Chris Bosh Shines As Heat Toy With Raptors.

The Miami Heat got in at 4:30am were are told. Which for any other team would be a story. For Miami that is the regular team curfew in South Beach. There are lots of empty seats this year for Bosh's return to Toronto. A little different story last year. Raptors are a lot different too. That being said the Heat are pretty much the same unstoppable force they always are.

The game starts with a Bosh bucket in the lane to a smattering of boos. It would start a 10-0 run for the Heat to start this game and it was not a surprise. The lack of people in the building was considering the opposition beyond the Bosh return you have Wade and James two of the best players in the NBA. Raptors would get a basket after a time out but the beat down just kept rolling along with score 16-2. The Raptors would show small signs of life on offense but their defense was to make a joke and a point MIA. The Heat led 22-10 and really were getting whatever they liked on the offensive end. DeRozan had a few nice scores and on a drive to the hoop he cut the lead to 26-15 for the Heat. Raptors would get together a little run and make this a six point basketball game. Chalmers with timely 3 ball makes the lead back to 9. Still the Raptors kept charging and had got this back to a respectable close game down just 31-27 after one.

Bargnani was getting it done and he remains glued to the bench to start the 2nd. The Raptors were now a scrap bunch with Amir Johnson and others like Gary Forbes in the fray. They cut lead to just 2 for the Heat the closest they had been since practically the opening tip. Bargnani would return and maybe message received as he hit a baseline jumper to tie the game at 35. Raptors would get the lead on a Derozan lay up from a feed from Anderson on 10 day contract. Raptors lead 41-39. Chris Bosh had seen enough of this he makes a jumper and ties this game up. Then Wade with a great move of a pick set for him and to cap it off Lebron James with a dunk as the Big 3 go back to back to back scoring to give Heat a 47-43 lead. The Heat would expand that to a 59-51 lead closing out the half on a 12-4 run sparked by the Super Friends.

Bosh has 14, James has 14 and Wade has 13 points. Also with 14 points Demar DeRozan but he does not have the support to battle with the Big 3. Alley oop to James to start the half but the Raptors respond with Jose to Amir hook up. Amir getting the start in 2nd half replacing Aaron Gray in starting group. Bosh than gets a slam to groans from the ACC crowd. The Raptors were keeping it close as Demar nailed a jumper after another Amir score. The Heat were letting the Raptors hang around for now with the score 65-61. Back to back hoops from D-Wade would get the Heat lead back to 8. But the Raptors pushed back again and Bargnani three ball cut the lead to just three at 69-66. Bargnani after being benched for awhile got the message and has played much better since. Made a couple free throws to get the Raptors to just one point behind. Demar DeRozan meantime loves playing the Heat having an excellent night attacking constantly and he does again to tie the game up at 76. Heat again respond as Lebron James makes a jumper like it is easy as pie. Andrea Bragnani does one better with a big three ball to make it a one point lead for the Heat. James Johnson would score and the Raptors would lead this thing in the third 81-80. Raptors got their lead to three but then a wide open rookie Norris Cole nails a three and this game was tied at 83 after 3.

Heat again start the 4th and get out to a 4 point lead. Andrea Bargnani has been a totally different guy since getting benched early in this one. He fought for a rebound and drew a foul and then nailed a three on the extra possession he created. Bosh made a couple at the line but then James Johnson fires up a three ball and ties it at 89. Jose Calderon gets smacked in the face and called for a foul and doesn't like it and gets a tech. All that leads to three points for the Heat. Miami would get another star call as James Johnson got called for a charge. Heat go on a 8-0 run and lead 97-89. Out of time out Jose scores on a jumper of a nice screen. Wade answers that as he is fired up and was talking trash earlier. Chances of the Raptors winning had faded fast. Heat were playing defense much more to the level they normally do. That was the biggest difference in this worth quarter. A steal to drive home that point and D-Wade slam part of a 16-4 run that sees the Heat leading 105-93 with roughly 3 to play. Heat would go on cruise control the rest of the way. Bosh misses a dunk down the stretch fans got a chuckle but Bosh go a redo and smashed it down to give him 30 on the night to tie for the game high with D-Wade. Heat take this one 113-101.

Chris Bosh wins and all you get is a lousy slice of Pizza. Demar DeRozan had 28 and in this environment vs the Heat always seems to shine. Bargnani was terrible at the start, fantastic in the middle and was quiet late. It was a fun ride but the expected result.

Bosh Is Back! Who Cares?

Last season you can argue the first time the Miami Heat rolled into town was the biggest game of the season. It was so big we packed St Louis Wings up the street from the ACC to watch the game on T.V. It was the biggest event of the Raptors season and it wasn't even close. A year later does anyone really care that Chris Bosh and his super friends are coming to town? I guess will see tonight. The Raptors have had only one sellout this season when Linsanity hit Toronto. Kobe Bryant couldn't sell the place out. Can Bosh along with his buddies Wade and James? Will see, but I don't think people care like when Vince Carter returns to Toronto. Bosh no doubt will get booed, but will it be an all game, loud every time he touches the ball type thing? I tend to doubt it. I just really don't care that he left anymore honestly. I understand why he did and agree with why he did to a large extent. How he left could have been done in a much more classy and mature way but that really doesn't make my blood boil. Bosh has taken a bigger bashing from the national media in the U.S than anything he could face here in Toronto. He wanted more fame and now he has it and he has got to see the disadvantage of that more than the advantage you can argue.

Bosh got to the NBA Finals, but honestly he was not the reason why they lost. His numbers in year two with the Heat are almost the same as they were in year one. Still, you can argue he has had a better year this year in fitting into his role for the Heat. He has a bit more element of respect this season as well. He played in a game with no Lebron and no Wade and was able to do what he did in Toronto and lead his team to a win. The focus of the pressure has shifted on to Lebron James and Chris Bosh has been able to slide into the background to a degree. He had to understand when he made the decision he did that he was going to be the third wheel in Miami. It is something I think deep down he is cool with.

When Bosh was in Toronto he was expected to be a leader and many felt he just wasn't. He was clearly their best player but he wasn't the best leader. He was better than Andrea Bargnani in terms of numbers though. The difference is that Bargnani is not expected to be the leader of this team. He is not the greatest interview in the world. Chris Bosh was a good interview and was always in high demand and after Vince Carter was traded became the Face of the Franchise long before he really should have. Bargnani no matter what he ultimately becomes will never truly be that face of the franchise in that sense. He just doesn't have the personality. Bosh loves the attention and it almost became a distraction to what was important. While he still gets his fair share of the attention he craves, because of a lot of it being negative, Bosh has pulled back some and focused on basketball more. Something many might have wished he did in his time with the Raptors.

In terms of how Raptor fans feel about Bosh it will never be to level people felt about T-Mac and Vince Carter. There just isn't that same hate for him that there was for those guys. Maybe after tonight I will change my mind, but I just don't get the sense that people really even care anymore. In terms of my own personal feelings they are much like the ones I have in regards to Vince Carter. I never have hated Vince just been more disappointed in him. I have the same disappointment about Bosh for a different reason. Vince I just am disappointed he never made the most out of his talent. In terms of Chris, I am disappointed that he lacked the class and respect that he had shown through most of his run with the Raptors. Bosh since going to Miami got a good dose of the lack of respect and class that he forgot about from the media and fans.

I am left to wonder if the Chris Bosh we saw in the first 6 years of his career in Toronto was actually the real guy. I liked that guy. The one I see in Miami now I don't. Did fame or the quest of fame change him? He would deny that he has changed at all and it is all of us that have changed. I don't think I have changed other than in my opinion of him.

There is a basketball game of course and the Heat come in off a win over the team that beat them in the NBA Finals. They now face the coach that was able to keep them in check for the most part in Dwane Casey. The amount of talent Casey has to stop them now is significantly less. The Heat have been by their terms struggling of late just 6-4 in their last 10 games. They sit three and half games behind the Bulls for the top seed in the East. Still they have a comfortable five game advantage over Orlando to hang on to the second spot. They recently lost to OKC on the road and I expect when all is said and done that is who they will see in the NBA Finals. The Raptors have had the ability to play above their heads against some very good teams. Not always pulling off the upset but making it a long night at the office for them. No matter what happens the Toronto fans will likely make it a long night for Chris Bosh. At least you would think they will. Perhaps they will feel like I do and could care little about Bosh being back in town. Indifference is far more insulting than any insult you could come up with to throw at Chris Bosh. This is a guy that if he has proven nothing else that he likes attention.


Pizza Delivered and A Win Too!!

I have always stayed consistent in trying to be honest in the DNB. In that vain I find it hard to get excited for any of the rest of this season. Jerryd Bayless no longer has to worry about it as he is out for the rest of the year. Demar DeRozan is back though at least there is that. But the season that promised nothing has delivered nothing so to say I am surprised would be a lie. Meanwhile, Andrea Bargnani had just 8 points and allow me to be the first to say that Andrea Bargnani may just be who we thought he was before this season. Actually I have already said that. Truth is the Bargnani post calf injury has been awful. One other note no James Johnson for this one and another under performer in Linas Kleiza replaces him in the starting line-up.

Naturally Andrea Bargnani starts like a house of fire. The Raptors mostly with Bargnani built a 9-2 lead. Bargnani had the first 7 points and than the other guy I mentioned who was struggling drains a three against his former team as Kleiza nails it to make it 12-4 Raptors. DeRozan nails a jumper as he returns to the line-up and the Raptors lead this thing 17-9. Raptors were continuing to keep control of this one lead by Andrea Bargnani with 10 points and they still had a 22-17 lead on pace for pizza with 5 to play in 1st. Nuggets cut it down to three point advantage and Jose Calderon made a jumper to push it to a 5 point lead. Ben Uzoh seeing his first minutes as a Raptor with score 25-20 Raptors. Not much changed while he was in there but he will fit right in with 2 quick fouls and Raptors lead 27-22 after 1.

