Gameday: Raptors @ Clippers, Dec. 9

Title: Gameday: Raptors @ Clippers, Dec. 9
Date: December 9, 2012
Original Source: Raptors Republic
Synopsis: This Raptors pre-game broke down the Raptors’ Dec. 9 contest against the Clippers.

Hey, we’re back after another embarrassing, soul-sucking, GM-denies-there’s-anything-wrong-with-the-talent loss! How U, fans of other NBA teams?

Speaking of fans of other NBA teams, Jovan Buha of ClipperBlog was kind enough to answer a few questions about today’s impending ass-kicking from the Los Angeles Clippers. Jovan, for the record, is a former Grantland intern, current USC student (DeRozan what up!), and according to LinkedIn two people think he’s good at Sports Writing, which is two more than me. So yeah, listen to what he was to say.

Oh hey. Please take it easy on us. We can’t bare to talk about the Raptors anymore (or bear…we can’t bear to talk about them either), so why don’t you just walk us through what it’s like to have a shit-show franchise finally get GOOD? So we can dream.

Well, first, you need to draft a franchise-altering player (and the good kind, not the Michael Beasley/Hasheem Thabeet kind) and cultivate a group of young, under-appreciated players. Then, you need to somehow trade for one of the five best players in the world. After that, acquire a bevy of talented, veteran free agents and vuala, you have a championship contender.

It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, of course, but the gist is that it came down to a few ping pong balls; without Blake Griffin, the Clippers wouldn’t have gotten Chris Paul. Unfortunately, they’d still be one of the laughingstocks of the league. It’s weird how one make can change the fate of a franchise, as the Clips look to be contenders for at least the next decade with Griffin in tow and Paul likely to re-up too. There’s no better feeling than having the team you root for and enjoy be relevant, so I hope for Raptors Republic’s sake, you guys get there sooner than later.

Who has been more frustrating as a fan, Lamar Odom or Vinny del Negro?

Lamar Odom, by far. Two years ago, he was the NBA’s sixth man of the year and one of the best players on a contender. Today, he is far, far removed from that. He’s already lost 15 pounds and seems to be rounding into shape (no pun intended), so there’s a sliver of hope. If you watch the Clippers — and he’ll likely show it in today’s game — you’ll see glimpses of the old L.O. He can still pass and rebound, and can make those brilliant plays that few guys his size can. If he can get back to 60 or 70 percent of what he was, the Clippers may be the favorite in the playoffs out West.

Del Negro, on the other hand, has done a much better job this season. While there are still some qualms with the minutes, mainly with Eric Bledsoe’s playing time, it seems the right guys are playing for the most part. I don’t necessarily agree with his platoon style rotation — the starting and bench units rarely ever mix for more than a few minutes — but this team is playing much better defensively than last season and there’s a lot more consistency lineup-wise.

Free Eric Bledsoe?

Has this grown to ‘Occupy L.A.’ proportions yet? Practically everybody in their right mind loves this guy and wants to see him out there for 25+ minutes per night. Right now he’s hovering around 18 per game, which is just too low. Look at his PER! It’s 22.4, which is third-best out of all point guards; he trails only Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, who are clearly two of best PGs in the world.

This kid is magic — I call him a kid even though he’s almost three years older than me — and can infinitely change a game without scoring a single point. Only a handful of players have in the league have the same defensive impact as him. He’d be starting on probably half of the teams in the NBA; there’s no excuse for him not to play more.

This game has “blowout” and “Jamal Crawford 40-piece” written all over it. Is there ANYTHING the Raptors might be able to try and exploit to steal a win at Staples?

There’s two things the Raptors need to do if they want to refrain from getting blown out: grab a lot of offensive rebounds and make a bunch of 3-pointers. Easier said than done, I know, but the Clippers make it relatively easy at times. That means a lot of shot attempts for Kyle Lowry, Jose Calderon and Mickael Pietrus (the Raptors’ top 3-point shooters). Ed Davis and Amir Johnson will have to be active and attentive inside; if Bargs can hit a few jumpers early on, the Clippers will have to come out on him, opening up the lanes to the basket.

In all honesty, this probably won’t be a close game; the Clippers just blew out the Suns, who are reasonably better than the Raptors, despite being tied with them virtually the whole game. The Clippers’ bench will likely be the difference-maker (as they have been a lot this season), so even if the Raptors’ starters keep it close, it won’t be for long. Still, the Clippers have already blown home games to Cleveland and New Orleans, so I wouldn’t put it past them.

As for a prediction: Clippers 108, Raptors 93.

Honestly, is anyone going to read a positional breakdown? It’s Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and a bunch of other guys who are way better than our players. Ugh, I digress, here you go…

Tale of the Tape
Offensive Rating: Clippers 109.3 (4th), Raptors 102.7 (21st)
Defensive Rating: Clippers 102.1 (7th), Raptors 109.4 (29th…yup, 29th)
Pace: Clippers 92.4 (15th), Raptors 92.3 (16th)
Strength: Clippers – Forcing Turnovers (1st), Raptors – Sucking the Life Out of Me (1st)
Weakness: Raptors – Basketball (worst ever), Clippers – Hacking (3rd highest Opponent FT/FGA)

Positional Breakdown
Point Guard – Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon v. Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe
Advantage: Clippers.
Seriously, I have to break this down? It’s Chris Paul, who might be the best pure point guard in the entire NBA, and Eric Bledsoe, who has been so damn good in 19 minutes a night that every day I see a #FreeBledsoe tweet and field speculative trade offers for him every week in fantasy basketball. Kyle Lowry is so inconsistent game to game and play to play right now it’s hard to know what to expect, other than sour body language (for the record – I still love him, and think if the team can start to turn the corner he’ll be right back where he was pre-injury). Jose is Jose, and is going to get thoroughly picked apart by either guard when he’s in the game. It’s almost a shame Lowry and Calderon aren’t playing better, just because it’s such a treat to watch Bledsoe get after it defensively.

Wings – DeMar DeRozan, Mickael Pietrus, Terrence Ross and Linas Kleiza v. Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups
Advantage: Clippers
Chauncey’s back. Although he also missed Wednesday and Saturday’s games, so maybe I should list Willie Green instead. Green, for the record, is inexplicably playing 18 minutes a game even though, at just 6’1”, Bledsoe can probably capably guard some wings. If Chauncey plays, cool. If not, check out his B-Ref page pic and laugh at how he looks with hair. As for the other wings, DeRozan is at home, which historically hasn’t meant anything but maybe he’ll be fired up. He’ll need to be, because the Clippers have a steady stream of savvy veteran wings to throw at him to jam him up. Not a huge advantage in these spots, but a Clipper advantage nonetheless. Pietrus FTW though.

Bigs – Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson v. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Lamar Odom and Ryan Hollins
Advantage: Clippers
I don’t have an update on Boss’ dislocated finger, so if he can’t go expect to see Aaron Gray, who will undoubtedly be flying around your screen with high-energy hustle players. Just kidding, he’ll be awkwardly taking up space and looking like Garrett. Griffin isn’t having a great year by his lofty standards but is still a huge threat and a match-up nightmare for this team, while Jordan is a beast. In all likelihood, the Raptor bigs are going to be abused in this one.

The Pick
This is going to be UGLY. Clippers by 16.

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