 15-17. Part of that is just the lack of depth in the east in terms of talent. There is a clear divide from the top 4 in the East and everyone else. The Raptors have not done well against those top 4 with just a lone opening night win over Cleveland to show for there efforts vs these top 4. If you base things on this moment and time the Raptors would have little to no chance to advance in the Playoffs once they get there. However it is the end of December not the start of April so there is still lots of time and things do change.

The other thing of note is Hedo Turkoglu is starting to look better and his assist totals have been on the rise. He made a great feed to Sonny Weems for a slam dunk. Just one of the latest dimes he has been dropping. He is starting to score a little bit as well and is making key 3 pointers when the Raptors need them. Perhaps Hedo has finally turned the corner and is back to playing at level somewhere closer to what Bryan Colangelo had in mind when he signed him to his massive contract.

While I admit for me Hedo has been a massive disappointment things are getting better with him. I also admit that this team for all the grumbling and complaining is really about where I expected them to be when the schedule was released. I said the Raptors would be challenged to be at .500 by the end of the year. Well they will end up 3 games below or 1 game below depending on the result with the Bobcats. I will be heading down to Toronto for that one to cover it. Should be fun considering the Bobcats earlier in the year but the boots to the Raptors. Will see if Raps can return the favour. It is good to be back despite not feeling the greatest today. But overall I enjoyed taking a bit of a mini break. I really needed one. Still was working for Score in the time off though and what a mess that Indy game was yesterday. Whatever happened to YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME. Oh well Raptors are playing to win games and they have been successful the last 4 times.


Raptors Rewind- Merry in Motown?

It is a banged up group of Pistons. Charlie V and Ben Gordon will give it a go. Rip Hamilton and Prince will not. Raps still no Jose and no Reggie Evans. The pistons played last night and lost to the Bobcats. While the Raptors have been idle since a win over the Hornets on Sunday. Can the Raptors keep things rolling into the Christmas break. We are about to find out. Pistons have always had good success vs Toronto but the Pistons are on a serious decline and have lost their last 5 games as they enter this extended back to back with the Raptors. Christmas is almost here but a little business to take care of before then. Key to the Raptors hold a team under a hundred you win the Raps are an NBA best 10-0 when they do that.

1st Quarter

Both teams fail to score on their opening possessions. Bargnani opens up the score sheet with a jumper for 2. Rodney Stuck answers with a runner and we are tied at 2. Demar DeRozan gets to the line and makes a couple once he gets there. A few early turnovers for the Raptors was not a good thing. Another bad sign Pistons were getting on the glass on both ends. Pistons had an early 8-6 lead. An easy dunk for Jason Maxiell and a second chance score and Pistons were working hard and being rewarded lead 12-7. This game was off to a slow start and Raptors were sleep walking a bit and trailing 14-11. The good news is the Pistons were not exactly running away with things and Raps were slowly coming around. Jack to Bosh for a slam and maybe that will wake up the troops as Raps lead 19-16. Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems were in the game and matching the Detroit hustle.

Proof... as Johnson and Weems leads to the Sonny Slam!!! The Raptors Young Guns getting it done. big props to the bench guys who have got this game back on track. Bargnani not a bench guy currently hits a big 3. Raptors lead 24-16 but Pistons come back and score and get the foul plus a foul get 3 of their own. Hedo missed an easy lay-up off a Bosh pick. It was far from great but Raptors take a 25-21 lead after one in the motor city.

2nd Quarter

Raps were still looking like they had one to many egg nogs the night before and Pistons came out and got the jump and tied it up at 27. Raps but Jack back in and say bye bye to Banks. It pays off with a J-Jack 3.....Raps reel off 5 straight after the Pistons tied it. Marco Belinelli makes it an 8-0 run hitting a 3 it has been awhile. Marco was on fire with 7 off the bench and Raptors on a 10-0 run leading 37-27. This game had a real sluggish feel to it. The Raptors should win this one easily but you had the feeling they were not going to make it easy even though they have an 8 point lead. There is the chance I might be wrong. it happens to the best of us. Raptors on a 15-2 run thanks to team Italy mostly with Marco and Andrea getting it done on the offensive end.

Team Georgia Tech wants in on the act..J-Jack the corner 3 you can book it like me on Santa's good list. Raptors rolling now leading 45-31. Boing his part for team G-Tech Chris Bosh makes the hook shot in the lane. Raptors have a 47-33 lead against the under armed Pistons. Finally even Hedo gets on track as he makes an open 3. Some folks don't want to rock the boat but I got new for those folks...you are looking at the Raptors starting point guard moving forward. You do not need sources or insider info to see that Jarrett Jack is EARNING the starting job. We all got 2 eyes in our heads and can see it. Well some of us can. Raptors were up huge 54-37.

3rd Quarter

Hedo was wide awake and hitting a 3 pointer and the Raptors lead was 20. Pistons were just under manned and had run out of the fight they had early. Hedo would hit the youngster DeRozan and Hedo had 8 assists to go with 8 points. This one had turned into a laugher as the Raps were ho ho hoing along to a win up 67-44. The Raptors only thing that did not go there way was a Marco Belinelli 3 at the buzzer would get dis-allowed on replay. The Raptors were rolling 74-51.

4th Quarter.

Get out the Salami and Chesse this ball game was already over Raptors leading 81-55. They were going to break the longest road losing streak in team history vs an individual team. But this is not the same Pistons team that owned the Raptors during that stretch. If I was into giving pity to the other side then I would feel terrible for Detroit. However no one ever felt sorry for us when we get killed have they? So instead I will enjoy the beating and get all happy for the holidays. Raptors have been great on O all night and after a slow start the D has been fantastic. Raptors will move to 11-0 when they hold teams to under 100. It does not take a rocket scientist to tell you what the key is for this basketball team.

Jack Armstrong has called garbage time and he is right with Raptors up 83-59. Pops and Kwame Brown match-up on the floor should tell you how this one was going. The Dino Nation Blog will be taking a Holiday Break till Monday. Some may say I started my break early but there really was not a lot to say. Raptors Rolled about covers it. This is the first win at the Palace since April 2003 for the Raptors a span of 11 games. It was a 94-64 Raptors win to make it 3 in a row.

To all of you fine folks that read and support the Dino Nation Blog thanks and may you and your families all have a Very Merry Christmas and see you on Monday with some thoughts on the re-match between these 2 teams on Sunday.


Christmas Edition Of 3 up and 3 Down

Ok I am not even close to ready for Christmas.....YIKES!!! So will keep it short today with 3 Up and 3 Down with a Christmas Twist.

Santa's Good List:

1. Steve Nash is doing it again. Throw out his birth certificate it doesn't matter. Nash has had another M.V.P worthy season as we close in on the Christmas Break. He has been great and a thrill to watch on a nightly basis. Canada's greatest baller has proven he is far from done. If he would just say yes to playing in the summer for Canada that would be the cherry on top.

2. Stan Van Gundy is never happy and probably does not belong on Santa's good list. However the ends justify the means. Despite an injury to his starting point guard, having to deal with the good and bad of Vinsanity and not having Rashard Lewis for the first 10 games..Still SVG finds a way to win. Magic Fans have to send Billy Donovan's wife a Christmas card ever year they have SVG. Donovan based on his wife's encouragement gave up the Magic head coaching job after a week after accepting it. To early to tell if Portland fans will be doing the same with Hedo's wife for the next 5 years.