Gary Forbes hits a three on his former team to get the 2nd quarter going. Forbes with another 2 and like Bargnani had in first it was Forbes starting quarter like a house of fire and Raptors lead 32-22. Some slippage but Forbes again stepped up with a big three. Still the Nuggets were starting to turn the corner. Yet another three this time form Calderon made it a 7 point lead briefly till Al Harrington answered with another three. Bargnani passed 6000 points which they made a huge deal of on the broadcast. Jack Armstrong with some clever wit asked after it occurred if he got a slice of pizza for that. Raptors were still on pace to get pizza and more importantly win a game leading 48-40. Denver was pushing hard this whole quarter and Raptors lead was shrinking fast down the stretch down to just one....then up one for Nuggets on back to back turnovers. Klezia buzzer beater 3 saves the lead at the the half for Raptors 55-53

Raptors came out and built on to their small advantage and got it up to 6 points. The Nuggets had only lead once briefly right before the half. Chandler who many Raptor fans drooled about were not drooling now as he tied the game up at 63. Lawson would give the Nuggets the lead and Dwane Casey frustrated gets called for a tech. The wheels were coming off in this game and honestly in this season to a large degree. Nuggets quickly extended that advantage to 6 points leading 69-63. A JaVale McGee dunk over Jose Calderon summed up how the momentum had changed nicely making it 73-67. DeRozan was doing his best to try to get Raptors back in it with lots of drives to the hoops and the lead was down to 2 with score 74-72 Nuggets. But the Nuggets would respond with a push to get their lead back to 80-74. Alan Anderson one of the 10 day contract guys with a nice three to cut the lead in half. Anderson would score another bucket later than the other 10 day contract guy Uzoh with a bucket to tie the game at 85 after 3.

Nuggets with more on the line came out strong in the 4th and took a lead which can be expected. Raptors would hang around though and finally made a move to do more than that just past the mid point of the 4th. Andrea Bargnani after a Gary Forbes three that cut the lead to one, it was Bargnani that would give the Raptors a 95-94 lead. Raptors would not only get Pizza thanks to Andrea Bargnani but pull away with his three after making the highly intense Pizza on the line free throws. Raptors lead 103-96 and this would be a horrible loss for the Nuggets. There was only 1:45 left and they honestly had not looked great for most of night. Raptors did something they rarely have done as they closed this game out well. Raptors close it out 105-96.

This was a good game for Andrea Bargnani. The fact he has scored over 6000 points honests means nothing. It is just a garbage T.V trick to make you care about something that doesn't matter. What does matter is does this continue or is it a blip on the Radar. Bargnani since his explosive start to the season since returning has been much more like the Bargnani we have seen in the 6 years prior. I get that people want to believe he has turned some corner but I am not convinced you can honestly say that. Aside from him you saw nice efforts from the two 10 day pick ups by the Raptors. You also saw a solid performance from the former Nuggets Forbes and to a lesser extent Kleiza. It was a good win for the Raptors and a terrible loss for the Nuggets. In a game like this you can learn some things. Denver needed this badly and the Raptors out competed them under those circumstances. That is a positive sign for the future. A small one but still a positive.

DeRozan Expected To Return Tonight

The Raptors got some bad news yesterday if you missed it with Jerryd Bayless being ruled out for the rest of the season. Today some good news as Demar DeRozan is expected to return to the line up and like he did 130 times before he got injured start. If anyone can related to the Raptors injury woes it is likely their opponent tonight in the Denver Nuggets. While the Raptors have went most of the season with out their Italian star in Bargnani same has been true in Denver with Gallinari.

Gallinari has only played in 33 games for the Nuggets, Bargnani has played in just 24 games for the Raptors. Danilo is not that far behind Bargnani in terms this year when they have played. While you can debate who is the better between the two there is no debating that Gallinari has the better cast around him. Unfortunately will not get a chance to see the two face off against each other tonight it looks like with Gallinari out yet again for the Nuggets.

The Nuggets made a surprising and most feel bad trade at the deadline parting ways with Nene who the Nuggets had fought hard to keep in the off-season. They do have Wilson Chandler who is likely the only Nugget visiting Toronto for the second time this season. The first was of course because he was considering signing with the Raptors after having played in China and returning as a RFA. That would not materialize and he would sign long term with the Nuggets. Which many say was his desire all along and he just used the Raptors as leverage. Which is something the Nuggets don't have in terms of the playoffs in the West. They are hanging on to the 8th spot with just a half game lead over Houston and a two game lead over Steve Nash and surging Suns.

The Nuggets did of course get something for Nene and that was Javale McGee who had one of the more embarrassing moments of the NBA season vs the Raptors with his old team the Wizards earlier in the season. I thought about posting the video of it but pretty sure you all remember. However, of late he has been alright for his new team with 11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2 blocks in his last 3 games.

Any other things you need to know for this one? Keep an eye on Gary Forbes who now even has a bigger chance with both Barbosa and Bayless gone. He faces his former team tonight and that can motivate some people. Although this was Forbes deciding to come to Toronto and not the Nuggets sending him here. If he came for Toronto for opportunity he is now finding it.

Expect the Nuggets to be desperate for the win given the fact they are life and death to make playoffs and just 5-5 in their last 10 games. Raptors had a poor effort vs Magic but getting DeRozan back should help on offense. He won't solve the larger problem the Raptors had of defending the three point shot like they did vs the Magic.


Jerryd Bayless Out For The Season

Raptors just released that Jerryd Bayless will be out for the rest of the season. Here is the official Release:

"The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday guard Jerryd Bayless is expected to be sidelined the remainder of the 2011-12 season with a partially torn left oblique muscle. He underwent tests today at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Bayless left Monday’s game versus Orlando at the 5:25 mark of the second quarter and did not return."

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Bayless in the off-season the debate will begin if we have seen him play his last game for the Raptors or not. A great kid and wants to win more than anyone. Regardless of if he is back or not I wish him well. It must kill him how bad this season has been for him in terms of injures.

We Are Talking About Pizza....Not A Game.

Earlier today I mentioned about the Raptor fans yet again cheering for Pizza. It inspired me to create this video:

Here is what SVG had to say referenced in our video:

SVG, Raptors Killers and 10 Days

First let's start with last night's game. It was a disappointment on a lot of levels. Let's getting rolling with the start of that game. Going down 24-8 to the Magic after you were able to battle blow for blow with the Bulls? Yes the Raptors had an immediate response only to fall back again. Ryan Anderson has for me earned the honour and distinction of being referred to as a "Raptor Killer". He is what they now like to call a stretch 4 in the NBA. The Raptors should know all about that as they have one they practice with on a regular basis. Andrea Bargnani remember him that guy that was heading to the All-Star Game earlier in the year. My question with him is are we suppose to believe that guy is the real Bargnani? Doesn't it make more logical sense to think that might have just been a flash of brilliance and Andrea is actually more closer to what we thought he was the last 6 years.

Stan Van Gundy makes total fun of Raptor fans with just cause. It was as a result of the stupid pizza promotion and a basket made by Ed Davis. The Raptors were getting destroyed for most of the night and the crowd was pretty dead for most of the night, then for a silly three dollar slice of pizza. Stan Van Gundy told it like it was in a funny and entertaining way. It is something that we have talked about to death in this blog. Fans that cheer for pizza make all of us as Raptor fans and supporter look like a joke to the rest of the world. I get why people still boo Hedo, T-Mac and Vince. I will support people in that regard no matter what outsiders might think. Still, in terms of cheering for a three dollar slice of pizza when your team is getting pasted I will never support. It was also on a basket made by a guy who until recently has basically sleep walked his way through his second season in the NBA. Be more concerned that team play horrible and lost 117-101.

In reality the Raptors season has come down to a guy coming right from the airport and ending up in a game. You want even find a listing for Alan Anderson when you click on his name in the boxscore. But he did in 7:22 seconds of floor time what it took Solomon Alabi till March 24th to do despite being on the roster all season. What was that? Score two points. The Solomon Alabi scoring streak continued again and now stands at two games with 2 points. That makes his career total up to 12. I wake up to the huge news(not really) that Ben Uzoh is a Raptor. He averaged 3.8 points in 42 games last season with the Nets and this season He averaged 14.8 points in the D-League this year with the Vipers. Truth is the chances any of these 10 day contract guys amount to anything is highly unlikely but it makes more sense than it did to have Anthony Carter or Rasaul Butler hanging around.

There is a month to go in season as of last night. Let's face facts we have reached that point in the season where folks are more interested in the draft lottery than they are in upcoming games. This along with 9 more chances to win a free slice of pizza. What is it going to take for someone to wake up and change this promotion?


Superman Returns!!!

Earlier this month when Dwight Howard flew in to Toronto as a member of the Orlando Magic, many probably thought it might be for the last time as member of the Magic. The NBA Trade Deadline was looming and most experts felt the Magic had no choice but to trade their star. This based on what happened here in Toronto with Chris Bosh and in Cleveland with Lebron James. Those moves to create the Big 3 in Miami changed the landscape of the NBA perhaps forever. Despite a new CBA not much had changed in terms of teams being able to maintain their stars. There was talk of some type of franchise tag being part of that deal but it never materialized. Long before the Raptors lost Chris Bosh or even Vince Carter, the Magic lost Shaq to the L.A Lakers. This was more a case of deja vu for people in Orlando. Would they go the root the Utah Jazz who decided to learn from the mistakes of Toronto and Cleveland and traded their star point guard Deron Williams to the Nets. That seemed to be the popular conventional wisdom and it was the same root the Denver Nuggets would take in trading Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. I think it is safe to say the Jazz and Nuggets are in far better shape than the Cavs and Raptors currently.

