Hawk vs Raps Live From Toronto Canada

Ok we will keep this brief because I am off to Toronto to catch this one live and in person. The Hawks put the boots to the Raptors on MLK day and it was not close. So what if anything can the Raptors do to stop a replay of that from happening tonight? Here are the 3 keys to the game as we see it at the DNB. We must know what were talking about because Jack Armstrong had the same 3 keys for the last game as us.

3 Keys:

Contain Josh Smith: In that MLK Match the Raptors let Josh Smith run a muck and have his way. He went off early and often. In the past Smith has fallen in love with his 3 point shot, not so much these days. But you would rather see Smith taking jumpers then driving to the basket and running in transition.

Transition Defence: This is still a Hawks team that likes to run and take advantage of some of it's athletes like Smith in transition. Make sure to take care of the ball and get back in a hurry on D. If you don't do these two things it will be a long night at the office.

Demar vs Joe: Demar DeRozan had his best game of the season. His reward a match up with Joe Johnson. For the Raptors to have a chance in this one Demar needs to win this match-up or at least keep it competitive. If Demar attacks like he did against the Nets he can get Johnson or others in foul trouble which is good for his side. On the defensive end he needs to stick with Johnson and contest shots.

So that is a real quick look at Hawks and Raps. As I said off to Toronto to catch this one live and find some folks to talk too. Been quite awhile since I have been down to the ACC for a game so looking forward to it. If you there and see a bald guy with a goatee that looks like me please say hello...I don't bite honest ask anyone.


DNB Game In Pictures IV

For the first time doing game in pictures we have a win to talk about. So let's get at it and call your momma cause it is time to ROLL'EM!!!

If you like this video head over to You Tube and give us some love. I am off to cover the Raptors and Hawks live from the ACC tomorrow so will see what we get from that.

Road Warriors

No one would have predicted the Raptors would be returning home from this road trip with a 3-2 record. But after a dominate win in New Jersey the Raptors do end up with that record. It was far from an ideal trip. Along the way they saw Andrea Bargnani return only to be sidelined again with the same injury. The Raptors heading into yesterday were 0-7 this season with out Bargnani in the line up. They even had lost to the Nets with Bargnani in the line-up. The Raptors had also never beat Deron Williams he was 14-0 vs the Raptors with both the Nets and Jazz.

The Raptors even despite a couple wins on this trip, they have failed to get off to solid starts. The first quarter has been the Raptors own personal hell. But they would get off to a decent start in this one. This despite not only being without Bargnani but also without Barbosa who was a late scratch with a bad ankle. Barbosa had been the most consistent scorer off the bench for the Raptors this season. The Raptors would come out and take a 7-2 lead before letting the Nets make a couple threes in the corner and getting the game back to even at 13. Despite the better start the Nets were doing the two things they had done to beat the Raptors the last time. Making threes and getting on the offensive glass. But the Nets were not taking advantage of those second chances as they did in Toronto. Raptors were also not allowing the Nets anything easy as they held them down in terms of fast break points. Raptors would re-establish a lead only to see the Nets get it back to even at 24 after one. But that was a significant improvement for a team that had been terrible in first quarters of late.

Dwane Casey would try something new in this game playing Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless together on the floor at times. The duo started shifting DeRozan to the 3 spot. Amir Johnson would also return to the starting line-up in place of Aaron Gray. It is something we have seen in the past with Raptors with Ford and Calderon. Bayless was excellent in the times he matched up against Deron Williams. The offence was tight as well with Calderon hooking up Bayless with an alley oop dunk. This might have been the best performance for this team defensively under Casey. The Raptors held the Nets to 15 points in the 2nd and 14 points in the 3rd. Raptors would have a five point advantage at the halftime break with the score 44-39.

Demar DeRozan has been struggling badly during this road trip. But he had a decent first half but that was nothing compared to his 3rd quarter. DeRozan went into full attack mode and he played his best quarter of basketball in the 3rd. This was the Demar DeRozan that his fans had been waiting for. Relentlessly attacking the basket and getting out on the break getting his fair share of points based on that. He would be rewarded for his effort with a career high 16 trips to the foul line on night making 11. By the time things were done in the 3rd the Raptors had put this game on ice. They pounded the Nets 26-14 in the 3rd and had a 19 point advantage heading to the 4th quarter.

Not even the Raptors were going to blow a 19 point lead in the 4th. If you watched this game and did not feel confident heading into that 4th quarter not sure when you would be. It was the first time in a long time I personally can remember feeling confident entering a 4th quarter. It would not be long before this game would enter into garbage time. So much so that little used Solomon Alabi even saw the floor late in this one for just the second time this season. Raptors would cruise to the winners circle with a 94-73 win over the Nets.

Demar DeRozan had a season high and game high 27 points going 8-12 from the field and 11-16 from the line as previously mentioned. He also played 40 plus minutes in this one. It was back to back good games for Jerryd Bayless with 17 points on 7-15. Jose Calderon had a quiet 10 points and 9 assists. It was a team effort on defence and an offence that was led by DeRozan. Raptors return home to face a tough Hawks team on Tuesday and then end up right back on the road again. I will be making the trip down to Toronto to cover this one. Looking forward to it as always.


The Newark Layover.

If it is hard for me to get excited for this game wonder if it is the same for the Raptors. How about you folks are you pumped up for Nets and Raptors? The Raptors do have something to play for in that they could return home with a winning record from a road trip that few expected them to do much in. It saw the return of Bargnani only to be short lived as it would last almost 2 games. The Raptors last game in Denver was typical of the other games without Bargnani this season. The Raptors did have Bargnani the last time they faced the Nets but still lost 97-85. Two things stick out from that game. The Raptors got dominated on the glass, they also got killed from long range as Nets shot 15-31 (48.4%) from beyond the 3 point line.

Rumours have been flying around the Jose Calderon may want out of Toronto. Those rumours be they true or false can serve as some motivation for Jerryd Bayless. He comes in off his best game of the season in which he had 18 points and was 7-10 from the field and 4-5 from the 3 point line. He was not part of the match-up the first time these two teams hooked up. But it may be his ability to stop Deron Williams that will determine his playing time. Jose Calderon has never had much if any success trying to stop him. Williams and Calderon have meet 14 times here are the numbers:

Deron Williams: 18.9 PPG, 8.9 Assists, 1.6 Steals, Shooting % 43.8 with 2.9 turnovers
Jose Calderon: 9.9 PPG, 5.6 Assists, 0.9 Steals, Shooting % 41.5 with 1.6 turnovers.

But the most glaring stat is this one, Deron Williams is 14-0 in games vs Calderon. He has never lost against him in his NBA Career. In a road trip in which the Raptors have beat a couple losing streaks this is another one they look to change today. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

3 Keys:

Defend The Arc: We mentioned how well the Nets did the last time from behind the arc. If you let them getting going again it could be a long night. Be alert for kick outs as Williams attacks the paint.

The Broken Record: We keep saying it but the Raptors have to find a way to get off to better starts. If they don't figure this out they will not be winning many games regardless of who is in or out of the line-up.

Limit 2nd Chance Points: Kris Humphries heard boos in Toronto the last time and really didn't care. He got on the offensive glass early and often and was a big key to the Nets winning the battle on the glass.

Whatever happens I have a request it happens quickly. I would like to watch the Royal Rumble so the quicker the better. Please no triple overtime like last year in England. Not that it is basketball but my pick to win the Royal Rumble is Chris Jericho.


DNB Game In Pictures III

Ok this has been a fun feature. But we are taking into the next level. It is Raptors and Nuggets DNB Game in Pictures.....Roll'EM!!!

Hope you enjoyed if you did go on Youtube and like this video. Follow the Dino Nation Blog on Twitter @Dinonationblog and like us on Facebook.

It Was Over Before It Was On

I came out for a Raptor game in which they probably had little to no chance to win and got the Toronto Rock. TSN was up to their old tricks and as they had the end of a Toronto Rock game on instead of the Raptors. It was about a year ago I was covering the NBA All-Star Game when I still worked for The Score. TSN decided that it was more important to get Sportscentre on the air then let the country know who won the MVP of the ALL-Star Game. It motivated me to head to twitter and begin a hashtag #TSNHATESBBALL which ended up trending in Toronto on that night. Ever since you will see some people still using the hashtag when TSN screws something up in their basketball coverage. So when the lacrosse game was finally over the Raptors had already fallen in a deep hole 10-2 and would never lead for the rest of the night.

Once again it was a horrible first quarter with the Raptors shooting 1-12 before the camera's started rolling in Denver. Linas Kleiza would get the start at the 4 for the injured Andrea Bargnani. Raptors were down 28-12 and to add insult to injury Andre Miller made the last 3 of those 28 on a buzzer beater heave. The second quarter the Nuggets would just add to the massive advantage and led 54-32 at the half.

The Raptor would stage a comeback as they often do. They would get as close as 6 points. Casey would take out some of the guys that were leading the charge. When Calderon, Butler and DeRozan were put in, all who were not having great nights, the Nuggets took over to close it out for the 96-81 win. If you got depressed and tuned out before the final buzzer you might have missed a little bit of excitement.

Al Harrington thought he was fouled by Linas Kleiza. He would be jaw jacking with Kleiza the entire way up the floor. The Raptors while this was going on had got the rebound off the miss and called a time out. But Harrington continued to flap his gums and stay in the face of Kleiza. Finally Kleiza shoved Harrington and it caused a little scrum of pushing and shoving. No fists would fly but it did cause a little excitement.