3. Jarrett Jack has been vocal and playing at a high level. No Jose....No Problem. Jack in 2010 will be your Raptors starting point guard. It is just a matter of when and not if he will be now. Still no idea on when Jose could return but it is clear that Jack deserves to keep his starting spot. Just as clear as it was for Jose fans that he deserved it when T.J Ford returned from injury. Jack has been a straight shooter and you get no B.S and a heck of a point guard. It is a New Jack New Year on the way you can Marcus Banks on it!!!

and Lump of Coal

1. Chicago Bulls have been a bitter disappointment. Blowing a 35 point lead and losing to the Kings? Oh man that is not good. Chin up Chuck Swirsky but the Bulls are really hurting hard. There had all of those Kobe Bryant rumours a few seasons ago. If they were true the Bulls should have made the deal. Now they wait and hope for 2010 free agency help next year.

2. Hedo Tukoglu has been a bitter disappointment. He is starting to turn the corner we hope. However with only a few games left in 2009 he will overall be disappointing. Let's hope he can turn it around but for now he is on the naughty list. He still has lots of money to spend for the holidays so don't feel to bad for him.

3. The Eastern Conference also gets a lump of coal. The top 4 teams are not deserving but as a whole it is the same old sorry East. Will I ever live long enough to see an Eastern Conference where you need to be better than .500 to make the playoffs? I am starting to wonder as year after year the bottom of the East Playoffs is embarrassing. Come on Eastern Conference pick it up and give me some pride that the team I cover is in the East.

O.K that is it....pray for me as I brave the crazy last minute shopping madness. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays just 1 more game before the break tomorrow vs Pistons at the Palace.


Happy Holidays From DNB

No blog today but here is a little Holiday cheer as the Kobe and Lebron Puppets are back and in the Holiday Spirit:


Raptors Rewind- Cowboy Up Edition

Chris Bosh and the Dino Blogger are both smiling today because the Dallas Cowboys defeated the New Orleans Saints. The undefeated New Orleans Saints. How the Cowboys eventually won the game was on a defensive play by Ware. He less than a week earlier was taken off the field in a stretcher with an injury to his neck. The Hornets are far from undefeated (12-13) and in fact the Raptors have a win already over the Hornets. The lesson in what the Cowboys did was as good as their offense played for 3 quarters it was in the end the defense that secured the victory. The Raptors have struggled all year on defense and unlike in football, the guys on offense are the same on defense. But the lesson is clear as good as you can be on offense you need to have a defensive effort at the end of the day to win. Chris Paul is just as talented on a basketball floor as Drew Brees is on a football field. Paul is truly talented and is coming off one of his best games of this season. It will not be easy but the Raptors need to "Cowboy Up" and get a win.

1st Quarter

Raps win the tip and get a Bosh dunk that is a nice way to start. CP3 gets fouled by Bargs and makes a pair at the line. Demar Derozan scores and Hornets answer it was a nice start 4-4. Chris Bosh would get his second score to make it 8-6. Bargnani got a steal but Raps could not cash in and extend the lead. Later Jarrett Jack would though and draw the foul. Raps had no Jose again and Jack himself was sent home with a cold from practice yesterday. He would make the and 1 and Raptors lead 11-6 early. Hedo Turkoglu would add to that with a 3 pointer and Raps were on an 8-0 run. New Orleans take an early time out to try to get on the right track.

Hedo missed a lay-up then Devin Brown wen on a personal 5-0 run despite having a shot blocked by Chris Bosh. Bosh would drive and score plus the foul to put an end to that. He would miss the and 1 free throw and the Raptors would lead 16-11. Oakfor was fouled and missed both at the line score remains the same. Jack and Derozan get buckets and the lead was 20-13. David West would score and draw a foul that he would make Raptors still were up 4 points. Bosh jumper is good just like a Romo pass to Miles Austin. Bosh accurate like a Romo as well starting off 4 for 5 from the field. Marco Belinelli checks in and makes his first shot that is a good sign for him. Raptors building a nice lead with the score 24-17. A bad pass from Marco and Bosh is able to get it but eventual coughed it up and Hornets close gap to 24-20. Bosh on the next trip drives and draws a foul on David West his second. Bosh makes both at the line and Raptors are up 6. Hornets go to a small line-up as West checks out. Amir Johnson an ill advised shot and CP3 makes Raps pay at the other end. Paul would try to make them pay again with a 3 at the buzzer but it does not fall. Raptors lead 26-22 after 1.

2nd Quarter

Both teams misfire to start. Marcus Banks a drive and score nice. His D on the other end was not there as CP3 with the easy score in transition. Paul would come up gimpy after that and went to the bench right away. Peja a miss but rebounds it and he scores and the Raptors lead 29-26. Hedo the pull up jumper and he nails it. Andrea Bargnani with the score and Raptors lead was 33-28. It would be nice if Raps could build a lead with Paul out. But the opposite was happening as Raps had let the Hornets close to within one with the score 33-32. Hornets make a 3 out of the time out and take the lead as we get word Paul will not play the rest of the half. Hedo Turkoglu a much needed 3 point answer and Raps back in front. A Bargnani slam and Raps lead was back to 3 and the starters were back in and trying to take advantage.

But the Hornets continues to scrap and were being successful and re-took the lead 41-38. Jack tried to tie it up but missed fired Bosh could not get the rebound. Chris Paul was checking back in trying to gut it out and his team had built a lead in his absence. Raptors offense had got very sloppy and they were making turnovers and had fallen into a slump. Hornets lead was at 5 until Sonny Weems finally had a score and they go inside to Bosh and score again to cut the lead to just 1. the burst of offense continued with a score inside from Bargnani and Raptors back on top 44-43. New Orleans were working the offensive glass as Okafor got their 10th offensive board and scored. Bosh would respond on the other end and score plus a foul to get the Raps back on top. Bosh would make the free throw after a time out and he had 15 points and 7 rebounds. Nice pass by Hedo inside to Amir Johnson and the Raptors had a 49-45. Hornets miss and Jack pushes it and scores in transition. Oddly enough Raps were playing better with CP3 on the floor than off it. West would get a basket to cut the lead to 4 before the halftime buzzer. Raptors take a 51-47 lead into the halftime break.

3rd Quarter.

It was far from a perfect half from the Raptors but they had a lead and closed the first half well. Chris Paul remains in their and it seems clear not at 100%. But David West would get a score on the opening possession and cut Raps slim lead in half. He would score again and the lead was gone tied at 51. A Hedo steal and uncontested score would give the lead back to the Raps. Jack would score as well driving to the hoop with no one getting in his way restoring the 4 point halftime lead at 55-51. Hornets call a time out and you have to wonder if Paul could remain in there and help his team more than hurt them. Raptors were doing a decent job at times of going inside and punishing the Hornets. Paul at full strength is one of the league's best defenders but with his ankle issues it may not be possible.

Raptors would score again out of time out and build the lead to 6. The Hornets would respond with 4 straight until Bosh would drive to the basket for a slam. CP3 would find a way to score and a turnover and another score and we were even at 59. Andrea Bargnani hits a timely 3 pointer to give the Raptors the lead back. Andrea had just 9 points on the day. However Peja would answer the 3 with one of his own and we were tied at 62. This was shaping up to be a dog fight with teams tied up at 64. Okafor a score plus a foul and Hornet back on top with a 3 point advantage. Bargnani scores then a DeRozan slam off the break and Raps lead 68-67. DeRozan the next trip took a jumper likely not the right idea. He would recover after Hornets took the lead briefly as he drove and scored. Raptors hanging on with a 70-69 lead. DeRozan was giving the Raps some life and was on a scoring spurt. Raptors riding it to a 74-69 lead. It was a game effort being put in by Chris Paul but if I was a Hornet fan(I use to be one) I would be concerned if he was helping or hurting the overall effort at this point. It's clear to everyone including the Raptors that he is not at 100%. Weems and DeRozan all kinds of hustle but no finish as Raps tried to extend the lead. Weems would finally find the basket taking it to the hoop and the lead was 7. Weems and Demar DeRozan get full marks for hustle and effort to close the 3rd and Raptors benefit with a 76-69 lead.