Many speculate as to why Dwight wanted to leave in the first place. Orlando had been to The Finals and have done like the Cavs and Raptors and tried to build a team around him. However, the blunders of Otis Smith especially recently in acquiring Gilbert Arenas and bringing back Hedo Turkoglu. Many feel that Howard has not been thrilled with Otis Smith's performance and that is something he shares with Orlando fans actually. Some also wonder in Stan Van Gundy and his rather gruff approach was part of the reason as well. Howard in the past had even made comments about the fact Van Gundy was always so negative and he had encouraged him to be more positive with the team. Not sure how successful that has been. Dwight was complicating the issue by it seemed at times almost daily changing his mind on the topic of if he wanted to stay or go from Orlando. Howard genuinely seems to love the fans in Orlando but also seems utterly unimpressed with management. I would venture to say Dwight cares more for the people in Orlando than Bosh does for people here in Toronto or James does for the people in Cleveland. Dwight seemed to want a way to leave Orlando and still be the good and fun loving guy that people love. He had seen how Lebron James was turned from super hero to super villain. What Howard could seem to understand was you can not make everyone happy and still do what you want and feel what is right for you.

So, the Magic had option A to trade Howard or option B, which was to gamble like the Raptors and Cavs did and risk being left with nothing as the franchise was when Shaq left for L.A as a free agent. In the end the managed to come up with an option C that saw Howard forgo his opportunity to become a free agent this some and agree to accept his player option for next season. They basically have postponed what might in fact be the inevitability of Howard leaving for at least a year. It seems pretty clear the Magic are not going to come anywhere close to winning a championship this season. Chicago recently dismantled the Magic and not even Superman is enough to beat the Big 3 down south in Miami. The Magic are not going to get any closer to a championship this year. Which is what this is all about for Howard. You wonder how things might be different if the Magic were able to defeat the Lakers for the lone NBA Finals Dwight Howard has made.

Raptor fans tend to wallow about how superstars have left here. Some believing it is all about Canada and take it as personal insult. There is a lesson in all of this for the Raptor fans. Orlando does not have the weather issue of Toronto. It is often brought up about the high taxes here in Canada for players. Well Orlando last I checked is the state of Florida which has no tax on income just like the same advantage the Miami Heat enjoy. At the end of the day you can come up with a million excuses as to why people leave Toronto. Ultimately it is no different than why they would leave Orlando, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Minnesota and many other teams. It comes down to to fundamental things. The first is fairly obvious and that is winning and having a player buy into the belief he can win a Championship with that organization. The second is not as obvious but it is about power. Vince Carter left in part because he was unhappy with the choice of Rob Babcock as G.M of the Raptors. He had his own person in mind that being Dr.J. While Carter was clearly right about Babcock there is no evidence to suggest his choice was right either. No NBA team has hired the NBA Legend since. I am unaware if he has even interviewed for an open position since than. That is just one example of a player wanting to have power. Now players and agents would spin what I am calling power into the word input. Whatever you care to call it most players want it. Notice the topic of money never came up. The truth is after a certain point the superstars in this league have made more than enough money. Money is something the guys on the lower ends of the food chain to worry about.

It is important to understand that lots of markets have their problems. None that can't be over come by that magic tonic that is winning. There is no doubt the Raptors have some of the most unique problems of any franchise in some ways but it is not like other teams don't have their issues as well. That brings me to a topic from the game against the Bulls. Which was a fantastic basketball game. Still instead of focusing on the fact the better team won and it was a great effort, it was a lot of Raptor fans blaming the refs. It was those same Refs that kicked out one of the Bulls best players halfway through the game. It was those refs that gave the Raptors 4 free throws that they made one of at the end of OT. Every team from time to time feels they don't get a fair shake from the refs it is not unique to fans in just Toronto. Can we just once say are guys played good and the other guys played better and we lost a close one.

Also this has nothing to do with taking on the Magic but a good example of why tanking is a guarantee of nothing with what went on in Atlanta. Anthony Davis most people believe is the number one pick in the upcoming draft. He got injured in his teams battle with Baylor. It looked serious at first, but he would return and play in the game still flavoring the knee his injured. However, you are always within the blink of an eye of everything changing. So to waste an entire season all with the goal to land on specific player is always one serious injury away from getting nothing. It is also why I will always support any college player that wants to leave school as soon as possible. Kentucky was never going to give Anthony Davis millions of dollars he would get in the draft if he were to go down and lose his basketball career. It is not to say Kentucky doesn't have the millions to do it, that is just how the NCAA works. Charles Barkley once famously said that college football and basketball were the last forms of legalized for of slavery in America. While that does come off as outlandish it is not that far from the truth. Also the Magic are a classic example of why you can never truly have faith in the NBA Lottery. They won back to back lottery's and the second time they had a less than 2% chance of winning.

As for the game itself? It is the same old story. Find a way to stop Dwight and if you can do that you have to find a way to guard the perimeter on defense with all their shooters. The Raptors and Magic once had a rivalry primarily based on players leaving Toronto. First there was Tracy McGrady that went directly to Orlando and then there was Vince who went via New Jersey and was traded to Magic eventually. There is no longer that buzz anymore. Not even the friendship between Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard that produced some of both guys best games of their careers. Dwight is taking a longer path than Bosh did in leaving Toronto but if anyone thinks he is going to be in Orlando long term you are fooling yourself. Just like Dwight is if he thinks giving the Magic an extra year is going to make his exit out of town any easier next season. Ask people that still boo T-Mac and Vince about how it works when you leave town. Fans get emotionally invested in players and even if you hear it 10,000 times that sports is a business for fans it never is. It is almost always personal.

So I am off to Toronto to cover this game. I was convinced Dwight Howard would be gone but I would still get a chance to see Stan Van Gundy as he was going to still be around. As it turns out both will be. As for the Raptors it will be interesting to see if both DeRozan and Bayless are able to play. Calderon would love to see Bayless are being pushed to limit there last two games with huge minutes. While DeRozan had been playing some of his best basketball of this season in the last 4 games. So will talk with you tomorrow with thoughts on this one.


Bulls Pressed Beyond The Limit By The Raptors

Raptors surprisingly got some revenge on the Knicks for a loss earlier in the week. Getting revenge on the Bulls is likely a tougher task even without Derrick Rose. It would be significantly harder if Demar DeRozan wasn't playing. If he does start in this one he would tie a Raptor legend in Alvin Williams for most career consecutive starts at 131 straight games. Jerryd Bayless was also a question mark heading into this game. As it turns out DeRozan will not start and thus the record remains Alvin Williams. Gary Forbes will get his first start as Raptor coming off a great performance vs the Knicks in the 4th Quarter.

Bulls win the tip and go to Deng on a curl in the lane for an easy 2. Forbes taking the place of DeRozan drains his first shot to even this game up at 2. Bargnani had a good game last night and gets things going off to a right start with a made 3 pointer. But the Bulls would score two quick baskets to retake the lead. Bayless was also out and Forbes was in the starting line-up so that might make a long night for Jose Calderon. Terrible cross court pass is picked and Watson takes it for the easy lay-up giving the Bulls a 10-7 lead. After a couple free throws from Calderon it would be Forbes hitting a runner on the next possession to give the Raptors an 11-10 lead. The Raptors were hanging in for now with 6:48 to play in the first leading 13-12. Raptors were undermanned but hanging in with a 21-16 lead with just under 4 to play. James Johnson had 8 points to lead the charge against his former team and the Raptors led 23-18. Gary Forbes on a curl cut to the hoop takes a pass from Bargnani and finishes with 2 to play the Raptors were up 7. Bargnani was getting to the line and adding to the lead he missed a few free throws or the lead could be even bigger but as it stood it was 30-18 Raptors. Bulls almost got 5 back after a sloppy turnover late in Quarter, but the were still down 30-20 which for them had to be shocking.

Raptors shot 63.2%, were out rebounding the Bulls and holding them to under 40% shooting could it be much better after one? Bulls started the quarter on a 6-0 run and were right back in it down just 30-26 and Dwane Casey needed a time out. The beat goes on as Deng misses gets his own miss and scores. Calderon finally breaks the 8-0 run with a jumper. Linas Kleiza had been a train wreck so far in this game he fumbles away the ball and leads to a score and foul and the Bulls lead 33-32. Gary Forbes was taking advantage of his chance though with a nice jumper to make it a one point game again still in favour of the Bulls. Aaron Gray had a 2 foot shoot if that stick in between the rim and the backboard that summed up the Raptors 2nd quarter nicely. Korver a corner three would give the Bulls a 42-38 lead. The Raptors would score back to back buckets to even things up at 42. Some how the Raptors had survived the Bulls run and some of their own silly mistakes and lead this thing 49-46. James Johnson gets up for playing his old team and he made a couple free throws to keep the lead at 3 then took one on the numbers to draw a charge on Noah. After that soon after Noah would get called for another foul and get frustrated and had something to say which got him teched and he tossed the ball in the direction of the ref and got a second tech and he was gone. After all the free throws the Raptor found themselves with a 55-50 lead late in the half. That would end up being the halftime score.

Raptors open up the 2nd half with misses from Forbes and Bargnani both inside of 10 feet. On the other end Bargnani picks up a foul and Watson makes a pair at the line. Amir Johnson got a couple offensive rebounds and it lead to a bucket for him eventually. James Johnson would bury a three and get a block on the other end as the Raptors were still fighting and leading 60-54. But the Bulls would go on a 6-0 run thanks to some sloppy play by the Raptors and this game was even up at 60 and Raptors needed a time out. Give the Raptors some credit they were fighting to hang around and getting little help from Bargnani shooting 3-13 from the field. Still the Raptors had this thing tied at 66. Raptors were hanging tough with 1:30 to play and Ed Davis after on basket comes up with another slam to put the Raptors in front. Raptor were playing excellent defense and at times suspect offense but they have a lead again heading to the 4th Quarter on the Chicago Bulls 73-71.