The same old story for the Raptors with a slow start and digging a huge hole that they are unable to dig out of. Three players had some decent stat lines for the Raptors and that was bout all. James Johnson was the only starter in double figures with 16 points and was 7-10 from the field. Barbosa lead the Raptors off the bench with 19 points. He continues to be the most attractive trade chip the Raptors hold. Jerryd Bayless has started to look good since returning with 18 points and he was 7-10 from the field and was 4-5 from 3 point range.

Raptors end this strange road trip in New Jersey on Sunday. The Nets were winners on this night and are a game in front of the The Raptors in the Atlantic. Not that either team is looking like a playoff team or anything. The Atlantic Division basement bowl this will be on Sunday.


Raptors In The Land Of Tebow Miracles May Be All Out Of Them

Before we get to the game tonight in Denver as most of you probably saw we have an injury update from the Raptors on Andrea Bargnani. An MRI has revelled no significant damage to Bargnani's re-injured calf, however he is out indefinitely. These two things don't seem to go together. But what it means in terms of the here and now is don't expect to see Andrea Bargnani any time soon. Which makes what would have been a tough task with him, next to impossible now. It is one thing to scramble and out play a team for a 5 minute overtime without him, it is quite another to play a full 48 minutes without him. Matt Devlin dropped a pretty amazing stat in our interview yesterday. The Raptors without Bargnani the Raptor are 3-19 over the last couple seasons. I don't have the numbers for the Raptors in the past without Bosh or without Vince Carter but they can't be much worse than that.

It will be another Italian front and center tonight in the form of Danilo Gallinari. When I hear people talking about most improved player in the NBA and making the All Star Game don't hear much talk about him. But there should be talk. He is having a break out season in Denver and for a time in Fantasy Basketball season was the number 1 ranked player in all of the NBA. Like Bargnani he can make the three, you can argue for his position he is a better rebounder and he has nicer overall floor game. Stopping him will likely fall in the hands of James Johnson for most of the evening.

Denver is likely to be without it's point guard in Ty Lawson as he is listed as doubtful. Rookie Julyan Stone could see some extensive minutes playing behind Andre Miller. Speaking of rookies the Nuggets have two good ones in Kenneth Faried a beast on the glass and a shot blocker, along with Jordan Hamilton who played on the wing at Texas with Canadians Cory Joesph and Tristan Thompson. The Nuggets also of course have Nene back resigned in the off season. Along with an experienced yet like Al Harrington.

Raptors without Bargnani what they will do is up for debate. The last time he went down they turned to Ed Davis who has since gone deeper into the dog house of late. After his 25 point performance and given his skill set many feel a move to Kleiza at the four against his former team makes a lot of sense. I would agree and remind folks that he played a significant amount at the 4 in his time with the Nuggets. So it is not like he is unfamiliar with the position. In fact of late he has been playing there for the Raptors more than in the past.

Safe to say for the Raptors to make it 3 wins in a row it would be a minor miracle. If Tim Tebow is walking out on that floor he would be wearing a Nuggets Jersey so he is no help. How the Raptors make up for the 24 points that Andrea Bargnani provides will be the biggest issue moving forward with out him in the line-up.

3 Keys:

Start Strong: We can just leave this as a key until the Raptors actually do it. As I stated in the interview yesterday with Matt, no matter what level of basketball you care to talk about, playing from behind is not desirable. It makes a team have to expend far more energy than they would like too. In the thin air of Mile High Country you need all the extra energy you can find.

Compete on the Glass: Another common theme in the keys to the game. But against Denver is is vital, adding Faried made a team that already was decent on the boards that much better. This kid is an impact rookie. I remember a reader mentioning him as a fantasy sleeper and a dark horse for rookie of the year. He may not quiet be that Rookie of the Year but he is extremely solid and a difference maker on the glass.

Defend the Arc: Denver have some weapons from long range. Identify who is on the court and wear those shooters are. The Raptors ability to use the zone effectively should be greatly reduced against this team. Gallinari is only one of several capable long range strikers.

So no matter how much tebowing Raptor fans do tonight it would seem will be next to impossible to get a third win in a row. That said wins in Phoenix and Utah were not forecast either. However minus Bargnani is a big difference as we have seen the Raptors this season are close to a .500 team with him and without him might be the worst team in the league. Now that is POWER!!


Starting 5 With Matt Devlin From Denver

Today in the Starting 5 we catch up with Matt Devlin on the road with the Raptors in Denver, after some extra work last night in calling a double OT win for the Dinos in Utah. We start with conversation on that game and the unfortunate injury to Andrea Bargnani. Also look back a bit at the win in Phoenix. We also talk about the major step up Bargnani has made on the floor and Matt says who he thinks deserves the credit for it. In addition thoughts on the struggles of Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and Demar DeRozan. We also get into some discussion as well about James Johnson. Matt shares his thoughts on how Johnson reminds him of a player he covered prior to coming to Toronto still playing in the league today. All this and some talk of Jack Armstrong and Tebowing in Denver. It is a informative and hopefully fun conversation for your listening pleasure. We also make reference to Matt's road segment that appears on Raptors.com "Life on the 2nd Bus". Matt references the latest episode so I wanted to give you folks a link to it. Someone apparently Tebow's in it given the fact the Raptors are in Denver. As for the picture that comes from the Raptor press room from a game I covered last season. You might remember it as with Matt's blessing I posted it on Twitter. So with out further adieu here is the latest episode of The Starting 5.

Thanks to Matt for making time for us. Matt has been kind enough to be a guest with us since his arrival in Toronto and we always enjoy having him as a guest. This maybe a back to back for us in The Starting 5 as well as we are attempting to get another guest lined up for tomorrow. So keep you ears and eyes ready. I will try and make mention of it on Twitter if it comes together. We look forward to talking with Matt again and appreciate him taking the time after a long night of work to be on with us today.

An Eventful Long Night In Salt Lake City

Based on how this game started it sure didn't look like it would be a significant night. The Raptors continued the not so great tradition under Dwane Casey of coming out flat in the first quarter. Given the fact the Jazz had been off since Saturday this was a terrible sign. But the Jazz were short handed as Al Jefferson would be scratched prior to game time. The Jazz seemed to have a game plan to run the Raptors into the ground. A sound strategy given they were the fresher team. They would push the ball at every opportunity and the Raptors looked like a tired bunch early in this one. Raptors would rally after being down by as much as 18 in the first to make it a 32-23 game after one.

The little Raptor train would not stop chugging. As I was all a long thinking I don't think they can, I don't think they can, they would keep on saying yes we can. Eventually this would have to catch up with them right? They would get close and knock on the door to taking the lead many times only to have the Jazz answer. The Raptors had never led in this game and I was convinced it would remain that way. Andrea Bargnani was off to a slow start but like the night before would get things going eventually. Demar DeRozan was fairly erratic throughout this game. We saw some good moments for Demar and some bad ones. Jose Calderon was having a terrible scoring night but that would change later in the night. Andrea Bargnani would finally give the Raptors the lead with three to put the Raptors up 50-48. Jazz would tie it and look to take the lead before the half but James Johnson would have one of his 6 blocks on the night which was 4 more blocks than he had points. But he was a defensive difference maker. Raps and Jazz were all even at 50 at the halftime break.

It may have been 50/50 at the half but you didn't think that was the Raptors odds of winning this one? Jazz were the rested team and you figured eventually that would show. A fumble and turnover by Andrea Bargnani and a bad foul by DeRozan was part of the Jazz having a 7-2 run to start the half. But the Raptors would score the next six and take the lead again at 58-57. Jose Calderon would finally score with 7:40ish left in the 3rd for his first points of the evening but he would get more later and some key ones. It was a hard fought 3rd quarter but when it was done the Jazz had a 75-69 lead and you had to figure would pull away and finally put this to bed.

Amir Johnson baby steps to getting of Dwane Casey's doghouse began with a block on Kanter to start the 4th quarter. Kanter by the way is God awful he has a Hoffa like game. Raptors would battle hard and in the late stages were down 86-83 in a rough and tumble 4th quarter. Linas Kleiza would make a couple free throws to make it a one point game with a minute to play. Jazz score and a Bargnani answer and it was 88-87. Jazz reestablished a three point lead but then with 13 seconds left Jose Calderon nails a three ball to tie this game up at 90. Raptors would get the stop they needed and unexpectedly this game was going to overtime.

Last time the Raptors were in an overtime game it was not even in North America. It was a triple OT thriller with the Nets in London England. Which was a loss if you forget. Calderon tied this thing at end of regulation and on a drive would give the Raptors the lead. Then Calderon dropped a dime to Linas Kleiza in the corner for 3 and Raptors had a 95-90 lead. Calderon turnover later on would give the Jazz a break away dunk and the lead was back to just 2. Millsap a tap in over Bargnani tied it. You think that is the bad news but it wasn't the Raptors had to call a time out. Andrea Bargnani had re-injured his calf and would be done for the night. After this game was over he would say that this time the injury to his calf was in his words "much worse". But Raptors would fight on without him as Kleiza out of the time out hit a dagger three. But the Jazz would nail their own 3 with just 3 seconds left in the 1st overtime and tied this game at 100.