4th Quarter.

Raptors holding the Hornets just under 40% on the day which is good. Marcus Banks starts the 4th with a turnover which takes away from what has been a decent effort by him in limited minutes. However Raps get a turnover right back and Banks makes up for it with a score. Bosh a nice move on the baseline to draw a foul and head to the line for 2. He would make both and Raptors had largest lead of the day at 9 leading 80-71. Some sloppy play and Hornets run off 2 straight scores. A Paul miss with some decent D from Banks and an Amir Johnson score and the lead back to 7 with Raps leading 82-75.

Paul has checked out with 8:30 to play and that might be the last we see of him today. Hornets score on first possession without him. Banks continues to bring it on both ends with a score on the O and good D leading to a failed trip for the Hornets on the other end. Bosh a score, he has 21 and Raptors have their largest lead of day again at 9 with the score 86-77. Bosh takes a break out of time out. Amir Johnson gets on the floor and gets dirty earning the tie up for the jump ball. He wins the tip and the FREE AMIR movement is loving it!!! The Raps were hustling and battling and this is what fans have been dying to see.

Chris Paul does return but he really is labouring in this one. Banks a wide open 3 and missed it. This is why I struggle to give this guy credit. Raps gave up 4 straight and we have a time out with Jack and Bosh the Georgia Tech crew set to check back in. They were needed as the reserves were out of gas. It was 86-81 Raptors and they real need to close this one out as they have played hard and earned the right to be in the winner's circle. Bosh missed a dunk but Bargnani got a steal on the other end. Only to have Chris Bosh fumble it out of bounds. Hornets take advantage and score and the lead had slipped to 3. Bargnani stepping up in crunch time with a key bucket for 2. However Hornets get an easy score on other end. Bosh redeems himself for a few mistakes since checking back in with dunk. Raptors get a block from Bargnani with nice help defense. The killer B's were working off each other pretty well.

The lead would build back to 7 points but Hornets just refused to go away as a Paul steal his first of the game would lead to Hornets getting to the line with a chance to cut lead back to 3 which they do. Jack a miss and Raptors were hanging on just barely with 1:20 to go. Bargnani picked up foul number 5 sending Okafor to the line. He made the first and missed the second. Hornets ended up with it and had a chance to tie. Raptors fortunately get a loose ball foul send Hedo to the line. Hedo made both and that was key making it a two possession game with the score 94-90. Paul fouled with 1:05 to play and he makes both at the line. Open 3 for Bargnani does not fall but Chris Bosh on the offensive glass gets rebound number 11 and turns it into 2 points. Raptors again up 4 points and both teams fighting hard for a W. Bosh with a block on Chris Paul leading to him traveling and a huge turnover late. Hornets are forced to foul. Weems to the line and he missed his first but makes the second and Raps lead 97-92. Brown takes a 3 and Amir Johnson is there to rebound the miss he is fouled right away with 32 seconds to play. Amir goes 1 for 2 and the lead is 6. Posey a miss from 3 and that will do it...Raps win 98-92.

This was a game where the Raptors played how the fans want and expect this team to play. It was a solid victory. A nice early Christmas present for Raptor fans. They have truly earned it this season. Raptors had 3 Raptors with double figures in rebounds for the first time this season.


Raptors Rewind- No Win Situation

Leading up to this one I had said it real is a no win situation for the Raptors. If they win tonight by 30 it will be a case of so what. After all the Nets are 2-24 and have lost their last 5 basketball games. If they happen to lose a Raptor fan base on the brink of total meltdown will go mental. It really is a tough spot to be in for the Raptors. However given how things have been of late I don't think they will care. Just get a win over anyone at this point will be a positive. A couple other positives as well. Prior to this game Reggie Evans was seen on the floor taking some shots. We can only hope that means a Reggie return may be coming soon. Also the Raps are busting out the Huskies uniforms and the Huskies are 1-0 this season. Hey when things are not going well I am willing to take any positive I can get. So if you are afraid close your eyes cause this one is about to start. Raptors will try to avoid what for fans would be a Doomsday like scenario with a loss to the Nets.

1st Quarter

Quick basket from Hedo to start things in a very empty ACC. This is odd with no V.C. Jack to Bosh for another score and Raps get a 4-0 jump start. Nets would score but then Hedo would find a cutting Demar Derozan who would throw it down and draw the foul. The Raps would jump out to a 9-2 lead and look very impressive doing it. The good play would continue as Bosh would get to the line and make a couple free throws as he gets closer to becoming the all-time leader in franchise scoring. Raptors were looking good ahead 15-6.

Even Andrea Bargnani was on target hitting a 3 ball and the Raps lead 18-8 and for those who care the silly 3 point streak marches on. Nets were making sloppy turnovers as we are learning just why this team was 0-18 an NBA record for the worst start ever in NBA history. Bargnani with another 3 and Raps were more than doubling the Nets 26-12. A steal and a Sonny Weems throw down would make it 28-12. Derozan had the dime on the dunk and later Sonny would return the favour. It was a dunkathon at the ACC and Amir Johnson would get in on the act as well Raptors were crushing the Nets and having fun for first time in awhile. Raptors had 18 points in the pain part of the 34-12 lead they had built. Can you believe folks were worried about this game(Myself included) it seems it was not necessary...Raptors leading 37-15 with 11 assists on those 37 points. Weems put back and Raptors lead 39-15 after 1.

2nd Quarter

Marcus Banks makes a 3 pointer to make it 42-17 yeah this game is done. He hit another 3 and it is 47-17 this is unreal. This was getting so bad some people were tweeting they felt bad for the Nets. Screw that I say as Hedo hits a shot in the lane and Raptors lead 51-19. Honestly the Nets are just a terrible basketball team and the Raptors were playing at a very HIGH level. It was nice to see the Raptors not worry about what was in front of them and just play hard and not let up.

Raptors got a CB4 put back jam and the lead was 57-26 and we still had just under 4 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter. It was the Raptor putting up 60 as Hedo hit a 3 pointer and it was 60-26. The beat down was in full effect and I really don't have much to say about it. Raptors were rolling and took a 70-33 lead at the half. Nets had 16 turnovers at the half leading to 22 of that massive Raptors halftime total.

3rd Quarter

Hedo would hit a 3 to start the second and Demar would swat a Lee shot but it would get ruled goaltending. Don't care though I love the message it sends as Raps lead 73-41. Raptors had actually taken the foot off the gas pedal on the defensive end a bit. But a Bargs slam might get them going again as the lead was back to 30 at 75-45. This was like many nights this season the one difference is the Raptors were handing out the embarrassment for a change.

Raptors really had kind of lost that killer edge in the 3rd quarter but the being said they were still up 83-54. The game as a whole seemed to just be in slow motion for both teams at times. A real summer league feel to the second half for both sides. The Nets have improved and quit the turnovers for the most part but far to late for the them. Jack was looking fantastic tonight and hooked up Amir Johnson with a dunk and Raptors lead 94-60 after 3.

4th Quarter

Sonny Weems had a dunk fans had Pizza and it was 100-62 to we need to say anything else about this one? Banks hits a jumper and the lead was 40.....108-68 this was a throw down a show down hell no I can't slow down....Raps reserves were still keeping up the beat down. About the only down point on the night is Marco Belinelli continued to struggle and this was a night he could have shook off his slump. and even though I give him verbal beatings on him on Twitter. Marcus Banks had double digits points. He hit a 3 as I was typing that and he has 15. The score is 116-95 Raps. The final score would end up 118-95. Amir Johnson was big with 18 points 2 away from his career high of 20 with the Pistons.