Bad turnover leads to an early score for the Bulls on the break to tie this up at 73. Bulls looked for a Korver three he missed. He has only made three for Chicago who were 1-15 from behind the arc at this point. Johnson to Johnson, James to Amir give the Raptors the lead back. Raptors were staying on top and time was ticking away and the Raptors were actually building a lead, with 7:53 to go they lead 81-75 on a 8-2 run. You had feeling this might be the Raptors night when Kleiza chuck up a three and it fell to make it 84-77. Bulls could buy a three they were 1-18 and he makes that. Bargnani was not much better at 3-14 and back in the game. Bulls got the lead back down to the 3 on a uncontested long two from Watson making it 84-81. Watson would draw a foul after a turnover and head to the line with 4:04 to play. Finally the Bulls made a three with 3:26 to play to tie the game at 86. Bargnani would finally make a shot as well to make it 88-86 Raptors. Jose Calderon with a bucket to give him 18 and he had 8 dimes to go with that but most importantly the Raptors lead was 90-86 with 2:32 to play. Taj Gibson scored on the putback to make it a two point game. Bargnani bricks another three but the Raptors get the board and draw a non shooting foul. Raptors turnover the ball and Bulls would have a chance to tie or take the lead with 1:33 to play. Bulls would tie it and Jose Calderon wanted a foul. He would get no foul and this game was tied at 90 a piece. Amir Johnson would get a foul call and get to the line and make a pair. Raptors lead 92-90 with 1:04 to play and no audio which meant no stupid comments from Leo. The audio came back just in time to hear Matt Devlin call a C.J Watson three ball to give the Bulls a 93-92 lead. Jose Calderon with a slick Alley Oop to Amir Johnson out of the time out to give the Raps a 94-93 lead. Amir Johnson got called for a foul on Watson with 32.2 to play. Watson missed the first and made the second the game was tied at 94. Raptors had a scrambling possession and the ball goes out of bounds and it is going to be reviewed with 3.6 seconds left. Appeared to go off Gibson's knee so this should be Raptors ball. Raptor inbound on the baseline and Bargnani gets a solid look at a three which he didn't need but shoots it anyway misses it. So were off to overtime in which the Bulls have yet to take part in this season.

Bargs does get the first points of OT at the line. Boozer counters with 2 points. Amir Johnson having a solid performance down the stretch scores in a crowd in the paint. James Johnson gets a steal but blows a layup in transition the Raptors to get the rebound and Casey wants a time out with score tied at 98 with 1:59 to play in OT number 1. Jose Calderon scores out of the time out and gets the Raps to triple figures. Brewer draws a foul but it was non shooting. Boozer is fouled and that will be a shooting foul. He makes both and we are all tie at a C-Note. Bulls get a turnover but miss on Deng 3. Raptors with another turnover and Bulls call a time out with 41.6 seconds left. Boozer missed a fading jumper out of the time out. James Johnson gets a foul call and heads to the line with 15.2 left and he misses the first and makes the second. James Johnson made up for missing his free throw with a massive clean block on Deng. Forbes is fouled with 6.4 to play and he misses his first and the second as well. Time out with 6 seconds left. Watson missed a crazy fading jumper but Deng catches it and throws it in for the Bulls win. It would be reviewed but it will count and Bulls win it 102-101.

A very tough loss for the Raptors and they only have themselves to blame missing 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch. It takes away from what really was unbelievable performances by both James Johnson and Gary Forbes. So the Raptors lose a tough one and have a couple days to recover before returning home to face the Magic.

Bullseye On Two In A Row.

The Raptors get a surprising blowout win over the Knicks. That snapped a 5 game winning streak for the Knicks but to hit the daily double and beat the Bulls will not be easy. Raptors have only won back to back games twice this season. The first time started with a win over the Knicks followed by a win over the Cavs on January 2nd and 4th. The last time they did it was also in January with back to back wins over the Suns and Jazz on 24 and 25th. That is also the only time the Raptors swept a back to back this season. Add in the fact the Bulls have not played since beating the Raptors earlier in the week. They also have a spectacular 10-2 record in March and have won 6 of their last 7 games.

The good news is Demar DeRozan appears to be ok and likely will play tonight after leaving late with an injury to his left ankle. He called it a tweak and sounds like he will be fine. If he does in fact start he will tie a Raptor record with 131 consecutive starts with Alvin Williams. On a team that has been plagued with injury troubles Demar DeRozan has proven to be durable for his 3 season with the Raptors. His 30 point performance was fantastic and it re-opens a debate on if he can actually be the main guy on this team and not Andrea Bargnani. Andrea had a big night as well but to that point had been pretty average since returning from his calf injury.

Bulls are likely to go without their MVP in Derek Rose holding him out till Monday as the Bulls expect a long playoff run in their future and want Rose to be ready for that grind. It is not like the Bulls needed him as they beat the Raptors 94-82 and really only played one solid quarter that being the 4th. Safe to say you will see the Bulls play better for longer than 12 minutes tonight. If the Raptors can bring the defense they had last night this could be an ugly slug feast that the first team to 80 points wins.


DeRozan Leads Raps To Big Win, Before Going Down Late.

The Raptors prior to this one took the advice the Dino Nation Blog has been offering from the start of the season They waived which is a nice way to say cut Rasaul Butler who had been a major disappointment the entire season. He had been buried on the bench for quite some time. Raptors may be looking at bringing in some guys on 10 days now with both Carter and now Butler released and the roster down to the bare minimum. That is in the days to come as for tonight they take on the New York Knicks and Jeremy Lin returns to the site of one of the big moments of his Linsanity to run here at the ACC. Knicks are in a tight race to hang on to a playoff spot so expect them to be going all out against the Raptors tonight.

DeRozan opens up the scoring with a baseline jumper and that is followed by a Bargnani three and Raptors open up with 5-0 lead. Bargnani with a nice move draws a foul on a nice pump fake by Bargnani sending him to the line for a pair and Raptors had a 9-2 lead. Raptors had an 11-4 lead and Mike Woodson who was a perfect 5-0 coming into this one as Knicks head coach wanted a time out. Raptors were taking 3 pointers and not making them giving the Knicks a chance to get back in this game but they were not taking full advantage still down 15-9. DeRozan with a nice two point effort nails it. Lin answers with a drive and score to mix of cheers and boos. Raptors were on fire early 8/15 from field and another DeRozan bucket. Amare Stoudemire with a nice score in the paint and the Raptors still had a 19-14 lead. Jeremy Lin had a turnover and was getting the John Cena treatment from the Toronto crowd some cheers and some boos. Raptors had an impressive start with a 25-16 lead in the first quarter. DeRozan the more efficient but both he and Bargnani had 9 points a piece.

Knicks on shot 36.8% in that first quarter. Ed Davis after a sloppy turnover makes up for it on the next possession getting the Raptors lead to 10 at 29-19. Raptors lead kept growing and was up to 12 with a time out on the floor. Knicks cut that lead in half to 6 with 7:26 to play in the half. Knicks had a chance to cut the lead further but after a missed three they would turn it over on a bad Davis pass looking for Chandler in the lane. Again the Knicks had a chance to cut into the lead and the Raptors switched to zone which leads to a deep three from Lin that doesn't fall. But you had the feeling the Knicks were going to get back in this if they cleaned some things up. Anthony got the lead down to 4 but Bargnani nailed a jumper in the lane to make it 35-29 with just over 4 to play. James Johnson took a ill advised three made up for it with a steal and a pretty lay-up to make the lead 6 once again. Despite shooting 5/19 in the quarter the Raptors still lead this game 37-31 with 1:20 left to go in half. A missed dunk by James Johnson on an air ball Raptor attempt summed up the Raptors offense in the 2nd quarter nicely. A Novak three in corner at the buzzer made this a 3 point game at the half in favour of the Raptors. It was 39-36 and these teams looked hard pressed to to get to 80.

An Aaron Gray turnover looked to be a sign of more of the same. Jeremy Lin to cheers followed by Boos hit a 3. Stoudemire scored to get the Knicks as close as they have been with the score 41-40. Back to back Bargnani buckets with an Anthony deuce in between. Raptors would get the lead back to 5 as the Knicks seemed content to chuck up three attempt, after three attempt. The Raptors went on an 10-2 run after the Knicks got to with in one. Demar DeRozan would force the Knicks into a time out with an amazing finish on the alley oop. He had 20 and the Raptors had a 9 point lead. The Knicks offense was just awful in this game. A Chandler dunk over Bargnani out of the time out was nice though. But Amir Johnson answer with two on the other end and Knicks went right back to chucking three's as Lin missed another. Andrea Bargnani with a nice turnaround and the Raptors lead was 11 and trending upwards. Demar DeRozan wanted a three but settled for a long two and the Raptor lead was up to 14. Another DeRozan bucket made it 16 and for DeRozan he had 24 on the night and we still had 15:30 of game action to go. J.R Smith finally made a basket for the Knicks but Amir Johnson answered that score and it was 64-46 Raptors with just over 2 to play. Knicks showed a little life near end of 3rd with back to back hoops but DeRozan added two more to give the Raptors a 70-53 lead to take to the 4th.

Knicks were 1/17 from three point land. Safe to say that will need to improve for them to get back in this one that they have never led. J.R Smith makes it 1/18 from three to start the 4th. Smith would get an old fashion three with a shot and one foul to cut the lead to 14. Knicks started on a 7-0 run capped by a Novak three to make it 70-60. Gary Forbes gets back to back hoops to get the Raptors back on top by 14. Novak another 3 though and Knicks were trying to make a push. Gary Forbes was keeping the Raptors alive with 6 big points in the 4th and Bargnani had a nice slam after a J.R Smith bucket and Raptors had stabilized things and got lead back to 15. DeRozan would take it back to where we started with a huge slam and it was 82-65 Raptors. Salami and Cheese for everyone? It sure looked like it. Back to back steals finished with dunks would look similar to what the Knicks did to the Raptors earlier in the week. This time it was the Raptors rubbing the salt in the wounds on this night. Unfortunately at the end of this one with game pretty much decided Demar DeRozan would land awkwardly trying to block a shot and he would head straight for the locker room with 30 points and not returning. Solomon Albi even got in this one and scored. But the injury to DeRozan cast a damper on what was a tremendous win for the Raptors 96-79.