Raptors heading to a second OT and Bargnani not an option? At this point they had to be done right? Not exactly the Raptors who in games without Bargnani in first injury were terrible, would be at least for the rest of this night inspired. A Linas Kleiza air ball in the start of OT sure didn't give you an indication that is what would happen but nothing was sticking to the script tonight. A Demar DeRozan free throw would but the Raptors on top 104-103 and they would not trail again. A long two from Kleiza and a huge 3 from Calderon was in the end enough to seal it. Raptors get the thrilling 111-106 win in double OT.

Bargnani had 25 points and Kleiza the same 25 points off the bench. But this was a team win through and through. Unfortunately the loss of Bargnani which on surface seems for an even longer stretch hangs over this win like a dark ominous storm cloud. But let's reflect on what the Raptors have done in the last two nights snapping a 14 game losing streak to the Suns and 12 game losing streak to the Jazz. That is pretty amazing. The biggest part to both of those wins though will be getting an MRI in Denver and is not going to be around to try and make it 3 in a row. It will be interesting to see if the rest of this team can still rally from the confidence gained from these two wins. Maybe not as much in Denver on Friday but in New Jersey on Monday where the Raptors could actually make this a winning road trip. They could in Denver as well but that seems more unlikely.

Reminder we have Matt Devlin scheduled to join us sometime to be a guest in the Starting 5. I am assured he still has his voice after last night. So make sure to be on the look out for that. Maybe a guest tomorrow too. Will see.


No Easy Task To Make It Two In A Row.

I have to say the fact the Utah Jazz are 10-5, winners of 4 of their last 5 games is quite a surprise. The Jazz now without Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams you would think would be in full rebuild. After all Tyrone Corbin who took over from Sloan was only 8-20 last season. The trade that saw Williams go to the Nets did bring the Jazz some young talent in Derrick Favours and Devin Harris but this was not a team expected to do much this year by most. They have two solid bigs that are the main pieces to the puzzle in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, they are the teams top scorers as well. Truth is by looking at the Jazz it just doesn't look all that impressive on paper. But the Jazz are by and large still a team that it is about the system more than the parts that make up the system. Corbin coached for years as an assistant to Sloan so that system for them mostly remains the same.

The Raptors have had almost the same lack of success vs the Jazz as they have had with last night's opponent that Suns. Raptors have lost to Utah 12 straight times. Two very different teams in terms of style. What it always largely comes down to when facing the Jazz is how you defend the pick and roll and if you are able to compete with them on the glass. The Raptors for the first time this season are pretty much healthy and have the full roster in place that Bryan Colangelo has assembled for this season. Dwane Casey is making some bold choices in terms of the roster of late. Unless your name is Andrea Bargnani it seems pretty clear you better perform or you could find yourself on bench. Rasaul Butler and Amir Johnson have already played their way out of the starting five. Demar DeRozan has been shown perhaps some more patience but to suggest he is secure in his starting role would not seem to be wise. If his production and decisions do not improve with Bargnani now back he could be delivered a message as well with a seat on the bench.

Heading in the opposite direction is a guy like James Johnson. Already a defensive type player, which with Casey is always going to give you opportunity. He is starting to make his presence known on the other end of the floor. Beyond the struggles of the Raptors youngsters in DeRozan and Ed Davis, the biggest glaring problem has been the lack of production from the small forward position. Linas Kleiza almost had won the job by not playing a single game. That is how bad Butler and Johnson had been. Ultimately Linas has not really been bad, but on a bench that needs scoring, he along with Leandro Barbosa have been the only two players providing that consistently. Johnson has been putting in work on his shot and over the last couple games we have started to see some results.

Ultimately the questions for the Raptors seem to be if they can produce on the offensive end of the floor. Is this going to be a Kevin O'Neil like offence that struggles to score, or can they be better than that. On nights when Andrea Bargnani is scoring the answer is better. But can we really expect this on a nightly basis? Andrea is averaging 23.4 points a game, That is a point or so better than Vince Carter under Kevin O'Neil with 22.5 per game. Here is where things differ though, Jalen Rose was the 2nd leading scorer on the Raptor squad in 03-04 after he arrived in a trade with Bulls. He averaged 16. 2 points per game, tied with Donyell Marshall who came in the same trade and averaged the same point per game total. Demar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa are second and third in scoring on this Raptor squad at 14. 2 and 13.2 points per game. They also I think most would agree are not as consistent scorers as Rose and Marshall were. The Raptors Offence is ranked 29th in the league. That is second last in the league which is where the O'Neil led Raptors were as they were 28th with the NBA having one less franchise back in the 2003-04 season.

We can all agree the Raptors defence is at least heading in the right direction. 19th overall is a lot better than 30th. But the Kevin O'Neil Raptors were even better at 7th in the league out of 29 teams. The comparison between the two is not exactly a fair one. The team O'Neil had was far more talented than the one Dwane Casey has currently. But still that is the only real bench mark we have for a defensive minded Raptors basketball team. Tonight will be a challenge on both ends of the floor as the Jazz have a solid offence they run that is ranked 11th in the league and a defence that is middle of the pack at 16th.

Not to mention the schedule that helped the Raptors last night when they played a tired Suns team flips on them tonight playing a rested Jazz team that last played on Saturday. It was a 108-98 win over Minnesota. So if the Raptors get off to a slow start tonight as has been the pattern of this season the chances they make a comeback like last night is greatly reduced.

3 Keys:

Strike First, Strike Hard: Yes the immortal words of Strike Force. If the Raptors start off slow like they did in Phoenix you can just call the Jazz Demolition and give them the win. Anyone who has played basketball will admit this freely. To play from behind is a lot tougher than it is to play with a lead. Dwane Casey to his credit played every guy dressed last night vs the Suns. He will hope it pays off with more energy for his club tonight. But if they don't use it right away they will be in serious trouble.

Protect The Glass: The worst thing you can do against the Jazz is allow them to get rolling on the offensive glass. If they do, the Raptors will get 2nd chanced pointed to death. Any defence, no matter how good, always has to complete stops with defensive rebounds. The odds you stop a team the second time around drop off dramatically.

Secondary Scoring: I am never sure if you can doubt anything much about Andrea these days, but I will go out on a limb and say he isn't scoring 30+ tonight. Can the Raptors with Bargnani scoring at around his average find enough offence to keep pace with the Jazz? If they can they will have a chance to be in the game. If not they have no shot.

Recap tonight and tomorrow at some point will be talking with Raptors play by play announcer on the T.V side of things Matt Devlin. Should be fun to have Matt in The Starting 5 tomorrow. So look forward to that. If we are talking about a 2nd win in a row for the Raptors that would be a surprise but a welcomed one. Game is on TSN2 tonight at 9pm with Matt and Jack calling all the action from Salt Lake City.


Raptors Get Their Offence Back In Form Of #7

The rumours were true Andrea Bargnani after 6 games on the shelf was back. It would be a slow start for Bargnani but he would get hotter than a Phoenix afternoon in July by time this one was done. Suns were returning home after a loss last night in Dallas. Raptors needed to jump on them early but Raptors just can't seem to do that even with Andrea Bargnani. The Suns powered by as always Steve Nash, were out to an early 27-17 lead. It seemed like despite the return of Bargnani it was going to be more of the same for the Raptors. Bargnani was not the only line-up change by the way, Amir Johnson it would appear in Dwane Casey's dog house as Aaron Gray replaced him in the starting line-up. Amir only played just over 12 minutes in this one. Demar DeRozan also saw little action in the late stages of this game as his shooting woes continued going 2-8 on the night and just 4 points.

But no Young Onez were needed as Andrea Bargnani started to get on track in the 2nd and would explode in the 3rd. Speaking of explosions Robin Lopez would get ejected from this game and even Canada's favourite son Steve Nash got a technical foul. The Suns despite the good start seemed to be easily frustrated the rest of the way. Leandro Barbosa would get the Raptors going in the right direction with back to back 3's in the second and it seemed to spark the offence as they scored 31 points in the 2nd and cut the lead down to 4 at the half. It had been a long time since the Raptors were still in a close game heading into a 2nd half. In the third quarter Andrea Bargnani just went off on the offensive end. He looked every bit the "Italian three point master" as the lyric goes in the TBJ All Star Campaign Video. He was on fire from behind the line hitting one from the top of the arc that was at least 2-3 feet behind the line with ease. In total Bargnani would ring up 18 points of the Raptors 31 in quarter. Raptors were up 8 heading to the final quarter.

It wouldn't be the Raptors if they just cruised on to the easy win would it? Steve Nash has never lost to the Raptors in his second tour of duty with the Suns. A perfect 14-0 heading into tonight. The last win ironically came in 2004 with another coach that was all about defence in Kevin O'Neil. He would lead the Raptors to their last win in Phoenix with some guy named Vince Carter. To put it perspective Jerryd Bayless who is from the Phoenix area was a freshman in high school. So back to the Raptors trying to hang on for dear life. They would hold a 10 point lead most of the way but Steve Nash had some fight left in him and would try to will his team to a win. Suns would get very close, the Raptors appeared to be home and cooled out but then Butler happened. Rasaul Butler would throw the ball away and Suns cut the lead to 4 points in late stages. Raptors would call a time out. Jose Calderon who has never got much love from the DNB went totally loco on Butler and with just cause. He just has been a complete failure. But Bargnani would make a few free throws and the Raptors would dodge the bullet and get out of Arizona with a win 99-96.