I admit watching this was a lot of fun. In the light of day tomorrow I will come to grips with this was just a win over a team the Raptors should beat everyday of the week and twice on Sunday but for now I will enjoy this one. Raptors move up to 12-17 and hopefully the Raptors can carry some of this over to the game vs the Hornets on Sunday. Raptors had 7 players in double figures on the night. I did say at the start of this it was a no win situation for the Raptors but maybe that was unfair. It is clear this team was able to enjoy a win together as a team and maybe that is a win. Will see on Sunday.

Net Loss Or Net Gain?

Well here we go ready or not. The Raptors face the prospect of total meltdown should they not find a way to hand Nets loss number 25 of the season for them. If they don't the heat around this Raptor team will reach the boiling point. I listened to the show Hoops last night on the Fan 590. They took a ton of calls and you could hear the anger and frustration in the various calls. I can only imagine the posts on twitter should the Raptors drop this one. The Raptors have made some offensive units that were struggling look great. It is pretty sad when you lose count how many times teams have scored 60 points or more in a half against the Raptors. It is hard to recall a Raptors team that had this rough a time on the defensive end. There was lots of blame being handed out by the various callers. A lot of folks are on board with me in terms of having major concerns about Jay Triano. Some others went straight to the top and took aim at Bryan Colangelo. Credit to Paul Jones and Eric Smith for allowing fans to basically vent for 2 hours.

What was lost in all of the frustration was a pretty interesting interview with Chris Bosh earlier on Prime Time Sports. He was there in part to promote his recently released DVD "First Ink". Although that was interesting and in general people that have seen the DVD have had positive reviews of it. It would be the conversation after that would be interesting. The most of which, how Bosh expressed a feeling that Toronto has started to feel truly like home for him. It was very genuine and it seems to support something that I have felt. In the past I had suggested that I felt Chris Bosh was looking for an excuse to stay and not go from Toronto. I just got that feeling and impression. If you were hoping Bosh would declare his desire to stay in Toronto and with the Raptors it did not go that far. However it did offer some hope that if this basketball team could turn things around that Chris may be willing to stick around.

In terms of the team itself he did seem pretty calm about things. He said that it is taking time for this team to come together. He also said that you have to remain positive because regardless there is 50 or so games left in the season and they are going to be played regardless of what happens. The truth is though what happens will likely greatly define if Bosh is going to continue to enjoy Toronto as his home.

While this individual game in the grand scheme is not life and death for the Raptors. The fact the Nets have been so horrible and the fans are on the brink, it could be much like that game vs the Thunder last year that I referenced yesterday. If the Raptors can get past this one they have a schedule that should offer some opportunity to bounce back a bit. The Hornets, Pistons twice and Bobcats are all games that Raptors should feel they can win. It is not something to take pride in, but thanks to the fact the East is brutal the Raptors are really not in terrible shape in terms of playoffs. You can likely write off the idea of home court advantage in the playoffs but to finish 5th is still a goal with in range.

The Raptors have some things to sort out before we even attempt to consider playoff positioning.This game tonight can be the slow start to the slow road back or it could end up being the car going off the cliff. It will also mark the first time the Nets have rolled into town without Vince Carter. Let's hope there is no booing tonight because if there is it will be directed at the Raptors and not Vince. The Nets and Raptors Rivalry appears to be pretty much dead now. The Raptors did of course play their first ever game against the Nets and they won it at the Skydome. The Raptors will hope to do the same tonight at the ACC because it is badly needed not just for the players and organization but for the loyal fans of this team. They feel like they have been lied to again. They got their hopes up and have once again had them come crashing down. This would be the final insult to that. Raptors face a must win tonight for their fans personal sanity.


Raps Try To Avoid Doomsday.

It was December 19th 2008. The Raptors started a 5 game road trip in Oklahoma City. The Thunder were 2-24 when they entered that game against the Raptors. The Raptors would of course lose that game 91-83 and for many that was the point hope died last season. The Raptors were 10-16 after that loss to the Thunder. When you fast forward to almost a year to the day the 11-17 Toronto Raptors take on the 2-24 Nets. This one is at home at the ACC and not a road game. However the situation is all to similar for the Raptors and it makes you think this game could represent a breaking point for a lot of fans and perhaps for this organization as a whole.

There was a realistic belief this team had made big steps in improving in this off season. But as you look back a year ago the improvement has not come and the Raptors face a no win situation for the Raptors. If you beat the Nets really no one is going to be excited and if you struggle to win that would not be good. The worst case scenario is if the Raptors were to lose to the Nets. If that happens you can expect all hell to break loose around this team. There is a legit anger and frustration in the fan base for this team. There is also a legit frustration from this team's star player in Chris Bosh. I would venture to say both have a pretty short fuse at the moment.

There comes a point where you have to just blame someone or something. Fans have not missed a shot, blown a defensive assignment or lost a single game this season. I think most fans believe right or wrong that they care more than the team they cheer for at the moment. I really do not think that is the case and if I was wrong in that I really don't want to know. If only fans had the athletic ability to play the sport. Fans think if they did, they would bust their butt and not get beat or die trying. If you have every watched the movie Rudy, I think that is the passion we want to see in athletes. That is coming from a Michigan fan saying that.

It is not very realistic to think that way. If you are the New Jersey Nets don't you think they want to win games? Everyone does and at the end of the day the team with more talent usually will win. However sometimes you fall into the trap of thinking talent is enough without effort. That is what I personally think of as the whole Vince Carter way of things. Unfortunately when teams lose games you see sometimes misguided effort. The Raptors or the Nets woes can not be put on just one individual. We try to do that in sports and often it is the coach who takes that ultimate blame. If you want proof just ask Lawrence Frank who is no longer coaching the Nets. Players often try to do more than what is required and in the end cost the team. Basketball is team sport and it is rare that an individual can consistently carry a team on his own to victory. That is what makes night's when a Kobe or Lebron James go off and win a game on their own amazing. However despite a ton of individual success Bryant has never been able to win a title without a solid supporting cast.

While some people have wanted to point the finger of blame at Chris Bosh a lot of time for me it makes little sense. He is just one guy out of 15 and can only do so much. I think he wants to win more than anybody I have seen him say it from his own lips. He is counted on to be the leader of this team and I understand that. He also needs people that are willing to buy in and follow along and fight with him. In his time with the Raptors that has not happened. If you think back to the Vince Carter days he never real was able to lead this team as well. Yes he was the best player on the team by a wide margin. However it was not until guys like Antonio Davis and Charles Oakley came along that the Raptors started to have some form of success. I am not sure if Bosh has ever had that kind of support in terms of leadership. J.O sure wasn't much of a leader. In fact J.O wasn't much of anything in Toronto. Hedo Turkoglu was expected to be some form of a leader for this team. He has lead in terms of being at the head of the list of inconsistent players on this roster.

This game will not solve much should the Raptors win it. However if they are to lose it, this season and Chris Bosh are both likely going to be lost. Despite some folks already starting to think that this team would be better off that way in the long run, I am not in that camp. When you look at the other 2 members of the Raptors supposed core, in Calderon and Bargnani really how good have they been? If those 2 guys were free agents coming up in 2010 to you think there would be a long line of people wanting them? The answer is likely not. They have been bitter disappointments in terms of production and in leadership. This Organization gave both players new contracts and since signing them both have been far below expectations.

A loss to the Nets on Friday may be looked back on as a Doomsday type moment for this franchise not unlike when they traded away Vince Carter. If you think about it Vince was not convinced this team could be a winner moving forward and to this point he has sadly been right. I am not a huge Blue Jays fan by any stretch of the imagination. However when I watched them trade away their franchise player. It made the sick reality hit home, that if things don't drastically change, I am going to be in the shoes of Jays fans, watching my team's franchise player walk away. It won't be because he hates Canada or Toronto. It will be because he wants to win and it will be as simple as that.

