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Sunday, January 24, 2010
Lakers at Raptors: Game prep, Canadian style

By Brian Kamenetzky

Friday night against the Bucks, the Toronto Raptors effectively tweaked their game plan en route to a 101-96 win. From Raptors Republic:

The Raps were lucky that the game was even close midway through the 3rd when the unthinkable happened. (Coach) Jay Triano made a change to his hermetically sealed gameplan. Sensing the Bucks couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and Luke Ridnour was penetrating into the pain at will, he switched to a zone, and it paid immediate dividends. The Bucks did eventually crack it a few times, but it definitely slowed them down a lot. The other thing Triano did was switch to a smaller lineup of (Chris) Bosh, (Hedo Turkoglu), (Marco Belinelli), Jose (Calderon) and (Jarrett) Jack late in the 4th. That move also proved to be effective...

Doesn't sound at all like a prescription for a squad to attack the Lakers, does it? Particularly one as bad defensively as the Raptors, who have the NBA's lowest defensive rating (112.7 points allowed per 100 possessions)? So with the Lakers heading into Air Canada Centre this afternoon (3 pm PT), expect Triano to deploy some of the same tricks against the purple and gold.

As it was Friday in New York, today's game is one L.A. should win win but isn't without pitfalls. Perhaps comforted by their exotic, ham-like bacon, delightfully kaleidoscopic local currency, and Tim Hortons, the 22-22 Raptors are 14-6 at home, and probably could be better if they still offended the sensibilities of visitors with these uniforms. Offensively, Triano's crew is among the more efficient in the league, scoring 108.4 points per 100 trips, good for fourth in the league, thanks in part to strong outside shooting. Five Raptors (Belinelli, Turkoglu, Andrea Bargnani- called day to day with a sore back- Jack, and Calderon) shoot near or above 40% from downtown, and as a team, the Raptors are fifth in the NBA in 3-pt FG, at 37.1%.

If the Lakers let the porous Toronto defense off the hook by abdicating their own defensive responsibilities,  they could be in for a long day. Clamp down a little, and I doubt the Raps will be able to keep the Lakers, who should have huge advantages in the paint and easier avenues to points, off the scoreboard enough to log the upset.

For more on the game, head to Forum Blue and Gold, Raptors Republic, and Raptors HQ.

UPDATE (11:47 am PT): Andy had a great exchange with Alt Raps over at Raptors Republic regarding Toronto's rotation, specifically with Calderon, Hedo, and Jack. More great information to tuck away before the tip. Click below the jump to read.



Hey Alt Raps,

How's it going? I had a question for you, in anticipation of Sunday's Lakers-Raptors game. Is Jose Calderon coming off the bench since the return from injury more about simply not fixing what was working (Jack doing well in his place, 11-7 since) or Calderon/Hedo being a little redundant and Calderon being able to run the show more with the second unit? Or a combination of both? In watching a few recent games, it seems like they run so much through Hedo that Calderon would get more chances with the reserves, but I wanted to get a more informed opinion.

Thanks for the help and I enjoy the work you guys do.  Looking forward to a good game.

Take care,

Andy

The Response:
"Hi Andy,

As you can imagine, you are asking a question that a lot of Raptors fans are asking themselves. My take? A bit of both. Coach Triano is the "if it works..." variety of coach and, as you point out, once Jack took over in Jose's absence the team picked up their play. However, the schedule also became much easier at the same time.  The start of our season saw a lot of games in November and early December and both the frequency and the quality of opposition swung in our favour about the same time. Jack is a good point guard, but his talents alone didn't buoy this team in that time, especially given the primary back up is Marcus Banks.

Hedo has had a horrible start to his Raptors career. He seems lethargic, he seemed to be lost with the ball not in his hand, and he publicly came out and basically demanded to be more of a ball handler. He became somewhat of a primary handler with Jose out since we didn't really love the idea of Marcus being the quarterback on this team when Jarrett went to the bench. While this still didn't give us the Hedo of old, we saw flashes of what "could be" and he showed he can create if given the chance.

With the return of Jose, Coach Triano used the tried and true "we'll have to work him in" line but even with some media trying to stir the pot into a PG controversy, it just never formulated. Jose seems to fit well with the second unit and the way Jay subs in, he brings a starter to the bench in the first 5-7 minutes of each game and puts them back in to start the second, giving Jose a starter and 3 pretty active/athletic bench guys with which to run the offense. Typically Hedo is out there with him early in the second, so it stretches the D a little. I see this continuing until Hedo finds his shot.

Jose has been adamant that the backup position is fine for him. If true, I think he will thrive since his major fault (defense) is masked a little by going against second stringers. Also, Jose doesn't remain stationary without the ball, which gives Hedo a bit more room to operate and more options with which to play.

No word on the lineup changing anytime soon. The rumours have started about Jose being trade bait, but I can't imagine that happening given the chemistry between Bosh and Jose."
HT: True Hoop