This was the Andrea Bargnani Show as he finished with a season high 36 points, a perfect 12-12 at the line 10-21 from the field and 4-6 from 3 point land. The fact he only had 6 rebounds we will FORGET ABOUT IT!!! After all he was the single reason this team got a win they badly needed. Best supporting role honours to James Johnson who is learning how to make some shots as he had 18 points and had Andrea's back with 10 rebounds. Barbosa did the early damage as Bargs was heating up as he had 19 points in his former home going 7-14 and was 3-3 from three point land.

As much as I am truly thrilled the Raptors ended their losing streak I don't think they are out of the woods by any stretch. But looking on the other side of the floor it was so sad watching Steve Nash try and will something out of a Suns team that is just not good enough. If you have a heart and soul you could not help but want to see Steve Nash get a new lease on life with a contender. Aside from Marcin Gortat there was very little help for Steve Nash.

Enjoy it while you can folks. Utah a team that I figured would struggle has been the surprise team of this NBA Season. A win tomorrow will be much tougher. But after 8 losses you deserve to enjoy it. Wins are not going to come easy this season. So enjoy every one as much as you can.

Raptors Chance To End Their Pain

This is the night where the Raptors can put an end to this losing streak. First reason being is it is likely that Andrea Bargnani will return tonight. Second they face a Suns team that is on second night of a back to back, as they were in Dallas last night with the WWE taking over their home. Telfair will be sitting tonight out for the Suns tonight as he received a flagrant 2 foul last night in Dallas and that is an automatic suspension for a game. Suns are 6-10 and have a 3-4 record at home. If there was a night that was set up for this steak to end tonight would be the night.

If it doesn't happen here is two reasons why it won't. Steve Nash always plays well when he knows Canada is watching. This game is on the main TSN likely because of him and him alone. Also the Raptors have been getting abused on the glass of late. The guy that could take advantage of that is Marcin Gortat. He had a huge double double in a loss to the Mavs. The potential return of Bargnani is going to help many things but rebounding is likely not one of them.

Raptors need to begin getting the starters and the start of games heading the right direction. The Raptors starting 5 without Bargnani has been positively awful. The Raptors must find a way to stay in the game early to have any chance to be in the game late. If Bargnani is back and able to score like he is capable this will be a big help in that regard.

3 Keys:

Make Nash A Scorer: You would rather see Steve Nash score 30 then have 15 assists. If he is able to get his team involved it makes the job that much harder. He will likely have to play some extra minutes with Telfair out from the suspension. On a second night of a back to back as well.

Rebound: Raptors have been awful on the glass and it has really been a big reason why they have not been able to be competitive of late. Everyone needs to crash the glass. Harder to do when playing zones on defence but not impossible.

Secondary Scoring: If Bargnani is back the Raptors are still going to need others to step up and score with him. Demar DeRozan or anyone else needs to take advantage of the return of Bargnani. If he isn't back this is still important. Raptors have been getting decent production from Barbosa and Kleiza off the bench of late.

If the Raptors don't take advantage of this gift a win in Utah or Denver seems highly unlikely. The Nets would be the next likely spot when searching for a win. But after losing 4 games on the road in West heading back East that doesn't seem as likely. Raptors mantra tonight needs to be 8 is enough and we would all agree with that.


WWE and Raptors have invaded PHX.

My two world's have officially collided in Phoenix Arizona. The Raptors and the WWE are in the same town on the same day. Clearly the Raptors need some motivation so how about we have some WWE Superstars attempt to motivate the Raptors. This has the potential to be a total train wreck of a blog or one of the best ever. So are you ready? I SAID ARE YOU READY? Than for thousands reading this blog and the millions that really should be......Let get ready to S%#K IT!!!

Up first Santino Marella.

Santino: So really I have just one question? Where is he?

Amir: He who?

Santino: My all time favourite basketball player? Andrea Bargnani!!! That is one reason I am doing this to get an autograph and picture.

Amir: Well he ain't here so guess your out of luck.

Santino: Some one is going to pay for this and it might just be you my big tattooed basket baller.

( Santino attempts to apply the cobra. but is far to short so he grabs a chair stands on it and Amir blocks the cobra and takes the chair smashes Santino with it then slams him into the locker room door and throws him out )

Amir: NEXT!

(Kane's Theme music plays and in walks the 7 foot masked monster)

Kane: I know why you all lose. You are to nice. You must embrace the hate. (He looks at Demar DeRozan) You need to channel your anger and take it out on your opponent. You will not win until you drive to the net with hate in your heart. Then and only then will you find what you are looking for.

Rasaul Butler(Under His Breath): This is stupid. Everyone knows Wrestling is fake.

Kane(Turns to Butler): I am fake? I have seen you play and you are impersonating a basketball player. I will show you fake!!!

(Kane picks up Butler by the throat slams him into a Locker and chock slams him into a laundry bin.)

Kane: Any Questions?

(Kane Leaves and the lights in the Locker room go out. A figure with lights flashing on his jacket extends his arms and posses then exits and lights come back on)

Jose: Who was that?

Jamaal: Chris Jericho he is Canadian like me.

( Zack Ryder enters the locker room)

Aaron Gray: Zack Ryder you are my hero man.

Zack Ryder: Thanks Broski.

Jose: What is a Broski?

Aaron Gray: It is like what you would call an amigo.

Zack: Was Kane here?

Demar: He Definitely was just ask Rasaul!!!

( Zack looks in the Laundry bin and sees Rasaul Butler laid out)

Zack: Looks like Kane had a slam dunk. Anyway I was told you guys needed some motivation or something. So basically I was a no talent hack and started doing a show on Youtube became popular and got to become a star.

Amir: I make funny videos.

Zack: Cool how many hits do your videos get I am at like 100k a week.

(Amir Scowls)

Zack: Sorry bro!!! Any way time for me to go. make sure you like me on Facebook....Follow me on Twitter and buy all this cool Zack Ryder Stuff on WWE.Com....Take Care and Spike your Hair....WOO WOO WOO....You Know It!!!

Aaron Gray: Bye Zack!!! I think I am going to Spike my hair like "The Birdman"

(Zack sticks his head in the door)

Zack (Looks at Amir) Anyone ever told you that you look like Andre 3000?

(Amir throws a towel at the door and Zack leaves. In walks John Cena wearing a throw back Celtics Jersey)

John Cena: Later Zack. Hey guys. Now I am here to help you become more like a good team, like the Boston Celtics. See they, like me have " Hustle, Loyalty and Respect" It all starts from there.

Raptors (as a group): CENA SUCKS!!! CENA SUCKS!!!

(Cena turns and heads for the door)

John Cena (Talking to himself) : Seriously the Toronto Raptors told me I suck? They would know right? Maybe I do suck....No your John Cena and you are loved by millions of kids under the age of 13 and you do not suck!!!

Demar: You know maybe this is working that is the first thing we have done as a team all year!!!

(C.M Punk the WWE Champion enters the Locker Room. )

C.M Punk: What are you doing in my locker room.

James Johnson: This is our locker room.

C.M Punk: I am the best in the world and I got this (Raises the WWE Championship)

James Johnson: I train in MMA I don't sweat you.

C.M Punk: That a fact so I am suppose to be scared now right? You want to hear some reality. All of you basketball players are soft. You never had to earn anything in your privileged jock existence. You sign million dollar contracts and forget where you come from. I have seen fights in basketball games and trust me I don't sweat anyone in this room.

James Johnson: You talk a lot of smack for a little guy.

C.M Punk: Least I have reason to talk smack what have you done? You are the starter on one of the worst teams in the NBA. Congratulations!!!

James Johnson: We're just having some bad luck!!!

C.M Punk: Luck is for losers. What you all need to do is ask yourself if you want things to change. So do you!!!

Raptors (as a group) Yes!!!

C.M Punk: So what are you going to do about it!!!

Raptors (As A Group) Pound The Rock?

C.M Punk: Pounding the Rock is nice. I am not a fan. But honestly I don't need your help to do that, you need to pound the other team. Anyway this has all been fun in a strange sort of way. But I really have better things to do like tweet to my followers on Twitter. So later.

(James Johnson attacks C.M Punk from behind. Putting him in a rear naked chock hold. C.M Punk kicks him the groin and walks out )

Linas: I guess that means I am starting tonight.

(Andrea Bargnani walks in)

Andrea: I have good news. Tonight I am going to play.

Raptors (as group): About Damn Time.

( Santino Morella rushes back into the locker room)

Santino: Son of gun. It is you. I am your number 1 fan. This is a big honour for Santino. Can we get a picture?

Andrea: Sure

(Santino gets on a chair stands on it next to Andrea and loses his balance falling on Bargnani's foot)

Amir: Now see what you did.

Andrea: I think it's broken.

Raptors as a group have a collective Sigh!!

Hope you enjoyed this. No basketball players or WWE Superstars were hurt in the actual writing of this blog. The opinions expressed are totally 100% fake and would never actually happen. But in a season like this it sure beats talking about losing every single day.


Raptors Get Slammed In La La Land.