Which Ironically is what we all want as well, but fans don't sign contracts and have free agency. Maybe we should and we could not have to suffer with the same old things year after year. The Raptors will lose a lot more than a single basketball game if they lose to the Nets. The may lose Bosh, The passion and interest of this fan base and most of all hope. Sports is all about the concept of hope and without you are truly screwed.


Jack Armstrong Makes A Holiday Visit To The DNB

Well tonight was not pretty in Orlando. I live blogged the game for The Score so if you want to get the blow by blow of another though loss for the Raptors you can check it out on The Score.com. Jack Armstrong just returned from Florida as he called the first half of this back to back in Miami which was also a disappointing, to say the least, defeat to Miami. One of the things I have always admired and respected about Jack is his honesty in his thoughts and opinions about this team over the years. He was no different today, when I had a chance to talk with him prior to the Orlando Magic game tonight. Unfortunately the audio is not the greatest. However the conversation that we had was. So I hope that it will not impact to greatly on your listening enjoyment. I did the best I could to make the problems less of a distraction. Sometimes in dealing with cell phones it can be hit or miss. We get into a conversation about the general frustration that has been the Toronto Raptors. I ask some questions that call on Jack and his experience as a coach. He was at one time the youngest coach in Division 1 College basketball in the NCAA. We talk about a number of the issues for Jay Triano. Also we talk about this team and it's lack of defense and inconsistency. In addition 2 players that Jack had said he has been personally disappointed with in Hedo and Marco. Along with some thoughts on the Raptors point guard situation once Jose Calderon returns. Which is still very much up in the air. This along with what I reference as the Elephant in the room in Chris Bosh's contract status in the midst of this down period for the basketball team. We do have a little fun at the end of all of this. Jack is kind enough to do a little something for me as a bit of a birthday gift for the Dino Nation Blog's biggest fan....My mom. It is her birthday today and she is a big fan of snow. Not something we share. So hopefully you all enjoy this Christmas time visit with Jack Armstrong. I personally think that to have Jack working for the Raptors is a great gift for anyone that is a fan of the sport and the Raptors all year long.

I want to wish Jack and his family all the best this Christmas and to all of you that ready the Dino Nation Blog may you and your families enjoy this holiday season as well. It may not be the greatest time for the Raptors right now, but in this holiday season do not let it turn you into a scrooge and make sure you still enjoy what life has to offer. Basketball is a great distraction and is great entertainment but it is far from life and death. If you get to the point you have had enough holiday family time the NBA has 5 games on Christmas Day. I remember the old days when it was just one.

All that being said is it to much to ask to hold a team under 60 points in a half? I mean come on....Oh well Happy Holidays from the DNB to all of you.


Raptors Get Heat Stroked In Miami

It was important for the Raptors to get off to a good start. Miami you had to expect would be fired up and looking to bounce back from an embarrassing lose, something the Raptors can relate to for sure. Raptors would win the opening tip and get a score in the post from Bargnani. Next would be a sign of things to come on 2 fronts. Demar DeRozan would miss a lay-up and the Heat would run in transition for the easy score from Wade. This would be a long night for Demar and the Raptors transition D would be burned many more times before the night was done. The Raptors would hang in this one early though. Jay Triano would be frustrated early on getting a early technical foul and the Heat after converting the tech would have a 4 point lead with score 16-12. Miami was sloppy in it's execution with 5 early turnover but the Raptors did not make them pay with just 2 points off them. Andrea Bargnani had a solid opening quarter with 10 points. He would give the Raptors a 22-20 lead. They would lead 26-22 and would give up an open jumper in the corner to Haslem and lead 26-24 after 1 quarter.

Haslem would score to open the second as well and even the score at 26. Bosh would pick up a foul early in the Quarter his second and he would be forced to have a seat..Raptors along with looking bad in the transition on D also were getting beat on the glass on the defensive end. The Heat would be getting second chances and Micheal Beasley on one of those would score to give the Heat a 35-30 lead. The Raptors would fight back to 39-36 as Bosh would return to the floor. This would be the point that this game would go south in a major way for the Raptors. Hedo Turkoglu would hit a 3 getting the lead down to 2 and from there it was over. Raptors would have 3 chances to score to tie it and could not and the Heat would get the easy score in transition plus a foul. It was a 5 point swing anf it would be a key moment in the game in retrospect. The Heat would but together a run fueled by Raptor mistakes the most glaring a blown alley oop play where Demar tried to hook up Pops for a slam. The Heat would build an 11 point lead. The Heat would score 36 in the quarter and have a 60-50 lead at the half. Some glaring halftime stats included Bosh with 0 rebounds, Raptors being outscored 17-2 in fast break points, bench points all Heat as well 30-12.

The Raptors would come out in the second half and get the lead trimmed to 6 points and that would be the closest they would get.Wade and Micheal Beasley were looking as good as Shaq and D-Wade ever did. It would be 81-66 before you knew it as the Raps were looking sloppy on offense and invisible on defense. This would continue for the entire quarter and the Raptors would trail 91-74. Really no point to talk much about the 4th quarter as the Raptors would basically throw out the reserves with no chance to win and a game vs Orlando tomorrow. It is worth mentioning yet another NBA player has his career high against the Raptors. Well to be fair he tied his career high as Michael Beasley had 28 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Wade has just 19 points on the night but ever point he made seemed to come at a backbreaking moment in the game. Bosh had 28 points as well but just 2 rebounds. While Bargnani who had 10 points in the first quarter would finish with just 14. Hedo after his best game as a Raptors was back to being sleep walking Hedo with just 12 points. Jack also after 4 strong games came crashing down to earth on this night.

Raptors just had little fight once they got behind and like on many other nights this season they gave up on both ends of the floor. They were having to fight to score and when they couldn't there defense that was far from good became non-existent. Jack Armstrong was there to watch it all on TSN and he is going to be my guest tomorrow in the late afternoon. Safe to say we will have a lot to talk about and sadly not much of it good. Raptors lose in uninspiring fashion 115-95. The questions are many when it comes to this team. I really start to wonder if Jay Triano and this group fit together. It seems clear he does not get the effort from the required on a consistent basis. Sam Mitchell would always demand fight from his teams and when he stopped getting that fight from his team he was shown the door. He would demand more from this team and get in people's faces be it privately or in public through the media. It just does not seem to me that Jay Triano can be the task master that this team needs to produce. It is not a question of if he is an intelligent basketball mind or not. It is just about if he can get the effort and execution that is required. Sadly his overall record both this year and last tell you that he is falling far short in that regard. It may not be right and the players are a big part of the problem. However at the end of the day you can't fire a team but you can fire a coach. That being said Triano needs to take responsibility for the team's performance or lack of it. It is his job to get these guys to perform.

If this team every does turn the corner tonight is one of the nights they will deeply regret come April when they are in the heat (no pun intended ) of a playoff race. However with every lose you start to wonder if there will be playoffs to worry about if things do not change rather quickly.