It was a great night for both DeRozan and Bargnani on this night. More for DeRozan but his late injury makes it hard to get the full satisfaction this win should have provided. Gary Forbes as mentioned really stepped up in the 4th and when the Raptors were on the ropes a bit he was the one that came out swinging. If DeRozan is seriously hurt it is unlikely we see him tomorrow in Chicago. The injury update on him will be vital. Ironically he would have tied Alvin Williams for the most consecutive starts in Raptors his if he were to suit up tomorrow in Chicago. That is in serious doubt now.

UPDATE 9:55PM: News on DeRozan is good. Eric Smith tweeted that DeRozan has tweeked his left ankle but should be good to go tomorrow in Chicago but will be reevaluated. So it appears he will travel with the team and will see from there.

DeJa Vu For Two

The Raptors will get to repeat their last two games and hope for better results. The venues will be different for both but the same two teams stand in their way. First up is a re-match with Knicks that dismantled the Raptors down the stretch in the 4th at MSG. In that game Jerryd Bayless had a coming together that left him with a left hip pointer. He tried to go vs the Bulls the next night and was unable to go. Will see what his status is for tonight. If he can't go that leaves Jeremy Lin for Jose Calderon to deal with for the most part. It is hard to imagine the Raptors can change much in just a couple days to find a way to beat the Knicks or the Bulls for that matter.

Just 19 games remain in this season and for the Raptors it is much more about the individual parts than the wins and losses at this point. A number of players future with the Raptors will be decided in part based on how things go down the stretch. Ed Davis would be at the top of that list who has struggled for the majority of his 2nd season to this point. Still to move someone on a rookie contract is highly unlikely and it is next to impossible to get fair value in return. Amir Johnson has had a rough season as well. Depending on where the Raptors go in the draft it could make his future in doubt. If the Raptors hit the lottery and got Anthony Davis from Kentucky that would almost make it certain that Davis or Johnson would likely be out. When you consider the Raptors would have Bargnani and Valanciunas who are not going anywhere. There also might be a place for Aaron Gray moving forward. The rest of the Raptor additions have been a disappointment for the most part. Magloire and Butler it is safe to say will not be back. Carter is already gone. Gary Forbes may have an opportunity to prove his worth in these last 19 games. The trade of Barbosa perhaps benefits him more than anyone else. The Raptors will also have to decide what they want to do with Jerryd Bayless. He will be a RFA and have the chance to go elsewhere. The Raptors would be able to maintain his rights by matching any offer he would see come his way.

The Raptors will be looking to evaluate many things over these last 19 games. It is safe to assume some will confuse this with tanking. That ship or tank is silly to suggest at this point the Raptors are going to finish pretty much where we predicted them to finish on their merit. It was not with tanking in mind that I wrote the Raptors would finish 20-46 and 12th in the East. We are just over a month from the end of the season and yet again the focus is about the long term future and not the immediate future. Still this team is a long way from being competitive. While many look to next season as the year things finally start to turn around. That still could be true but if you expect an instant turnaround that might be a little much to expect. Bryan Colangelo will have a lot of tough choices to make this off-season and the start of those decisions is going to happen over this next month.


Raptors Can't Camouflage A Flawed 4th Quarter

Better late than never right? I apologize just not feeling my best last couple days. That is why once the season is done will look into building a staff here for the DNB. So the Raptors busted out the camo and looked like a different team for 3 quarters. Well that might be an exaggeration the Raptors did play well and hang with the Roseless Bulls for 3 quarters. The Bulls are still very good without Rose heading into last night they were 10-4 without last year's MVP. So let's get to some game notes:

The Old Andrea Is Back: No not the one from the start of this season. The one from the last 6 years prior. His defense has at best been regressing. His offense last night was pretty much a train wreck. The only positive was he was making some solid passes and getting some assists to his stat line. He had 8 points 6 assists and 5 rebounds shooting 2-10 on the night. That is not going cut it. If we don't see improvement Raptor fans may point to his start to the season as the opportunity lost to trade him in the future. If people want to use the injury as an excuse that is fine but that then calls into question his durability. I think the highlight of the regression on defense I am talking about is when Carlos Boozer turned Andrea into a tree and fake one way and left him standing there and went for a dunk.

4th Quarter Blues: The Raptors have proven this season that they are capable to hang with even some of the best teams for a time. But when it comes to the 4th quarter and time to win the game the have had some epic failures. You can argue that in the last two games they have been perhaps the worst. John Lucas and Kyle Korver hit back to back threes and you knew it was coming as the game was tied. Once the Bulls took the lead they were like a sports car running from a bicycle. The hope would be with a greater depth of talent next year the Raptors will be able to have more complete 48 minute efforts as a result. Last night the Raptors out played the Bulls for 3 quarters but when it was winning time the Bulls showed why they have the best record in the league.

Demar DeRozan: You still have concerns about him as a defender. Still his offense is growing to be more consistent and the worries that people had at the start of this season should be less. He got off to a hot start last night with 11 points in the first quarter. He still managed to keep his scoring up through the whole 48 minutes. He finished with 23 points and shot 11-25 in the game and had 6 rebounds. It would be nice to see DeRozan be able to grab a few more boards as part of his game. At his position his advantage his is athleticism at the end of the day and that is part of taking advantage of it.

James Johnson A Year Later: It was about a year ago that the Raptors acquired James Johnson from the Bulls. He would likely still be fighting to get minutes and barely see the floor if he remained in Chicago. Slightly more used than Solomon Alabi is here with the Raptors. He has shown through his opportunity he has gotten here that he deserves to be a rotation player in the NBA. He had a nice night against his former team 16 points and 7 rebounds and shot an efficient 8-14 from the field. The Raptors likely still need a starting small forward at the end of the day. Still, Johnson as a back-up that can bring it on defense with a developing game on offense is a nice fit coming off the bench for a winning team.

In the end the Raptors despite having a 7 point lead in the early 4th quarter and but the end the Bulls ended up with a 12 point win 94-82. The Raptors also had to go most of the way without Jerryd Bayless who tried to give it a go with a left hip pointer but after just 1:29 on the floor it was clear he could not play in this one. He would watch the 2nd half in suit and like all Raptor fans sit helpless watching the Bulls come back and take over this in the 4th.


Raptors Camo Will Not Avoid Them Being The Bullseye

Raptor can wear their pajamas, camouflage or bunny suits. It is not going to change the simple fact that the Bulls are a much better team. That fact remains true even if Derrick Rose doesn't play. If he were to play the job of stopping him might me more difficult as Jerryd Bayless suffered a left hip pointer and would be questionable for this one. The Bulls can offer the Raptors some hope for the future in terms of Tom Thibodeau who was a long time assistant with a defensive background. Dwane Casey has a similar defensive background and despite the Raptors record has firmly established the defensive culture with the Raptors.

That is why the end of last night's game in New York had to not sit well with Casey where the Raptors basically just caved in. It was a poor defensive effort overall for most of the night. It seemed the Raptors had no answers and were left frustrated. Aaron Gray had a blow up and was tossed from the game. While the Raptors had a legit excuse for their performance in Charlotte the same can not be said for last night in New York.

The only question about this game will if the Raptors performance is more ugly than the uniforms they will be wearing. The Bulls are looking to hold off the Heat and finish with top record in the east for a second straight season. It is going to be interesting to see if they can. The Raptors will face the Knicks again after this followed by these same Bulls in Chicago.

Normally three keys would come next but basically prayer would be the only key for the Raptors to get a win in this one.


Raptors Sluggish At The Mecca

Jose Calderon returns to the Raptors line-up as mentioned in our preview Jose actually did a solid job the last time he matched up with Jeremy Lin. What will become of the improvement we have seen out of Jerryd Bayless is another issue altogether. The Knicks are trying to hang on to a playoff spot and the Raptors despite what anyone trying to spin positivity might say are playing out the string. So a game like tonight offers the Raptors a chance to play spoiler and build on what they have been doing. A loss to Bobcats was not exactly a building moment.

Demar DeRozan with the cut to the lane and score to get this one under way. Demar sometimes steps up to a big stage will see if that was a start to something big for him. After his first bucket both teams had two empty possessions. Tyson Chandler would get a slam and drop a foul on a nice pass from Stoudemire. He missed the free throw though. DeRozan's second shot would fall of the rim but get put back in by Aaron Gray on the glass. It was just 5-4 Knicks with 3 minutes gone by in this one. A steal by Melo and then the return pass from Lin to Melo for the break away lay-up. Calderon would hit a 3 pointer to make it a 10-9 Knicks lead. But more Jose this time hooking up with his buddy Amir, the lead would not last as Knicks got a dunk at the other end. Lead was ping ponging back and forth between the Knicks and Raptors at the mid point of the first quarter. Andrea Bargnani with a drive down the middle of the lane with a slam. Chandler answers with two at the other end and it was 16-15 Knicks. Raptors got called for an offensive foul and were down 3 with 4:04 to play. Carmelo Anthony would double that lead with a 3 in rhythm. Knicks were starting to get on a bit of a role and playing some defense something that was unheard of with Mike D'Antoni in charge. Demar DeRozan was not shy taking shots tonight and he was making his fair share to cut lead to 4. Bayless made a basket but then on the next possession ran over J.R Smith for a charge. Smith got on the offensive glass for a tab back to extend the Knicks lead to 6. Linas Kleiza nailed a buzzer three from very deep it would be reviewed but looked good to me.