It was likely a sign when the first play of the game was a lop to Blake Griffin for an easy slam dunk. There would be many dunks that would follow. Despite having Jerryd Bayless back for this one it would matter very little. He was not going to stop DeAndre Jordan from slamming it down. Ed Davis wasn't either as he got posterized early. It was the same script as the Raptors have been following of late. They would dig an early hole make a fight to come back only to get slapped down again. But if anything the way the Clippers were doing it to them was entertaining. The first quarter was better than some slam dunk contests. Amir Johnson again with 2 early fouls would be a spectator with 6:24 left in the first. Raptors couldn't hit a barn let alone a basket early in this one(started 3-16) . Caron Butler the better Butler in this game, he hit a 3 with 5:27 left in first and Clippers were up 16-6 and they were as it turns out well on the way to victory. The Raptors by time the first quarter was over had just 11 points and the Clippers had 27 on the board and this game was done pretty much.

Sure the Raptors would put on their spunky little charge back going on an 11-2 run in the 2nd quarter. But it was more a case of the Clippers taking foot of the gas and Raptors taking advantage. A time out and Vinny Del Negro had his troops back and focused and they quickly went right back to work. Raptors would outscore the Clippers 26-22 in the 2nd but still were in a big hole down 49-37 at the half. Clippers would storm out of the locker room and pretty much took care of any doubt early. By the end of the 3rd this in effect became an exhibition game. While the Raptors continued to play it's top players the Clippers had called off the dogs. The final score of 103-91 was not a clear reflection of the Clippers true dominance on this afternoon. The stat line of DeAndre Jordan of 16 points and 16 rebounds with a highlight reel full of dunks was. Mo Williams had 26 off the bench to lead all scorers. The Clippers didn't have Chris Paul and didn't need him as Chauncey Billups had 14 assists despite only 5 points. On the Raptors side of things DeRozan tied his career high in NBA in L.A but that is only 15 points. He continues to have struggles returning home. That will be the Raptors only visit to L.A this year as the Lakers will travel to the ACC next month but the Raptors will not be returning the favour in the shortened schedule. Only 33 points for the Raptors starting 5 as a whole. If not for Kleiza with 16 and Barbosa with 19 the Raptors would have been challenging the team all-time low in points of 54. The Raptors had more fouls (12) than points (11) in the first quarter.

You look for some signs of improvement but in reality the Raptors seem to be the same movie over and over again. If you are a fan of Elvis movies it is kinda like that in a bad way. The story is only a little different but ultimately Elvis will sing a few tunes and act awful and it will be over. Same thing with Raptor games. They will come out flat, get behind big, make an attempt at a comeback only to have it fail. By the end, the game is not in doubt, you have sad faces on the bench and the other team's starters chilling out. This losing streak could go a long time if the Raptors can't find a way to beat the Suns on Tuesday. That will be much easier with Andrea Bargnani who officially has the slowest healing calf muscle on planet earth. D-Wade is second if you were wondering.

Raptor fans based on my twitter account are to the point of being fed up. Not as many folks talking about pounding rocks, much more focused on how this franchise is hitting rock bottom. Which it is hard to argue. No matter if you are rooting for this team to lose and tank or not. Tanking alone will not solve this. This young core the Raptors have claimed to have is not as deep or as strong as advertised. Jonas and the mystery pick in the ultra funky(fixed) NBA lottery is not going to change this team into a winner. The truth is as shocking as it is to say the only piece fans can feel confident in is Andrea Bargnani. This is of course assuming he continues on the path he was on prior to his injury. There is no guarantee he will. That is why his chances of making the All-Star Game are slim to none. He has not played enough games not that anyone has but him especially. He had a great 10 or 11 games to begin the season. If he does not come back as good as that this team will be in more trouble than we even realize.

If you are frustrated and upset with how this team has played....you should be. If you are not than you should be. Rebuilding or Reloading, or whatever Colangelo is calling it these days, this team is not good and quite frankly an embarrassment. The NBA lockout ended and it was suppose to bring basketball back. What the Raptors have been playing the last 8 games barely qualifies as basketball. It could be considered torture in some cultures. I am tired of hearing apologists, let's call this what is which at this point is an epic disaster. They say things have to get worse before they get better. Well it sure can't get much worse. If this remains the same the Raptors need to re-think who is running this team's offence. Along with the people in that offence. Improved D at times is great, but it leads to some ugly basketball until we see some results on the other end of the floor. I can except ugly and winning, but ugly and losing is not good for the soul. Maybe we need co-head coaches. Jay Trinao as your head coach of the offence and Dwane Casey as head coach of the defence. Is that an insane idea? Absolutely, but is it any worse than what I am watching on a regular basis....Not really. This is going to be a long and painful season and the rainbow and pot of gold at the end of it you just might find out is fool's gold.

I used a word that I consider the most scary word in sports today. Apathy, and that is what I am starting to see in terms of the Raptors. Once you have people going that route it is hard to bring them back. It is going to take more than just modest improvement if people truly give up on this team. I for whatever reason and am not one of them. But I am not the one to worry about. If you are reading this you likely are not either. It is the people that are not and basically have become fed up with it altogether that are. This franchise will always have a loyal core of fans. But if it is ever going to grow and not shrink, than things will have to improve at a rapid rate in the next few years. Which is not as likely as it might have seemed starting this season in my opinion.

Welcome To Lob City Raptor Fans

The Raptors face the most hyped team of the 2011-12 season. It also became the landing spot for Reggie Evans the former Raptor for the past 2 seasons. I often make jokes about how many point guards they have in Minnesota but how about this team with Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams. Now Billups when Paul is healthy plays at the shooting guard possession. Speaking of shooting guards any game in L.A means a return home for Demar DeRozan. If your thinking this will mean a big day for Demar DeRozan think again. In 4 returns home in his brief NBA Career he has only averaged 8.7 points and shot 14/43 for 32.5%. So if he is going to have a breakout game in L.A today would be his first.

Jerryd Bayless and Andrea Bargnani are both on the trip and both game time decisions. When these guys come back the Raptors hope this will address their struggles on offence. Today with or with out them that will include dealing with some shot blockers in Griffin and Jordan for the Clippers. Getting points on the inside is not going to be easy. If you are going to drive to the hoop you better do it with purpose. If you don't the highlight dunk you were thinking about could turn into a highlight block real quick. The Raptors in their latest lost got crushed on the glass. That is where there former team mate will make his mark. Reggie Evans as we got to see when he was healthy is a beast on the boards. Blake Griffin is also no slouch on the glass.

The Clippers have had some big wins on their resume recently. They have got the benefit of this crazy NBA Schedule early with 9 home games already in which they are 7-2. They are 8-5 overall so bottom line is they take care of business at home. The environment in L.A for Clippers games has changed. They are bringing in more fans than in the past thanks to all the hype. The Staples Center is rocking now for not just Lakers games. Today will be a tough task for the Raptors regardless of who is playing.

3 Keys:

Compete on the Glass: If you don't do it the chances of beating this Clippers team will greatly decrease. The Clippers are going to attack the glass on both ends and if the Raptors have a performance like they did against Portland they are toast.

Value possessions: This Clipper team is looking to turn you over and get out and run. That is what makes Lob City Hi-lights happen. Chris Paul is one of the best at taking the ball away at his position in the league. Clippers will be lurking in the passing lanes looking to get those easy picks and transition baskets.

Transition Defence: This team as just mentioned wants to run. The less easy points you can give this team the better it is for you. They really don't need your help with all the talent they put on the floor. So don't make it easy for them. Get back and defend and make them have to beat you in half court.

The reality is the Raptors are likely looking at loss number 8 square in the face. Clippers while extremely hyped do have talent to back it up. The Raptors will need to play an incredible team game on both ends to have a chance to win.


Unlucky 7 as Raps Head West.

I remember having a conversation with Paul Jones during a Raptor losing streak. It is hard not to have the losses blend into one another after awhile he had said. Last night at the ACC the venue was different and so was the team they were facing but that is about it. Raptors against Boston shot 30% and did not get to the line. Last night against Blazers it was 31.8% and still no free throws. The result on the scoreboard was similar as well with the Raptors in a deep hole early that they would never climb out of completely. The Blazers 27-14 and there only concern was Lamarcus Aldridge who was a pick reason why they led was back in the locker room with a bad back. But he would return and Blazers would extend the lead out to 21 points. This is when the fans at the ACC had seen enough and let the Raptors have it booing loudly as if Vince Carter had just arrived. The Raptors would rally late in the quarter but still be outscored 20-18.

The Blazers were a team having there own struggles as they had lost 4 of their last 5. The Raptors would make the predictable but futile "tease" push and get this game to with in 5 points. But the Blazers would stomp on the gas and Lamarcus Aldridge who the Raptors passed on for Andrea Bargnani was doing the damage with 33 points and a career high 23 rebounds. It was a 94-84 Blazers win.

The Good:

  • James Johnson 23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals shooting 10-17
  • Raps held Blazers to 40.2% Shooting.
The Bad:
  • The Glass Portland won battle on glass 55-40 and had 17 offensive boards.
  • Raptors shot 36.6% (Demar DeRozan 7-21)
The Ugly:
  • The Center Position for Raptors Amir 0 points and 4 rebounds , Aaron Gray 0 points 6 rebounds
The Raptors thankfully have a day off so we can all find something to make us smile. The will play the Clippers 3:30 Toronto time on Sunday. That will be no easy task. This season is living up to everything people thought it was going to be. Which was a really bad team. Raptors have been all that and more with injuries and the schedule making it even more so.