Welcome To Miami

They say life is about timing, well the same can be true in sports. The Raptors have the misfortune of being the team to play Miami after they get blown about by the Memphis Grizzlies. Much like when the Raptors got embarrassed in Atlanta has happened in Miami. They had the team meeting and the star in D-Wade just listening it all sounds familiar. The Raptors came out of their meeting like a different basketball team and pulled off 3 straight wins. The Heat have in general come back to the pack. They lost a close one in L.A on the road to the Lakers. It seems as that might have sucked the wind out of this team. Quinton Richardson has found new life in Miami but may not be in the line-up tonight. Oh and that players meeting was called for by Jermaine O'Neal. He has had a bounce back year in Miami and you wonder where was this leadership when he was in Toronto. The J.O trade was one of the worst ones for the Raptors in recent memory. Not just because of J.O for T.J Ford but for Roy Hibbert for Nathan Jawai. Hibbert is starting to look like a guy on his way to a solid career in the NBA. While Nathan Jawai was a nice guy but is just hanging on in terms of being in the NBA in Minnesota.

So it is safe to say you can expect a fired up Miami Heat team looking to bounce back from a terrible performance. The one good thing is in the win vs Houston Toronto got off to a fast start. They will need to answer the bell again tonight to match Miami's intensity. The Raps will also need to do an effective job at guarding the perimeter. The Heat have a lot of weapons beyond the arc. The Raptors are coming off one of their best performances in terms of 3 point terms of 3 point defense.

Both teams are 4-6 in their last 10 games and the Raptors at 11-15 sit just 2 games behind Miami that who are 11-11 and in 5th in the East. When you think about all the issues the Raptors have struggled through they are still just 2 games out of 5th place. Not bad when you consider for most Raptor fans that are realistic that was the high end goal. Although the way the season has played up so far that would win you a 7 games series with Lebron James. It seems clear there is a major divide in the Eastern Conference between 4th and 5th. The Raptors should be good enough to compete with the teams 5-15 in the East. The prospects for making the playoffs still look good. The prospects for advancing once you get there look bleak. That being said this is December and there is a long way to go. Still games vs Miami could be meaningful in April and the Raps already have 1 win against the Heat this year and if they could steal a second on the road it may mean a lot down the line. Miami has not been a good home team at just 6-7 on their home floor.

This is the opening half of a back to back for the Raptors and they face a Magic team that has had no trouble getting 2 wins up in Toronto in November. The Magic struggled their way to a win over the Pacers last night. They eventually would come out on top 106-98. The Magic have managed to keep the train on the tracks without Nelson at point guard. The Raptors have also been getting by without Jose Calderon thanks to some great play by Jarrett Jack.

The Raptors have some games they can and should win coming up on the schedule and could if they get thing together finish December strong and get close to that .500 mark if all goes well. But in order for that to be a realistic goal they need to get a split on this Florida back to back. It seems that Miami is the easier of those 2 to get despite the fact the Heat will be "fired up". The Raptors have been inconsistent at the best of times this year and they really need to develop some consistency if they want to jump to the front of the rest of the pack in the East. The team or teams that do will at least have a chance to avoid Orlando or Boston in the first round of the Playoffs. At least that is how it is looking in December. You never know what could come around the corner. If the Cavs lost Lebron for example for any amount of time they would be toast. But bottom line of it all for the Raps is as bad as things have been they have not really cost themselves anything in terms of being off target for where most people saw them finishing. Home court in the playoffs is likely already likely gone but a good position in the playoffs is still in sight. Just because it is December does not change that some games mean more than others and tonight is one of those.


Jacked Up To Be Back

So let's get all caught up on things with the Raps. I am back and ready to roll so let's go. First thing is first, the loss to the Hawks on Friday night.

This was more of the same that we saw in Atlanta, not as bad but still terrible. The Hawks seem to be the perfect foil for he Raptors as they are athletic and can make 3 point shots which makes them a lethal match-up. It was one of those games where the Raptors got down and showed no real fight to get into it. They did get off to a decent start and had an 18-10 lead but after about the first 6 or 7 minutes it was all Atlanta. The defensive effort was poor by all. The other thing the Hawks seem to do well is stop Chris Bosh. He did improve from the game in Atlanta. That being said it would have been hard not to do so. He had 14 and 10 which is far below his season averages. The mood was dark and gloomy and lots of questions about everything to do with this team from Colangelo to Triano to the players. Raptor fans were not happy and had reason to be so. The cherry on the sundae of awful was Jose Calderon returned to the line-up only to have him leave in the 2nd quarter and note return. It would be later announced he had re-aggravated his hip. He went to hospital and based on tests it is expected he would be out for some time. We still don't know when we might see Jose he will not be on the trip to Florida so at very least he will miss 2 more games.

After all of that you did not know what to expect heading into Sunday afternoon against on of the harder working teams in the league in the Houston Rockets. But if you have learned anything in watching this team for 15 years you know what you might expect is not always what you get. The Raptors do in fact have more talent than a team like Houston but would they play like it. The Rockets have won games the way Raptor fans would love to see there team play with the effort of a team like Houston.

Surprisingly perhaps the Raptors would come out and get the jump on the Rockets. They played on of their better first quarters of the season jumping out to a 32-17 lead. They would hang on the rest of the way and walk away with a 101-88 win. It would be one of the best performances of Hedo Turkoglu as a Raptor as he had 23 points 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Jarrett Jack is looking good as the starter as well with 17 points and lead the team in assists and rebounds with 8 assists and 8 rebounds. Bosh had 27 points to lead the scoring just 6 rebounds but a couple blocked shots.

The stats that just jumps off the page is how well the Raptors played guarding the 3 point line. Houston just went 3-24 from behind the 3 point line. If you recall Houston played the Raps in the pre-season and torched the Raptors from the 3 point line. Another surprise for the Raptors was Sonny Weems who lead the bench with 11 points and a steal and a block. He got 29 minutes of floor time. Weems was taking minutes from Antonie Wright who was a DNPCD. Also Demar DeRozan did not have a good day offensively with only 2 points.

We have all heard the expression what goes around comes around. Well maybe that expression may apply to Jose Calderon. Jose became the start based on an injury to T.J Ford. Now Jose is the one injured and you can make a case for Jarrett Jack to remain as the starter when Jose returns depending on when that is and if Jack continues his level of play. Jack for starters is durable as he has not missed a game in the last 2 seasons. I think it is starting to be a case that you can label Calderon as somewhat injury prone. In addition Jack is a better defender and can have more impact overall. Yesterday he once again came close to a triple double. He also seems to have a better natural chemistry with Chris Bosh. Calderon also may be able to help a bench that has had some people struggling like a Marco Belinelli for example. Calderon could inject some life into that second unit and make them stronger on the offensive side of things.

This really is something that might make sense depending on when Jose Calderon returns and how Jack plays while he is gone. Despite the irony and quiet joy it may provide fans of T.J Ford like me, it also makes sense for this team going forward. Calderon is never going to be as good on defense as Jack and this team really needs to establish the defense from the start. Jose Calderon has value and it is not like you could trade him given his injuries of the last few years and his contract. If Jose is the person that we all think he is then he would be ok with the move. It is clear when it comes to being enthusiastic and a team guy Calderon has always been good at that. In terms of Jack he seems to be more of a leader and vocal and not afraid to call out people including himself.

Is this starting a point guard controversy? Maybe it is or maybe it isn't but the point is about getting wins and not who gets there name called. I think this makes sense and will lead to a better overall Raptors. I have no idea if the Raptors feel the same way but they really should consider it. Jack is never going to demand he starts but he has a history of going out and earning it. I think he is getting close to the point of doing that.

Will see how he does against some solid opposition in Miami and Orlando but the dawn of a New Jack Starting point guard may be on the way. The Raptors have been up and down and trying to find a direction. If they can do it with Jack as the starter why mess with it. However regardless of who starts the Raptors need to find a way to be consistent in terms of effort and defense. Two major tests lie ahead for this team.