The three would stand and that made score after 1 Knicks leading 27-24. After a good play by Kleiza to close the 1st, a bad play near start of 2nd with a bailout foul with little left on shot clock. Ed Davis showing signs of life with a score and a rebound leading to Bayless bucket to tie the game at 29. Knicks went on a 7-0 run after that and Dwane Casey was forced into calling a time out. Raptors after a Bargs airball out of the time out would get rolling with 5 point push of their own. Knicks would respond and re-establish their advantage and make it even a little more now with a 42-34 lead. Make that a 10 point lead and Andrea Bargnani was getting taking to school on defensive end. Some regression perhaps? Who said that? Jeremy Lin meantime you may have hear of had 6 assists and added a corner three to his stat line to give the Knicks an 11 point lead. Bargnani showing his point guard skills with a nice pass to Amir Johnson for the slam dunk cutting the lead down to 7. But another Lin three...actually make it a 2 and the Knicks would take a 9 point advantage to locker room if they could hold on for 8.5 seconds. Fields would play good D on Calderon and do just that. Knicks take a 53-44 lead to the locker room.

Teams were trading buckets earlier and the Raptors interior defense was lacking. Knicks would star to pull away sparked by Lin with a jumper, than a nice Alley Oop play with Fields and it was 61-50. Then for some reason Aaron Gray blew a gasket and got tossed from the game after the techs and all the Knicks lead was up to 15 points. The Raptors were helping restore Linsainty as he helped his team restore a 15 point lead with a deep 3. Raptor had been having a 3rd quarter to forget much like they did in Charlotte but against a better team. But the Knicks did not exactly take advantage and put them away. Raptors had a chance to cut the lead to single digits. That would happen if a banged up Bayless could make a couple free throws after colliding with A'mare which he did. However, on other end A'mare got an easy put back to push lead back to 11 with the score 79-68 for Knicks. The Raptors based on how they played should feel fortunate to be only down two more points from halftime.

Calderon was in for the 4th and Bayless might be done for night will see. Knicks were doing enough to stay on top and not much more than that. If the Raptors could get a little run together they might be able to get in this game. Still the Raptors looked pretty disinterested and both teams seemed frustrated with the refs at times. Bayless is a tough minded guy and was back in there playing along side Calderon for now. Ed Davis had a nice slam and had a quiet 7 points and 7 rebounds. However when Ed does well more often than not it seldom leads to a Raptor win. Novak hitting a open three after the Davis slam was looking to keep that trend continuing with Knicks up 87-76. Barring something spectacular the Knicks would give Spike Lee a win on his birthday up 89-77 with under 6 to go in the 4th. Bayless tried to give it go but would be done for the night with a left hip pointer. Jermey Lin with a break away dunk...Good Night and tip your waitress. The Knicks would get another dunk on a sloppy Raptor turnover and Chuck Swirsky watching in Toronto has got out the salami and cheese on the Raptors chances in this one. This was getting into a major embarrassment fast. Really fast as the Knicks lead was on steroids now up 101-79 and the Knicks would pull the starters with 3:20 to play. How bad was it? We had a Solomon Alabi sighting. Knicks would take this one 106-87.

I got nothing more to say on this one. Actually Happy Birthday Spike Lee. That is all.

Knicks Running Hot Again

The Knicks didn't make any trades at the deadline but they did make a big move. They fired Mike D'Antoni and replaced him with another Mike. Mike Woodson the former Hawks head Coach is now running the show in New York and has the Raptor flavour with former head coach Darrell Walker and former Jim Todd. So far so good as the Knicks have been on fire since the coaching change. While Tebowmania is now on the trading block, it is not as bad for Jeremy Lin. Still Linsanity has pretty much died down despite to this point he remains the starting point guard. Perhaps the peak of Linsanity was in Toronto when he nailed a game winner to sink the Raptors and was cheered for it in Toronto. Tonight he will be on his home floor in New York and have Carmelo Anthony along side this time around. It was Anthony's lack of a relationship with D'Antoni that seemed to lead to his firing. He also doesn't seem to be much of a Jeremy Lin fan at the end of the day.

The Knicks being a dysfunctional roller coaster is nothing new. The Raptors are far less dysfunctional but are also far less talented. Jose Calderon actually did a decent job matched up with Lin at the peak of insanity. He should be back in the line-up tonight. Jerryd Bayless has stepped up his game while Jose has been sidelined with a bad ankle. One wonders if that will continue. Bayless is starting to look a lot like T.J Ford in a way. T.J was never same player in the back-up role as he was when he was the starter. Bayless has shown he can be something quite different when his name is called. When you take this last week and how he performed at the end of last season without Calderon the numbers are significantly better. So how Bayless plays may be as big a story as how Calderon looks in returning.

Andrea Bargnani had one of the better nights of his career playing at the World's Most Famous Arena aka Madison Square Garden. Almost everyone in the NBA gets a bit of a buzz from playing at MSG and it something the Knicks always have to deal with. It is part of the deal when you play in New York. More times than not you get the best punch from you oppositions stars. The Raptors come off a weekend where they get a surprising win of the Grizzlies and less than 24 hours later with more than a few issues they dropped another game to the Bobcats.

It is a small sample size but the Knicks numbers since the Coaching Change are impressive. Here is some of the key ones to take note of:

  • Points For: 112.6 (They have scored over 100 in all 3 games)
  • Points Against: 89 (Most was 100 on Road vs Pacers)
  • Anthony: 14.6 PPG 43.5% FG% 5 assists 30.7% 3PT Range.

Obviously Carmelo is not lighting the world on fire so what has sparked this New York turnaround? The answer might be their bench which now as an added wildcard to the mix in J.R Smith who was one of those guys that were in China for part of the NBA Season. Knicks have averaged 55 points coming from the bench. Steve Novak has been doing his part as well.

So let's get to the 3 Keys:

1. Perimeter Defense: The Knicks have a number of options that are more than willing to fire it up from three point range. J.R Smith and Novak were mentioned but there are many others to add to the list. Raptors must defend the three point line to stand a chance in this one.

2. Bench Points: Raptors lost a big part of their bench in Barbosa. To expect them to outscore the Knicks might be asking to much. You just can't let it be totally lopsided. The Knicks second unit has a lot of scoring punch in comparison to the Raptors.

3. Ball Movement: When the Raptors have success on offense it is always tied to them having good ball movement. It is safe to say the Knicks are going to score their fair share despite the Raptors efforts on D. So that will put the pressure on the Raptors to score more and when they do it is because of ball movement.


Camo For Cash?

You can argue and debate how ugly these Camouflage Jerseys are. I don't find them totally hideous as some do. However, that is not the story here for me. The story starts with the Raptors doing this as a way to honour the Canadian military. Which is something I fully support 100 percent. I had a father that served in the Air Force and he was proud of that fact. The fact is our military is far to often the butt of jokes by people south of the border and even within are own borders. It is great that MLSE has chosen to make people aware of the military and make people more aware of the great things they do. It is also great that 20% of sales of this stuff goes to families of military. However, I am pretty sure the profits from these jersey's is more than 20% and thus that is where my problem begins. The fact that MLSE would make one penny of profit from this turns my stomach. That is your real camouflage here in my view. I am sure some people will point out that likely that 20% that is going to a worthy cause is worth it. However, I find it deplorable to think anyone other than the worthy charity would profit from this. It is a down year for the Raptors and I don't know the numbers on merchandise sales but I would suspect they are down. These unique style of items will likely sell just based on the fact they are different and unique. MLSE is a smart company in terms of business anyone that thinks they are not is crazy. Still, to use the Canadian Military and what on the surface seems like a charitable act of kindness, wrapped in patriotism, is pretty slick marketing. It also makes me sick and angers me. If someone can guarantee me that MLSE would not profit one penny from this it would have my full support. I would even consider purchasing some of it myself. That isn't the case though it would seem, so that leaves me conflicted and angry.

There are people that have given their lives in Canadian Armed Forces. I knew one personally from here in Hamilton. The fact that anyone would use the military even with them getting some and not all of the benefit from it concerns me greatly as person. Should I just be thankfully that they are giving some of the money to a more than worthy cause and bringing attention to a group of people that so richly deserve it? I would like to do that but at the end of the day I see it as a way to camouflage good will and make some money on the side. I can't get past that personally. That all said to debate if these uniforms are ugly or not is totally missing the bigger picture here. It also can spark a real debate on if the armed forces should get tied to sports at all. It is something that has grown a lot over the last 20 years. It is no longer just the good old boys in Nascar that are walking arm and arm with the Armed Forces, it is not just Vince McMahon and the WWE. It is now common place to do so in big time professional sports on a regular basis. As far as that goes I am uncomfortable with it, but because it brings attention to people that deserve it greatly I am able to live with it. Still, if people are doing more than just honouring the brave men and women of the Armed Forces in both Canada and the U.S and are actually profiting from it, that to me is crossing a line. It is a tough subject and I am not sure there is an easy answer to it. Other than to declare up front that every ounce of profit is going to the people who are being used in this and that is Military. When exactly did the military become a great PR move for people. In the end it leaves me conflicted. If you decide to buy this stuff for the good reasons to support the military I would applaud you. If you decided not to based on the fact not all the money was going to where it should I would applaud you as well.


Raptors Terrible Third Quarter Costs Them A Win.

So if the fact the Raptors went to overtime was not enough, they also were not able to fly to Memphis till today. Getting to the arena just after 4:45 pm for a 7pm tip. Still more drama as the arena was evacuated for a fire alarm at 5:30pm. So to say this is a bizarre set of circumstances heading into this game would be an understatement. No Jose Calderon in this one as the Raptors look to Tuesday as a possible return date for him. Andrea Bargnani might be used sparingly today as well given the added minutes and issues in getting to Charlotte. The Raptors under much more friendlier circumstances dropped a contest earlier in the season to the Bobcats. So will see what happens today.