Raptors Make A Stop Over In Toronto

Toronto Raptors may get to the point that the ACC feels like they are on the road. It is a brief stop over for the Raptors to take on Portland before they hit the road for a murderous 5 game road swing. Given the Raptors history on west coast trips, to steal a game vs the Blazers would be big for team moral. But the Blazers are a solid club above .500 in the tough Western Conference. Still no word on if Bargnani or Bayless will be back. Seems like Bayless is more likely than Bargnani at this point.

Raptors in the 4 games without Bargnani are 122-280 from the field shooting 43.5% they have only averaged 77.75 points in those games. That is not going to win you many basketball games. While the Raptors miss him on the defensive end as well, it is his offence that is what they miss most. In that time with no Bargnani, Demar DeRozan is just 24/63 for 38% from the field and is averaging just 14.7 points per game. That is just a 0.4 increase in his scoring from his season average. You can make the argument that things become a lot harder for Demar with Bargnani out. Not only does he become a bigger target for defences, but the spacing on the floor changes without Bargnani. Making it more of a challenge to get to the rim.

As for the Blazers when a team basically has lost 2 first round picks to injuries and is able to be this good you have to be impressed. Greg Oden has been a bust and Brandon Roy was not a bust but is done far to soon. Still the Blazers have kept on keeping on. Adding talent like Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton to play with Lamarcus Aldridge who is rounding into one of the top power forwards in the game. Oh and they also added Jamal Crawford who is one of those "Raptor Killers" and is coming in off a 22 point game for him recently. Portland after a surprising 4-2 start have lost 4 of their last 5. The lone win against the NBA owned and New Orleans operated Hornets. Who are struggling much like the Raptors. As proof the NBA schedule is not kind to anyone this is the 5th of 6 games on the road for Portland on a trip has seen them bounce around North America.

3 keys:

Ball Movement: Blazers have 6 players that average 10 points or more and average 21.6 assists per game. Raptors need to do what they can to keep the Blazers from sharing the rock. Meantime the Raptors on offence need to pass the rock a lot better. There have been too many turnovers and not enough ball movement. In everyone of the games the Raptors have won part of that winning formula has been excellent ball movement.

Win on the Glass: Portland you would think would have an advantage on the glass but they have been out rebounded on the season by the average 2 a game. They do hold a slight advantage on the offensive glass. Raptors can not afford to give up second chances to this team they will make you pay for it.

Get to the Line: Raptors have not exactly got the benefit of calls on this road trip. Well now you are at home take advantage of it and attack the basket and get to the line. A first quarter like we saw in the last game with Boston is unacceptable. You have to get to line in the NBA and get some easy points. The Raptors shooting troubles at times make that even more vital.

Raptors will be hard pressed to find the winners circle but will attempt to do it at 7PM game is on TSN 2 and you can catch me tweeting my face off during the game @Dinonationblog on Twitter as always.


DNB Game In Pictures II

So we had so much fun we decided to do it again. Unfortunately another loss for the Raptors but that does not stop DNB Pictures from having some fun. So let's get ready set ROLLEM!!!

Desperate Celtics Crush Raptors

On Twitter before this game ever tipped I said it was a case of need vs want. The Raptors no doubt wanted to win and snap their 5 game losing streak. The Celtics needed to win to snap their same 5 game losing streak. The Raptors entered this season with no expectations of success other than the ones the team had for itself. While in Boston the expectations are always high and have been that way pretty much forever. Certainly since the Big 3 arrived in Boston. When someone needs something as opposed to wants something always bet on the guy that needs it. That was the case early in this game and it was clearly the case in the third quarter of this game.

The Celtics came out and set the tone in this basketball game. The Raptors tried to battle them off but just couldn't. It was a new starting line-up for Toronto as James Johnson finally replaced Rasaul Butler in the starting line-up but Johnson struggled in the new role. He on the game was 1-7 with just 4 points and had 3 turnovers. Raptors other Johnson in Amir continued to revert back to old habits and found himself on the bench early with 2 fouls. The second foul was of the questionable variety but they count all the same. On that second foul it cost Demar DeRozan a bucket who early on was doing the right things. Driving to the basket and attacking. Made a three pointer but went right back to the attack. But as the calls did not come he reverted to shooting jumpers and forcing shots. There was one play where his lack of ball skills got exposed by Ray Allen quite nicely. This all with a story we have seen many times before as Rajon Rondo owned Jose Calderon for 3 quarters. Rondo would leave the game after taking a hard foul by Linas Kleiza that was changed from a flagrant two to a flagrant one.

This game was pretty much decided after the first quarter. In that quarter the Raptors shot just 30% and did not get to the line once. It gave Boston a 29-14 advantage that they would never give up. The Raptors did show some fight and cut the lead to 6 at halftime. But the Celtics would quickly turn that back to a 12 point advantage to start the 3rd quarter. Rajon Rondo who as mention left during this quarter with a wrist injury had a great line for a full game let along just 2/3rds of one. He had 21 points shooting 7-8 with 2 assists and 3 rebounds. The Raptors starting 5 did not have a good night. Just 37 points total shooting 13-40 (32.5%) as a group. Only two Raptors would make it to double figures in this game. Demar DeRozan had just 11 points shooting 4-16 and continuing to struggle to get things on the right track. The second Raptor lead the team in scoring and would not be someone you would guess if you had 3 tries and had not seen the game. Gary Forbes the new proud uncle as he reported on twitter had 18 points going 5-6 from the field and 7-8 at the line. He might be the only Raptor that could take anything positive away from this one.

The score when the beating ended was Boston taking it 96-73 as they end there 5 game losing streak. Raptors losing skid climbs to 6 the longest active streak in the league at the moment with no clear end in sight. Portland is a team that is playing good basketball and they will be taking on the returning home Raptors at the ACC on Friday. This road trip was always going to be a tough one but it proved to be even more ugly than many could have imaged. The Raptors are 2-7 on the road for the season and 4-11 overall.


Raptors Face The Struggling Celtics

The Raptors only division championship came in the last season the Celtics were struggling like this. Boston at the time was a lot like the Raptors are now. They like many Raptor fans are this year were hoping to hit the lottery. The big prize in that lottery was suppose to be a dominant big man out of Ohio State named Greg Oden. The Celtics would fail to win that lottery and in the end that was the genius for the creation of the "Big 3". The Celtics stripped away their young core to bring in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. It was enough to convince Paul Pierce to stay. The fact they lost the lottery had a dynamic impact on them and the entire Atlantic Division including the Ratpors. We can only guess how both teams futures would have been if the Celtics got their man in Oden. Something to think about for the people cheering for Raptor losses this season.

But at the time I had said the Celtics would have a 3-5 year window to win NBA Championships. The window is closing. That creation of the Big 3 in Boston is also credited for the creation of what we see in Miami today. Lebron James, Chris Bosh and D-Wade said one of the factors in them coming together was the fact as individuals they could not get passed the Celtics. Another thing that came out of those moves was the emergence of Rajon Rondo. At the time many people did not think Rondo was good enough to play with these 3 superstars. He has emerged as a superstar himself and now likely the most important piece of the Celtics puzzle. Despite that it was rumoured the Celtics were shopping him hard prior to the season. How the potential end of big three era may have started is with a trade with OKC. Kendrick Perkins who would be the other starter on that original cast was moved to OKC at the deadline last season. It seemed to cut the soul out of the Celtics and they have yet to be the same since. Health concerns have sidelined the big piece the Celtics got in that trade in Jeff Green.

All of that is the history behind how we got to where we see the 4-10 Raptors taking on the 4-8 Celtics both losers of 5 straight basketball games. When you look a little closer though the level of competition in the Celtics losses has been far greater. Losses to Dallas, Chicago, OKC and twice to the improved Pacers. Part of the Celtics decline has been the lack of presence in the middle. J.O who Raptors fans will remember is their starting Center. He is no spring chicken himself. Shaq who Boston brought in last year is now trade jokes with Barkley, Kenny and Ernie on TNT. A nice move the Celtics did make though is flipping "Big Baby" Glen Davis to Orlando for a more consistent Brandon Bass.

3 Keys:

It Is All About Rondo: Now the Raptors against a superior point guard in Derrick Rose were able to bust out a zone and use it effectively. Against Rajon Rondo that might not work as well. Not because Rondo is better than Rose but because of the weapons Rondo has on the floor with him. Ray Allen at the top of that list. While the Celtics don't have the depth of outside shooters they have had in the past they do have quality. Rondo in a 1 on 1 match-up with Jose Calderon is a complete mismatch.

Who We Got?: No Bargnani is the word for this one. But the Raptors could have Bayless, Johnson and Gray who all have practised with the team. That is right I did say practice. In a season that has had few of those Raptors were able to have one. This was a season made for Allen Iverson there will be so few practices it will not be funny. Raptors unlike A.I could sure use a few.

Demar DeRozan needs to be Demar DeRozan: Things have been tough on Demar. Even threw out a tweet about how in tough times you find out who your real fans are. Some of those people that may seem like haters might just be concerned fans. They also could just be fickle haters. But that is not the issue. What is the issue is, that Demar needs to get back to playing more like he has in the past. Stick to what you do well and don't go beyond it. Ray Allen has always been a tough match-up for Demar and maybe that will bring out the best in him. We can only hope. If not DeRozan could find nothing but haters and tough love until he finds the answer.