Programing Note

Just want to give everyone the heads up that The Dino Nation Blog is going to take a weekend off. It is a busy time of the year for everyone with the holidays and all of that. So I need a couple days to re-charge my batteries. I will be back at it on Monday giving my 100%. There is a lot to talk about and last nights Hawks game was truly awful and a tough pill to swallow. On top of the terrible result, Jose Calderon also has his status up in the air and he could be out for an extended period of time. If I get and form of an update on his status from the Raptors I will break into my weekend off and report it. But if not see you folks Monday and hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and not letting it drive you crazy. I still may fire off the odd tweet on Twitter if you really need a fix of me @dinonationblog also expecting to talk with Jack Armstong next week in the blog so that is something to look forward too.


Hawks Invade Toronto.

Will start with injury report for the Raps and Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani are both game time decisions and did take part in morning shot around according to Matt Devlin. The Raptors will take all the help they can get in this re-match with the Hawks. This is the Hawks that scored 146 points on them not that long ago in Atlanta in front of friends, family and Sam Mitchell. The Hawks enter this game coming off a demolition of the Bulls and have won 3 of their last 4. The Raps also have won 3 of the last 4 also with a big win over the Bulls. Safe to say Sam Mitchell will not be at the ACC for the re-match. Jay Triano will be and you have to wonder what he can do to get this team to be able to hang with Atlanta. The Raptors had a disappointing effort vs the Bucks. They were actually given the day off yesterday after that sub-par performance. Not that I am capable of coaching an NBA team, far from it. But I am pretty sure I would not have given the team a day off after the way they played. I am old school in believing you earn a day off. Even if it was a film work and no physical stuff I think it would send a message. The major question I have is can Jay Triano push this team. I think from what we have seen on the floor it seems this team needs a coach that will ride them hard. Not unlike a Sam Mitchell would or even if you want an upgrade from him how about Jeff Van Gundy.

Hedo has struggled this season and you can bet under his old coach in Stan Van Gundy there is no way he could get away with it. Now no one knows how Jay Triano is with this team behind closed doors. However in public he is very careful not to call out players. Maybe he shouldn't be. I liked the refreshing honesty that we saw from Jarrett Jack after the debacle that was the last game vs the Hawks. Jessie Ventura in old school 80's wrestling use to bill himself as the man who told it like it is. Well Jack did that in spades in Atlanta. It had a short term impact along with the team meeting that would follow. I think this team has to take things seriously and honestly evaluate itself and figure out how and what they need to do to get wins.

After all there are a lot of these teams in the East that are labouring to stay around the .500 mark. There has been a clear divide between the top 4 teams and everyone else. The Hawks have clearly placed themselves in the top group with the other 3 big hitters in Orlando,Boston and Cleveland. I have never given the Hawks much credit in the past but they have really turned the corner and raised the bar.

Tonight is not just about win or lose for the Raptors. To be honest about thing winning will be very difficult task for them. The Hawks based on who they are playing and where they sit our just better than Toronto. However win or lose how will the Raptors respond in terms of effort and energy. If the Hawks build a 10 point lead will the Raps fight back or roll over and play dead. This team when they are not playing well do not fight through adversity. Brandon Jennings got hot at the end of the first on Wednesday and the Raptors were cooked. If the Raptors fight hard and do not come out on top vs a team like the Hawks I think the majority of fans could live with that. However if they show no fight and accept defeat no one including them can be happy with that.

So cross your fingers and hope we see a scrappy and fighting Raptors team tonight cause they will need to be to have any chance at winning. If they are going to beat the Hawks they have a better chance doing it at the ACC as the Hawks are just 6-4 on the road so far this season.


Raptor Regression

Win number 4 will not be as easy with no Jose Calderon who did not take the trip and Andrea Bargnani a no go with his bad ankle. Jack and Rasho the two former Pacers enter the line-up. The task becomes a little tougher in terms of depth. However I actually like both match-ups better on the defensive end for the Raptors. Jack should be able to stay in front of Jennings and Rasho can bang with Bogut. Bucks have an impressive home record of 7-3. Should be fun.

Or...maybe not. That is unless you were tuning in to check out Brendon Jennings who was just fantastic. He would catch fire at the end of the first quarter and really that would be it. We could go through the entire blow by blow of things but the short answer is the Raptors regressed back to the team they were prior to that meeting in Washington. Chris Bosh had his league leading 20th double double but he was about the only Raptor on his game at all offensively. The defense was back to being offensive. Ex-Raptor Roko Ukic would end up out scoring everyone not named Bosh on the Raps roster. He had 17 points in the game and that was his season high for the Bucks this year. The Bucks rolled and it was never in doubt after that end of the first quarter surge by Jennings as he had 22 points before leaving the game late with an injury at the end of the 3rd. The Bucks who struggle to reach 90 most nights would pour in 117 and that was more than enough for the 117-95 win.

It was a clear regression on behalf of the Raptors. True they did play without Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. However not to many people have been praising Jose or Andrea for their defense of late have they? That being said anytime Marcus Banks hits the floor should be a red alert that things are not good. Banks was slightly improved with 2 points or 3 assists. But that is no where close to the production that you need from your back up point guard. He was 0-3 from the field and took 2 three pointers in his 3 shots missing both.

Even Demar DeRozan who started this game looking like he would be off to another good night he fizzled out early scoring just 8 points snapping a streak of games with double digit points. Jack was decent on offense but is D was lacking. They now keep +/- in the NBA and Jack was a minus 19 which topped the team. Not suggesting it was all his fault but he sure wasn't part of the solution. In fact on the defensive end there was not anyone that jumps off the page as part of that solution.

Cue the impending doom like music...Next up for the Raptors....The Atlanta Hawks. That team that put up 146 points not so long ago. At least it is not in Atlanta that may help slightly. If you think the Hawks have cooled off any...not so much. They played last night as well and kicked around the Bulls 118-83. So the question will become was this like having a slip on a diet for the Raptors? Eating a Ice Cream Sundae and then getting back on the straight and narrow in terms of playing defense. The game against the Hawks should give us a strong indication win or lose.

The only other point I want to make is once again Hedo Turkoglu was no where close to playing at the level his contract suggests. I was reading yesterday that according to Forbes the Bucks as a franchise are the cheapest in terms of value in the NBA. The empty seats last night showed you why. The number for the Bucks was like 252 Million I think and we are going to pay Hedo 53 million which is roughly a 5th of what it would cost to buy the Bucks. At this point the Bucks seem like the investment with upside. Hedo has been a shadow of himself and really has been one of the bigger disappointments of this season.

4 For A Buck?

The most important thing off the top is that Jose Calderon is not going to be back tonight against the Bucks. That is according to the Fan 590 as of this morning. In fact he did not even travel with the team.That means that Jarrett Jack will get the call again to start for the second straight night. The Bucks were the surprise team out of the gate this NBA season but they have come crashing back to reality. Just 2-8 in their last 10 and they sit tied for 6th in the east just a half game in front of the Raptors. That is correct the Raptors would be a playoff team if they started today sitting in 8th. That is the wonderful thing about the Eastern Conference you get on a minor win streak and you are in the playoffs.

Brandon Jennings opened up everyone's eyes scoring 55 points. He has struggled recently though and he maybe the best of his rookie class when all is said and done. He did win the Rookie of the month for the opening month and a bit of the season for the Eastern Conference. That being said the Raptors should still be happy with their choice of Demar DeRozan. He offers the Raptors the slashing and athletic scorer that they truly needed. There is no doubt that if the Raptors drafted Jennings the off-season would have taken a much different turn. There is no way they sign Jarrett Jack and he really seems to be someone worth having at this point. Jack is never going to be a Brandon Jennings in terms of skill. However he has proven to be someone who looks like he can be a leader for this Raptor team which they need. Bosh tends to lead more by example and Jack does more with words along with action.