Aaron Gray gets the scoring started after the Raptors open the game with a stop on defense. Raptors had a couple chances to add to that but both DeRozan and James Johnson could not make it happen. Bayless looked to be keeping things rolling after last night, he nailed a big 3 and opened up a 9-4 advantage. Gerald Henderson shows why people have been waiting for him to explode into a superstar with a great dunk. In much less athletic fashion Aaron Gray replies and it was 13-8 Raptors. After Charlotte rattled off 4 points another Bayless three pointer made it a 16-12 contest. It wouldn't be Bayless without some head shaking moments, with a clean lane for a lay up he decided to kick the ball out and it would end up out of bound Charlotte basketball. Bobcats would take advantage and get this game tied at 16 with under 5 to play in the 3rd. Bayless was on fire from behind the arc though as he cashed in a Kleiza pass for his 3rd three in as many tries. He would press is luck an attempt a 4th in transition and that was not a good idea. Raptors offense was humming shooting 60% and Linas Kleiza would add to that with a nice mid range jumper that goes swish. Raptors were up 23-18 and looking good early. DeRozan had a chance to add to it and missed a pair of free throws at the line. DeRozan would make up for that with his own highlight reel dunk. Raptors had built a 9 point lead and needed a stop to head to end of the first with that lead. Which they would get. A Kleiza buzz heave would not fall so make it 29-20 after one.

Bobcats shot 27.8% in the first, part of that is them and the fact they stink but give Raptor credit for some good defense as well. Kemba Walker was taking abuse from Leo Rautin for his green and yellow kicks but more importantly he was struggling on the floor. Raptors were not messing around building a 35-20 lead and given the situation they might need that big lead later. However the way the Bobcats were playing they might not. D.J White would try to fire up his troops and crowd that would be luck if it was 5,000 with a big jam. Hard to believe this city once led the NBA in attendance back in the days when Hornets were buzzing in hive. Kleiza hit a step back 3 pointer after the Bobcats showed some signs of life. Linas was lighting it up he had 11 and Raptors were up 42-28 midway through the 2nd quarter. Raptors weathered to little Bobcat uprising pretty well and still led 49-37 with just over 3 to play. I might have spoke to soon some sloppy turnovers and Bobcats were back to single digits down 51-43. Bayless again passed on scoring and left an ugly drop off that works as Aaron Gray finished it off. Raptors lead 53-43 at the halftime break.

Bismack with the big smacking slam to get things rolling in the 2nd half. Then Cory Maggette on his 12th NBA team (Exaggeration for effect) with a big three and the Raptors lead was cut in half like that. Bayless with a crazy floater over Biyombo you can mambo if you want too. Bargnani would mambo he would just dunk on the Bobcats rookie. Gerald Henderson with a silky smooth jumper made it just a 5 point lead again at 57-52. Bismack Biyombo would draw the Cats even closer with a bucket. D.J Augustin would complete the comeback with a 3 and the Bobcats led for first time all night 59-57. A Kleiza airball on the baseline jumper was not going to help. Jaamal Magloire was an all-star 8 years ago in this city. Today he was playing because Aaron Gray was in foul trouble and actually had a dunk. While the parade for that was rolling through the Bobcats kept rolling and now had a 9 point advantage up 70-61. Things were not getting any better for the Raptors as they were making to many mistakes and the Bobcats lead was growing. Raptors would face an 81-67 scoreline to overcome heading to the 4th quarter.

Bobcats were now shooting above 50% after being below 30% after one. Bayless was frustrated but was at least one guy on the floor not ready to give up. But you forgive me if I have as the Raptors looked tired and lethargic and were turning the ball over faster than bar selling green beers. But this was the Bobcats and they can turn it over better than anyone and were proving it. Still they had a 10 point lead and it was really going to take some effort for them to blow this one. Like I said Bayless was not giving up as he hits a three and this was a Peyton Manning touchdown from being tied. Sorry think NFL Network cut in on the re-cap their. Bobcats got the lead back to 11 and this game was looking like it was going to be win lucky win number seven for the Bobcats and two of those coming at the hands of the Raptors. The first on was inexcusable this one today had some legit excuses. Still it doesn't make the fact the Raptors were on the way to 0-2 vs Bobcats feel any better. This was all but done except for the final score.

Some how, some way the Raptors after being down as many as 14 found their way back to down just 5 with 45 seconds left. Bobcats are bad granted but how this happened is a bit of a mystery. Bobcats would make a couple free throws and make it is 7 point lead. But a silly foul after a DeRozan missed three allowed Amir Johnson to get it to 5 point game with clock stopped. Raptors got a steal jacked a couple threes and missed both. That should just about do it or not..Raptors kept possession and Bayless nailed a three with 11.7 seconds left. Bayless was forced to foul out and had 29 points and seat for the final 9.9 seconds left in this one with Raptors down just 105-103. D.J Augustin made both free throws so now this was over right? It was as DeRozan missed a 3 badly and that would do it as Charlotte got the ball and whipped it down court. Make the final 107-103 Bobcats.

Tired Raps Look For Revenge In Charlotte

Maybe the Raptors are not tired, but it is a safe assumption after a long night in Memphis, where in one of the strangest basketball games I have ever witnessed the Raptors came away with a 114-110 OT win. They return to the Eastern Time zone and face the Charlotte Bobcats. One of the teams that I have personally guaranteed will finish below the Raptors. The Raptors have just 22 games left and are 9 wins ahead of the Raptors. The Raptors are just 5 wins shy of are pre-season prediction of 20 wins sitting at 15-29. The Bobcats are 6-36 and yes one of those 6 wins came at the hands of the Raptors back home in Toronto. That was without Andrea Bargnani though and after last night you wonder how much the Raptors will have him today. In addition how effective he can be. They will likely be without Jose Calderon as well. If Jerryd Bayless can play like he did last night that will be less of an issue. The Bobcats will return to the ACC for one more visit after today on April 3rd. Raptors have not won consecutive games since the last time Andrea Bargnani returned and he exited near the end of the 2nd win that was the wild OT win in Utah after a win over the Suns.

So let's just cut to the keys to the games.

1. Suck It Up Butter Cup- This is one of those games where it is unrealistic to expect the Raptors to be at 100%. What you would expect is for them to play solid defense and try and grind out a win. Add in the fact you had an embarrassing loss to that mix and that can provide you some motivation when your gas tank is reading E.

2. Bayless Balance- We need to see a balanced effort from Jerryd Bayless with the assists to go along with scoring. Near the end of last season we go to see a glimpse of what he could be. Again last night we saw some of that. It all gets mixed in with some crazy what were you thinking moments. But at the end of it all no one wants to win more than this guy. I firmly believe that.

3. Some X Factors Please- In a game where you expended so much to win you need someone unexpected to step up and provide a big performance. Maybe a big game from Ed Davis? One of those nice games that Amir Johnson can provide on occasion. An Aaron Gray double double? Something like what the Raptors got from Gary Forbes last night. Someone needs to step up.

So that is all we have for you today. Game goes at 7pm and seeing as my March Madness bracket is a mess I will be watching. Even if it wasn't I would be. You know your hardcore when your watching Raptors vs Bobcats. No more Bobkittens I learned from the last time....LOL.


Raptors Fight Themselves, Grizzlies and Refs To Win In OT

We start with kudos to Rogers Sportsnet who did the right thing and postponed showing the end of a tennis match in favour of showing the Raptors on time. TSN has screwed over the Raptors in the past for meaningless college bowl games and even NLL Lacrosse games. Sportsnet actually showing Raptor fans an element of respect. Now replace Leo with Jack Armstrong and I could be in love with this network. It is the only major sports network that I have yet to cash a check from so you never know. But for now the DNB is independently owned and operated. Speaking of jobs, Barbosa now works for the Pacers and Sam Young for the Sixers. While both Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph return to work tonight.

After Memphis took a 4-0 lead the Raptors would fight back and take the lead on Jerryd Bayless first shot of the night a 3 ball to make it 7-6. Grizzlies were wearing some hideous throw back uniforms and were not talking the teal ones with angry bear from Vancouver days. These were yellow and green and ugly as hell. Still it is not how you look it is if you win or lose. In that regard Gasol scored to give the Grizzlies the lead back in this one. Bargnani with some good defense and it angered Marreese Speights and he would get a technical foul. Raptors to their credit and the dismay of the idiots that still see tanking as good idea, were hanging around in this one leading 16-14 with 4:43 to go in the 1st. Raptors kept things rolling as DeRozan drove to the hoop and scored to make it 22-18 with just over a minute to play. The returning Zack Randolph barreled his way to the who and scored and made the and 1 free throw he picked up along the way. Demar DeRozan closed out a solid first quarter for him making the final shot to give the Raps a 26-24 lead after one. Demar had 12 points was 5-8 shooting and had a couple dimes as well.

Considering it was his first game back in quite awhile, Z-Bo looked in pretty good form not much rust. He was in the middle of everything early in the 2nd. Gave the Grizzlies the lead at the line 29-28, after Amir Johnson hit on the head like one of those gophers that pop up in the old arcade/carnival game. Gary Forbes was one of the guys that should see more time with Barbosa's departure. Nails a big three to give the Raptors a 33-29 lead. After the Grizz split a pair at the line Bargnani got his 3 ball game going and it was 36-30. Raptors got away with an over and back on a pass by Amir Johnson and he would get an offensive rebound as well but the Raptors couldn't cash in. Instead of being up 7 or 8 the Raptors would be up 3 as Rudy Gay also back after a mild concussion nailed a jumper making it 37-34 Raptors. Both Bayless and Forbes each had 8 points and were on the floor together. Still no Jose Calderon but Raps using both their options and point guard together. Grizz were starting to try and get it together as Gasol scored to make it a one point game. They had a chance to take the lead but Gasol would throw it away on the flashy pass. Raptors were doing a solid job wrestling these Grizzly Bears with a 47-46 halftime lead. It should have been a 4 point lead but a sloppy pass by Bargnani is picked and Memphis hits a buzzer beater 3.