So someone has to win and to be honest the pressure to be that team is more on the Celtics than the Raptors. There were no Celtics fans cheering for their team to make the lottery this season. I just want to say the Celtics do have some great fans as well. I remember watching a game and Boston was down like 20 and the fans were cheering trying to fire them up to make a comeback. When is the last time that happened at the ACC? I have never once heard a Boston fan boo because they didn't get pizza. Something to think about. However should Boston some how lose to the Raptors tonight you may just hear some boos even from those faithful fans. Game starts at 7:30 and can be found on Sportsnet.


Round Ball Review: Negative Work Environment.

Here is the latest episode of the Round Ball Review. Even the guys are having trouble getting along during this losing streak. But they manage to get through another episode and hopefully provide some laughs along the way.

That is it for the guys. But they were not the only ones making fun of Primo Pasta today. Check out The Basketball Jones campaign to get Andrea Bargnani voted to the All-Star Game in Orlando. Here is a link to it. Just a day of comedy all around. What is not so funny is the Raptors have lost 5 straight and head into Boston tomorrow. But for now have a few laughs and enjoy. If you are new to checking out Round Ball Review they have been doing episodes off and on for many years here in the DNB. You can see the old episodes on the DNB's YouTube Channel.


More Of The Same In The ATL

The Raptors would be another man down as the entered Atlanta for a special MLK Day Matinee. James Johnson joins Jerryd Bayless, Aaron Gray and of course Andrea Bargnani. The writing was on the wall it seemed heading into this one. Demar DeRozan day started out the day on the right foot with the Raptors opening score in this game driving to bucket and getting an easy two points. But by the end of the afternoon DeRozan would be as frustrated as the fans watching the game likely were. He would get a rare technically foul and end up on the bench cooling his jets with 4 fouls. Amir Johnson would also have his issues with foul trouble as well on this afternoon. He quickly had to make an exit in the 3rd quarter with about 9 minutes left. For an undermanned Raptors squad that made it an even rougher afternoon.

It did start somewhat well though with an 11-5 lead in early going in the first. But Josh Smith would be big all afternoon and it started with 8 points of a 10-0 run that brought the Hawks back to take the lead. This would set a pattern for most of the afternoon. The Hawks would seem to turn it on and off proving that they are, both good enough to be good, but why they never will be great. They were the like a cat playing with a mouse before they killed it. Raptors fought back to get the lead down to 4 with the score 22-18 only to see the Hawks pull away again before the end of the first with a 26-18 advantage after one.

In the second despite many foolish and silly turnovers by the Raptors, the Hawks were letting their foot off the gas pedal, especially at the end of the half. After letting a 34-22 lead be trimmed to 36-30, only to go on another 7-0 run and have their largest lead of the game at 13 points. But again they let things slide and only led 50-45. It was a gift the Raptors were still in this game.

The Hawks continued to feed Raptor fans hope and their own fans concern. The Raptors with a less than full roster, and having a few folks in form of Young Onez as spectators were able to hang around. Barbosa was the main offensive weapon, his 22 points off the bench led the Raptors on the afternoon. The Raptors would be just down 2, heading to the fourth quarter with the score 73-71 Hawks. But as often been the theme for the Raptors of late, the 4th quarter was an epic disaster. They would take over 5 and half minutes to even register a field goal. Hawks did enough to close the door outscoring the Raptors 20-13 and finish off the Raptors 93-84.

Raptors 5th loss in a row as they head next to Boston to conclude this 3 game road swing. Josh Smith had the line of the game with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Joe Johnson was not shabby either with 27 points 5 rebounds and 6 assists with a couple steals. Compare that to the Raptors future as Demar DeRozan had just 10 points and was 5-17 from the field. Ed Davis did have a season high 11 rebounds but only 7 points as he was forced to play 40 minutes in part because of Amir Johnson's foul trouble. Johnson did have 13 points and 10 rebounds in just 25 minutes of action. Calderon had 13 points and 11 assists but also 4 turnovers. You can certainly understand why the Raptors are struggling with injuries mounting combined with the schedule that has been challenging. But, if you are not starting to have some deep concerns about this young core that Raptors have claimed they are building, then you must not be paying attention. Is it a product of the new system? Is it a product of having to play harder with a focus on the defensive end of the floor? Is it the fact the Raptors were handcuffed by the lockout and had no control of there young players for the entire lockout? It could be all of the above. But for the Raptors ultimate game plan to work they need a lot more from their young core. That begins with Demar DeRozan and Ed Davis.

Raptors Have Early Start On MLK Day in U.S

Before we get to basketball today just a few words on what today is in the United States. Martin Luther King was one of the many that struggled for civil rights in the 60s. He was one of the great men that lead that struggle. When I was in high school studying American History this time period was one I took particular interest in. I have always had great respect for not just King but Malcolm X and all the others that fought for the rights of African Americans. The fact we live in a time that has a black president is something that perhaps these men could not even have imagined. So take the time to learn about their struggle. Here is the most famous speech Dr. King delivered it is one of the best speeches given by any man of any colour:

So that is why I will not complain that the Raptors play at 4pm on Monday. They are in Atlanta to take on the Hawks. As mentioned when we talked with Jack Armstrong last week, the Hawks have lost an important piece to their puzzle in Al Horford. To me, Horford is the heart and soul of this Hawks team. While the Hawks have more talented players in Joe Johnson and Josh Smith they do not provide that leadership and heart that Horford does.

Smith comes in off perhaps his worst performance of the season with just 8 points in a win for the Hawks over Minnesota. While Joe Johnson remains productive but many will point to his contract and say that he should produce much more. The Hawks are a good team that has never been able to find the parts to be that great team. They come into the game today looking for their 10th win of season sitting in 5th place in the Eastern Conference. Actually sitting second in the Southeast behind Orlando not Miami. The Heat with their losing streak are a half game behind the Hawks.

As for the Raptors they continue to struggle against three things. The schedule, injuries and themselves. James Johnson the latest Raptor to catch the injury bug had x-rays on his ankle that were negative but his status for today as of right now is uncertain. The schedule is what it is and there is nothing you can do about that. But the Raptors turnovers and missed free throws along with having trouble getting to the line at all are things that they control. As Scott Carefoot in Raptor Blog referenced that 1 for 7 performance was the worst for the franchise since back in it's first season in the league. Demar DeRozan did not even get to the line in that game. This has to change fast if the Raptors hope to compete on any level.

Despite the great improvements on defence you still at the end of the day must score more than than other team to win. Turnovers and missed free throws will do nothing to help in that regard. The Raptors would be served not by the words of Martin Luther King but by those of Malcolm X as they need a win and will take it "By any means necessary." So let's get to some keys to the game.

Get There And Make It- I just went through how important it is for the Raptors to get to the free throw line and once there cash in on their attempts. This offence struggles to score at times and without Andrea Bargnani that struggle is even greater.

Battle on the Glass- Hawks are by nature an athletic team. Minus Horford they still are that. The Raptors need to fight hard on the glass and close out defensive possessions. They can not afford to give up rebounds that lead to second chances points or transition opportunities.

Transition D- The Hawks are a team that can get out and run. Josh Smith is a finisher in transition and the fewer easy points you can give up to him the better. Give yourself a chance to guard the Hawks in the half court and try to shut them down. The Raptors at times did an excellent job of this against Chicago. This was done mostly through the use of zones and the Hawks are a team that is not exactly known for 3 point shooting so it might be a good idea to go to the zone early and often today.

That just about does it. I encourage you even as Canadians to take some time to remember a great man in Martin Luther King today. His dream still lives today and it is up to all of us to keep it alive and be mindful of the past. I have friends of all colours and backgrounds. I think basketball more than perhaps any other sport is a true collection of all of these cultures. I judge people on how they treat me and not by the colour of skin or religion or anything else. That is how I was raised and is part of who I am. On a day like today it is important to reflect on those values and spread them to others. We have come a long way in terms of race relations but there are still people in this world that have not seen the light and may never see it. At the end of the day we as people can only control our own actions and our own way of life. But together we can show that we as people of any colour, race or creed can all be as one and love a sport like basketball. United by a common bond and love of something that we all share.


DNB Game In Pictures

This is something new will try for the odd Raptor game that has some extra time between games. Basically we have some photos from last night's game with some fun captions to give you all a laugh so if your ready...Roll'Em


Raptors Show Some Fight But Lose On Points.

The Toronto Raptors had about as much chance of winning this game as Tim Tebow has in beating Tom Brady. But while Tebow is currently on the way to being crushed by Brady. The Raptors in Chicago had a lot more fight than one might have expected coming in. But in the end the Bulls would come out on top of things but it was an interesting ride to get there.

Demar DeRozan got off to a good start with 6 of the Raptors first 8 points. Amir Johnson did not as he was sitting on the bench just over 3 minutes into this one. He had a foul on the opening possession than picked up his second with 8:49 to go in the 1st. Bulls had a 12-8 lead after DeRozan's third score but would then go on a run and push the lead to 21-8. This prompted Dwane Casey to call a time out and change his approach on defence. The Raptors went zone and it worked really well. Derrick Rose could no longer pick apart Jose Calderon. The Bulls struggled to find any offence at all. James Johnson was having a solid two way performance against his former team. He along with Leandro Barbosa were leading a wave of scoring from the bench. The Bulls 24-13 lead after one, was being chipped away as they had empty possession after empty possession. In fact the Raptors were able to get the lead 35-33 with about 1:30 to play in the half. That was the first time they had led in the game since it was 4-2 Raps in the early moments. Toronto would reverse the 24-13 advantage in the 2nd as they outscored the Bulls by the exact same margin for a offensively challenged 37-37 halftime score.