If the Raptors can get a 4th win it would be a huge step in the right direction. The Raptors were truly on the brink of watching the season fall of a cliff. They have been able to turn things around and seem to have figured it out on what it will take for this team to win basketball games. The true test may lie ahead on Friday when they stare in the face of the Hawks that ripped them apart and pushed them to that brink. If they could enter into that game riding a 4 game win streak since it can only help.

Andre Bogut has returned to the Bucks line up. He like Andrea Bargnani has struggled to live up to being a number 1 pick in the draft. Bogut has often been injured and as a result has not lived up to expectations people may have had for him. He is a rough and tumble guy and the big Aussie can be someone that could cause the Raptors problems. The best way to solve that problem is to get him into foul trouble. Bosh and Bargnani both are quicker and if the attack Bogut the fouls should come.

If you want an X-factor that you may not think of for the Bucks...how bout Charlie Bell. In the past he has had some nice efforts against the Raptors. If he is shooting it well he could do some damage. In terms of shooting you have to think the Raptors will bounce back after an off night shooting last night at the ACC. The Raptors have been finding ways to win and let's hope they can do it again.

Another word of warning for the Raps is the Bucks average just over 8 made 3's a game( That is 4th in NBA). So the Raptors will have to do a solid job guarding the 3 point line and do not over commit to stop a Brandon Jennings. Jack in the starting line-up may in fact be a better match-up to go against the young buck rookie. Jack is more capable of keeping Jennings in front of him and not be as dependent on help.

Raptors Finding Ways To Win

Let's be honest tonight was not the greatest performance overall by the Raptors. They shot as a team a pitiful 31% from the field. Even the mighty 3 point record almost came crashing down. Which for me personally I would not have been sad about that. The fact the Raptors have made a 3 point shot in 800 and whatever number of games to me is not important. In fact I think it points out how this team has depended on the shot to much at times over the years. Just 2-21 from behind the 3 point line should not be applauded. At some point tonight the Raptors should have excepted it was not their night from behind the arc and just left the shot alone. But the important fact at the end of the day is the Raptors got a win. There are no style points for win and no moral victories in the NBA. Chris Bosh has been a beast on the glass this season another 16 rebound game and it is becoming routine. He has now 19 double doubles to lead the NBA. That is something that makes me far more excited than a 3 point streak that means little. I mean think about it for a second what is the Raptors record during this great historic streak? I don't have the exact numbers for you but am confident without having to look it up they are below.500

The Raptors had far from their "A" game on the offensive end. However they found a way to get a win and did play decent on that other end of the floor. The teams that are the true elite in this league are able to get wins on nights when they do not have their best stuff. The Raptors want to be one of these teams and tonight was a small step in that direction. Many will say, that come on that is crazy the T-Wolves after all are just a team with 3 wins on the season. The Raptors have also owned this team now winning 11 in a row vs the T-Wolves. However think about what went on tonight and ask yourself if a week ago this team would have won that game tonight? If you answered yes were you really paying attention? The Raptors really honestly seem to have turned a corner in the development of this team.

Demar DeRozan has been one of the most noticeable improvements on this team and he got started before the rest of the team. In that blowout vs Atlanta a light went off for Demar DeRozan and he suddenly stopped worrying about what he should be doing and just started playing. He has continued on in that way for the last 3 games. He is just doing the thing he does well and is not trying to fit in and be something he is not. Demar DeRozan was never meant to be a guy to help make that 3 point streak grow. He was brought here to slash and get to the rim. Over time Demar will improve as a shooter and he will be able to make shots. However for now he is young athletic and talented and he needs to use that while he can. He is not bursting on to the scene like Vince Carter did. He is growing and building as he goes. I still am going to call him Heir Canada because I believe in him. I am not here to say if he will ever be as good as Vince. He may not be better than Vince but he will work hard everyday to prove me wrong. I like that about him and the fact he is growing in confidence is something great to see. He had 15 points tonight and 6 rebounds. All 5 of the starters reached double figures scoring tonight. Bosh was the high man with 21.

There was also a lesson for any of you that had thought it might be a good idea to trade Jose Calderon. Jarrett Jack is more than capable of being the starting point guard for this team. That is not the issue and Jack may in fact end up the starting point guard. I have said as much in this blog on more than one occasion But to trade Calderon is a much different deal and is never something I would endorse unless another point guard was coming back in the deal. The reason is that Raptors would be in a similar spot as to last season if they would move Calderon. Jose had no legitimate back up point guard. It was a key to the Raptors downfall last season. Marcus Banks came out of the witness protection program tonight because Jose was unable to go with a hip flexer injury. Banks was a train wreck with just 3 points to match his 3 fouls and had 0 assists. I think the airball 3 ball was my favourite Banks moment of the night. This is who becomes the back up point guard if you traded Calderon? I think not. If Jack does out play Calderon and emerges as the starter I am confident that Jose as he has in the past would accept it. If the Raptors have learned anything from the mistakes they have made in the Colangelo era I hope it is that having T.J Ford and Jose Calderon was a good thing. Jack and Calderon could even be a better thing. At the end of the day whichever point guard you support it is important to understand the other is good as well. Jack just may offer more leadership and defensive effort than Calderon and that is why I feel he will end up the starting point guard.

What I find the most discouraging in this Raptor turnaround is Andrea Bargnani. He has not been good and I think after being in the league for the amount of time he has it is time to raise the bar. Andrea Bargnani needs to meet a certain level on both ends of the floor and I am sorry to say at least for me he is falling well short. He may be heading to a role as the 6th man of the Raptors if things do not change. It may actually not be a terrible thing. I like the idea of him playing more with Marco Belinelli for not just Andrea but Marco as well. Andrea was said to have injured his ankle and some may want to give him a pass for tonight. I am o.k with that but in the games prior he has not been much better having key moments here and there. There is also no rule that I am aware of that says he can't finish games if he does not start. On the night's he is playing well he can be in there in crunch time with the starters. However I think Amir Johnson has shown signs of being able to fit in that starting line-up. He offers all of the things that Andrea lacks. Reggie Evans would also do the same when he is healthy. On some night's you can even go with the vet Rasho Nesterovic. Andrea needs to play better and he needs to be consistent in his effort. I am still not happy with his defensive play as well. Unlike in the case of Calderon, Andrea should and can be a better defender.

The most positive thing when you add it all together for me is this team is find all kinds of different ways to win. They showed determination and heart to get a win over the Wizards in overtime. The next night, they just had one of those nights where you saw just how great this team is capable of being on a given night. Finally tonight they showed the pride it takes to win a game that you should win. Even when you do not have your best stuff. To put it simply the Raiders creed that they seldom follow these days...Just Win Baby.

The Raptors are slowing figuring that out how to win with all kinds of different elements in play. That is how you build win streaks and how you go from being a middle of the road team to being a good team . I mentioned tonight on twitter that good should not be good enough. The Raptors need to dare to be great. That is what it will take to be a playoff team, to be a team that can actually do something once they get there and to be a team that Chris Bosh wants to be a part of and lead. Chris Bosh needs to personally dare to be great, given what we are seeing early on, he just might be starting to do that. He also needs a team willing to do the same. The Raptors are starting to show signs of that as well. The road to greatness is never any easy one. Everyone wants to be great but it is only those that are willing to put it all on the line that will be great.

I think everyone from the fans to Bryan Colangelo need to all take that attitude. It has been mine in how I am looking at this team this year. Even in games this teams wins there are things that can be better and there should never be a satisfaction. This team is just 10-13 and that is a heck of a long way from being great and still not even to point of being good. Signs are pointing in the right direction finally but there is a lot of lost time to make up for. So tonight was a win 94-88 it was far from good and miles from great but it would a step forward on the path to getting there.