Raptors have a sloppy possession as Gasol blocks a shot but eventually ball ends up in Bargnani's hands and he nails a long two. James Johnson would extend the lead to five points as the Raptors had first two baskets of the 2nd half. Mike Conley nailed a jumper to end a 6-0 start for the Raptors. Andrea Bargnani had not had his 3 ball working till tonight since returning, he nails another one making it a 9-2 start to the half for the Raptors. Make it 11-4 with a James Johnson basket and it was 60-50 Raptors. While most of the world was enjoying Duke dying a horrible death in the NCAA tournament, the Raptors kept chugging along looking for their own upset on a lesser level. They had lead up to 12 before a Memphis three made it 67-58 Raptors. A turnover and Zach Randolph dunk cut the lead to 7 points and cause Dwane Casey to call a time out. Time out could not stop the One Man Gang that was Zach Randolph who scored again. Memphis had picked it up on defense as well it was 67-62 Raptors. Bayless nails a much needed three to try and fight off this Grizzlies push getting the lead back to eight. It was more like a band aid though as the Grizzlies made back to back baskets and had lead down to 4. Raptors again another of those brain cramps up 5 appeared to commit a foul just prior to the buzzer. Refs would review it so score after 3 was for now Raptors 72 and Grizzlies 67 subject to change.

It would change as Grizz would go to the line and .6 seconds was added to the clock. Both free throws count and it is only a 3 point lead instead of 5. Little mistakes that if the Raptors go on to lose this game will be the difference. Jaamal Maglorie gets nailed with a flagrant foul add that to the stupid mistakes. But it ends up not costing the Raptors but not a smart decision. Raptors got it going again and after a great first Demar had done little, but came out to play with a jumper to make it a 77-71 Raptors lead. Amir Johnson follows that with a rain making jumper that went in and the Raptors had a 8-0 run and 79-71 lead. The broadcast was giving love to Jaamal Magloire. I say screw him and give some to Gary Forbes with a couple big buckets to keep Raptors on top. Jaamal meantime takes a stupid charge and goes back to the bench where he belongs. Raptors were hanging tough up 86-79 with 5:40 to play. Bargnani makes 2 at the line and with under 5 to play the Raptors were up 88-80. Marc Gasol was taking over for Z-Bo in dominating the action. He stepped to the line and mad a pair to give him 24 on the night and cut lead to 6.

This was heading toward a March Madness like finish potentially Raptors lead was down to 5. But maybe not as James Johnson got an NBA style continuation call, count the basket and the and 1 and lead was 8. Still the Raptors had no answer for Gasol as he scores to cut it to 6 with just under 3 to play. Demar with a clutch mid-range jumper makes the lead 8 once more. Bayless the blow by to the hoop with under 2 to play restores the 8 point lead. Z-Bo was back and he scores and Amir Johnson gets called for a foul as well. Could not hit the and one though. Raptors commit a turnover though and Z-Bo draws a foul on Bargnani and heads back to the line. He misses another and hits the 2nd to make it a 95-90 game in favour of the Raptors. Another turnover and Raptors again not closing out a quarter correctly. Gasol this time drawing a foul on Amir as it is a parade to free throw line for Memphis. He makes both with 42.5 seconds left and it was 95-92. This was NBA Style March Madness with a lot more on the line for Grizzlies in the Western Conference playoff race. Bayless almost turned it over but got the ball back and gets the lay up down the open lane 97-92. James Johnson lost a shoe and lost his man and Grizzlies score quick and it was three point game again with 22 seconds left. Bayless is fouled right away and heads to the line. He misses the first and makes the second to make it a two possession game. Grizz miss their initial shot but Z-Bo cleaned up the mess and scored to cut the lead to a deuce with about 14 seconds left. So Bayless is fouled and the Refs decide to add .7 seconds to the clock leaving 13.7 to play. That could mean something. Bayless 2 for 2 this time and makes it 5 point lead. Grizz get a quick three from Rudy Gay and Bargnani is fouled with 6.6 to play. Even if he makes both Grizz could tie with a three. He does and it is 102-99 Raps. James Johnson decides to foul that is one way to avoid a three. But that was not what Dwane Casey had in mind. Johnson had fouled out. Still 5.7 seconds left and Conley missed the first at the line and makes the second. Forbes is now fouled with a two point lead and 5.4 seconds to play. Makes the first and the key second one he missed. Rudy Gay nails a 3 and this game was tied with 0 on the clock but Refs were huddled and may be adding time to the clock. If not were heading to over time.

Regardless of how this turns out Raptors closing of quarters has been brutal on this night. The verdict would be .5 added to the clock. Raptors inbounding from their baseline. Refs were again conferencing and making a mess out of this. Raps did get a chuck up from Bargnani but it didn't fall. O.T here we come tied at 103. Gary Forbes drives and got a foul on Rudy Gay. His 6th and he joins James Johnson as a spectator. Forbes missed one that got us to OT and he misses one to start overtime. Mayo now was heading to the line on a foul on DeRozan. he makes both and Memphis has it's first lead since 29-28. They had a chance to add to it and turned the ball over on travel. Bayless misses a fading jumper and Forbes get the rebound and throws it back in for a career high 20. It was 106-105 Toronto with Austin 3:16 left in OT number 1. The strange things continue as Mayo misses a dunk. DeRozan drives on the other end and doesn't get a foul call. Raps and Grizz trade bucket and it was 108-107 Raps. Randolph would score and Bayless would answer it was 110-109. Let's add to fun as Andrea Bargnani with a huge rebound. Why not and Raptors have the ball up one with just under 1:30 to play. Bargnani misses a shot but Tony Allen fumbles the ball out of bounds. Gary Forbes has the ball stripped and Bayless bails him out on the other end drawing a charge with under a minute to go. Bayless misses a jumper and DeRozan picks up a foul with 26.7 to play. Amir Johnson alter a shot and got the rebound he might have blocked it but it happened fast. Bayless would be sent to the line and would make both but there was a lane violation on the 2nd? Apparently so Bayless foot was over the line on the 2nd? Well that leaves it a 2 point game with Raptors up 111-109 with 15.7 to play in OT number one. Memphis than gets called for the often done but never called carry in the NBA. This would end up with Amir Johnson at the line with 9.4 seconds left. Made the first missed the 2nd and it was 112-109 with 8.8 seconds left. So now Conley is fouled by Bayless in the act of shooting a 3? To the replay booth and this game may never end. 4.8 second left in OT number 1. It would be three free throws for Mike Conley. Bayless would also be out of the game with his 6th foul joining Johnson and Gay on the sidelines. First is made...Second is not and now will he try to miss the 3rd...he does but it ends up out of bound Raps ball with 3.8 seconds to play. Raptors after a time out can't inbound the ball but unlike earlier in the season with Butler the Raps do get a time out called in this one. DeRozan is fouled as he attempted to catch the inbound pass. Demar end this insanity please!!! And he does with two clutch free throws and that is it....114-110....Raps win!!! I am dead tired. So check the box score for all the goodies.

Grizz Not A Joke Anymore

Raptors are in Memphis minus one blur and the Grizzlies did their own subtraction by sending former Pitt standout Sam Young to Philadelphia. Memphis after a slow start to the season have slowly build their way up the Western Conference standings. It was a break through season last year for the former Vancouver franchise. While in Vancouver the Grizzlies never even came close to the playoffs. While in Memphis the Grizzlies had made the playoffs, but until last season had never won a game. They would roll into the playoffs and knock off the top rated Spurs and give OKC all they could handle.

Keep in mind the Grizzlies have not had Zach Randolph for a majority of the year and recently been without Rudy Gay. In terms of Gay he missed that entire run for the Grizzlies last year. We had a total of 10 trades over the last couples days and the deadline yesterday. You would be hard pressed to find a better pick up than what the Grizzlies got with Marreese Speights who they traded Xavier Henry way back in early January. It has been even more vital with loss of Randolph for the majority of the season. So if you shake you head as to why the Grizz sent Sam Young to Philly for basically nothing, it was safe to say the Grizzlies owed some thanks to the Sixers.

Marc Gasol was an all-star and his slacker brother Pau wasn't. Joking aside Marc Gasol doesn't have to take a back seat to his brother any longer. It was only a few weeks ago that Gasol had a dominant 21 point performance vs the Raptors on March 2nd. Mike Conley also had 21 points in that game. Gay lead the way with 23 but he will not be around tonight it looks like. Going back to Conley he played second fiddle to some guy named Greg Oden at Ohio State. After the Blazers release of Oden safe to say Conley has had the better pro career. He has really started to come into his own these last couple seasons.

For the Raptors it is all about opportunity the rest of the way. Bryan Colangelo freely admitted that organization wants to look at what they have the rest of the way. That doesn't mean Solomon Alabi is starting tonight at Center. But it will mean more time for Gary Forbes, Bayless and others. If your name is Butler or Jaamal you can get comfy on that bench cause it is likely where you will stay barring injuries or foul trouble.

3 Keys:

Bench Points: Where will they come from now for the Raptors. Linas Kleiza was the one guy beyond Barbosa that was doing it consistently scoring off the bench. But in recent games he has been slumping to a degree. Someone needs to step up and score and make up that 10-14 points you could count on from Barbosa night in night out.

Gasol vs Bargnani: Last time Bargnani was not around when Gasol was playing and scoring his 21 points. Bargnani had a step back in game 4 of his return. But with a day of rest under his belt will see if he starts to keep climbing back to what we saw pre-calf injury.

Bayless vs Conley: This is type of match up that Bayless if he keeps his head can be better than Jose Calderon. If he doesn't and it turns into a one on one shoot out he might lose in that with Conley. He can and should do a better job on defense in comparison to Calderon.

So that is it for Raptors and Grizz Round two. If you are busy watching your bracket and not the game will have a re-cap for you when it is done.

Update 9:10am : Looks like tonight got a lot tougher as Memphis Broadcaster just tweeted he expects Both Gay and Randolph to play. This is what I get for doing my preview early...LOL.