Raptors came out in the 3rd and continued on with zone defence with a more traditional looking 2-3 zone. Bulls would nose out ahead by 5 points but a DeRozan 3 pointer would bring the Raptors back to level at 44 a piece. It was a scrappy 3rd quarter as both teams had their issues getting the ball in the basket. The Bulls would again push out to a five point bulge and would end up with just a 4 point lead after 3 with score just 56-52. Some more bad news on the injury front for Toronto as James Johnson was out with a twisted ankle and after reports he may return, as it ended up he would not. The Bulls came out of the blocks in the 4th and quickly built their advantage to 11 points. The Raptors made one finally push back but the Bulls responded and re-established the 11 point advantage and push it further with a Rose bucket to make it 71-58 Chicago. The Raptors were challenged to score, they had one possession where they had 3 or 4 attempts only to finally have Kleiza end up at the line. Which was a rare event. Raptors making a foul shot was even more rare. They went 1-7 from the line. Demar DeRozan did not get to the line even once in this game. Barbosa was the only Raptor to make a free throw in this game. The Bulls would close this game out and earn a hard fought 77-64 win moving to 5-0 at the United Center on the season and 12-2 overall.

Raptors fall 4-9 and have lost 4 straight. They next hit the floor at 4pm on Monday as it is the MLK Holiday in the U.S and they will take on the Hawks. DeRozan and Barbosa shared the team high in scoring with just 15 points. Raptors were able to hold Rose to just 18 points but he had 11 dimes to go along with it. The fact the Raptors were able to hang with one of the NBA's Elite teams was encouraging but in the end another loss and they lose a player as well with Johnson going out. Despite all of that you had to at least be a little impressed with how Dwane Casey schemed on defence to give the Raptors a fighting chance through 3 quarters. It was noted that Casey was even more active than usual on the sidelines in the broadcast.

So that is about all for the game. However I want to make mention of an interview conducted by Eric Smith that was part of the pre-game radio broadcast with former Raptor broadcaster Chuck Swirsky. Believe it or not this is the 4th season since Chuck left for Chicago. Time real does seem to fly by. Chuck since leaving Toronto has never explained why he left other than for "Family Reasons". He has been in this blog many times and out of respect to Chuck we have never pressed to have him explain. Eric Smith in this interview with Chuck, it finally is explained in depth what those reasons in fact were. So I encourage you to go have a listen.

I honestly never knew the reasons Chuck had left till today. I had heard bits and pieces of this story but never knew what was fact or fiction. I have always loved Chuck as person and I am sorry to hear of the reasons he had to leave a place that he did and still does love. Chuck and Eric both will always have a special place in my heart. I was just doing a college radio show locally here in Hamilton and emailed Chuck and later Eric about being guests on the show. Chuck would do that small radio show several times as would Eric. Chuck would also help me get to know a few people in an attempt to advance myself. He is a great human being and truly cares for people. I may have issues with his style of broadcasting at times. But never the man. The man is one of the best people I have had the chance to know. I have appreciated his wiliness to be a guest here in the DNB since leaving for Chicago. Now knowing what was going on for him personally I appreciate even more. Whatever you may think about Chuck, he gave a heck of a lot to helping sell this Raptor franchise in his time here. He should always be respected for all that he did to try and grow the Raptors and game here.

Raptors Start Road Trip In Chicago

The odds of hitting a bullseye according to some site I found on the internet is 1/50. The Odds the Raptors beat the 11-2 Bulls is probably greater than that. In fact this entire road trip offers no easy games with stops in Atlanta and Boston after this. But at least the schedule slows down a little for the Raptors after this. A day off between games in this season is gold as the Raptors will play on Monday in Atlanta and Wednesday in Boston. Chicago returns home after beating Boston last night. The Bulls have been on the road a lot with only 4 of their first 13 games at the United Center. But when they have been home they haven't lost.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey took all the blame for the loss vs the Pacers last night. No doubt he deserves some of it. But not all of it. If his team had just made it's free throws it never would have come down to one of their worst free throw shooters in Jamaal Magloire having to make free throws to keep the game alive. The Raptors would be happy if this game was close enough to be within free throws. But the Bulls are rolling and even a turf toe injury to last year's MVP Derrick Rose has not slowed them down. Beyond him the Bulls have the depth of talent most teams would dream to have. That depth got even better with the addition of Rip Hamilton. Bulls are on a 4 game winning streak in which they are destroying people. They have won by an average of 14.5 points during this winning streak. That includes a 24 point margin in which they clobbered the Pistons.

3 Keys to Game

Bombs Away Bulls- Bulls have a few 3 point specialist and you need to be aware when they are on the floor. Derrick Rose will be you can count on that. Brewer, Korver and Watson are the 3 most likely shooters from behind the arc. If Bulls get driving to the paint and kick out to any of these guys it will be a long night at the office for the Raptors.

Rose Owns Jose- Derrick Rose injured or not will have no problem handling Jose Calderon. He has had little problems with him in the past and tonight should be no different. Raptors may look to go zone a lot and try to keep Rose out of the paint that way. The odds seem a lot better. Problem will be the first point we made. The Bulls do have a few capable three point shooters.

Glass Wars- The Bulls have a number of guys that are more than capable rebounders. Noah, Boozer, Gibson even Asik. Raptors will be hard pressed to even stay close in the rebounding battle. But the most important thing is keeping the Bulls off the offensive glass and giving them 2nd chances. They are good enough you really don't need give Derrick Rose another 24 seconds to kill you.

After a tough loss and travelling to Chicago I find it hard to believe the Raptors will stand a chance in this one. That being said last night with no Bargnani (Which should be same tonight) I thought they had zero chance to be competitive but they were. Doing the same tonight will be a much bigger challenge.


Raptors Start Strong and Fizzle Late At ACC

This was a game fitting of the date on the calender. It was if you have not checked a calender today Friday the 13th. Lots of odd things would occur at the ACC on this night as the Raptors limped in to face the Pacers without Andrea Bargnani. This game was not going to be pretty. How on earth would the Raptors make up for the 22 points that Andrea Bargnani both averages and scored that exact number vs Pacers in the home opener. Demar DeRozan was heading into this one having perhaps the worst stretch of games in his young career. Everything pointed to a Pacers blowout win. But that is not what happened at all.

The Raptor came out like a house on fire. DeRozan was scoring and getting to the line at will. The Raptors at one point had built up a 16 point lead in the first half. It was pretty stunning to say the least. Raptors had come out and dominated the first 27-15 but after peaking at that 16 point lead in the 2nd the Pacers would quickly cut that lead to 8. As part of the Pacers comeback Danny Granger would block Ed Davis who started for Bargnani on the night. Granger would decide to taunt him and get a tech. Which although stupid was not a big deal except he already had a tech early in the game for arguing a call. So Mr. Granger would be sent to the his Bat Cave away from home in the visitors locker room. The Pacers would push on and get the lead down to 5 at the half with the score 45-40.

The Pacers came out of the locker room minus Granger and quickly got the game to within 2 points. The Raptors showed they had some moxie and rebuild there lead to 10. But the Pacers kept coming and the Raptors were struggling to hang on. The battle would be tight all through the 4th quarter and then some terrible mistakes in the final moments would seal the Raptors all to familiar fate. The first mistake came on the second of two Pacer free throws with the game tied at 90. Pacers would make the first but miss the second. But they would end up getting the rebound and be fouled and go back to the line. It would be the 6th for Amir Johnson ending his night with just 9 points and 5 rebounds. So that gave the Pacers a 93-90 lead. Raptors need a 3 now to get this game to overtime. Jamaal Magloire was not going to be the guy to make that three pointer but he was on the floor. In defence of Casey it was likely to rebound a missed three and give the Raptors a second chance to make it. But what happened was inexpiable. The ball would be inbounded to Magloire and he was fouled be it intentionally or by accident, regardless it was a wise move by the Pacers. Hack-A-Canadian is how I referred to it on Twitter. Aside from the obvious that the Raptors could not make a three, Magloire is also terrible at the line. In his career just 64.2 % from the line but has not shot above 60% since 2003-04 season which is the point his career started to nose dive. He would miss both badly at the line. Pacers would follow it up 2 points and seal it up for a 95-90 win. The second win for them in Toronto in the last 30 days.

DeRozan after the hot start would end up with the same 23 points he scored to lead the Raptors in the previous loss to the Pacers. Barbosa continued to be effective off the bench with 20. Calderon also had a decent stat line. In the end the key stat is this game was at the line. Pacers went 32-38 from the charity stripe and the Raptors just 20-32. It was a solid performance from the Raptors on the night. They really deserved to win this game. But in the end they have no one to blame but themselves for why they didn't. Things get no easier as they head to Chicago to take on the Bulls who are currently about to get a win over the Celtics. Bulls will have the best record in the NBA at 11-2 and are a perfect 4-0 at the United Center.

Note: Minor Error on my Part.....DeRozan had 22 in the opener vs the Pacers in opener and Bargnani 21. Sorry about that.