Here’s what we’ll be looking for from the Raptors as they begin an unrelenting week with five games in six nights, beginning tonight at ACC against the Timberwolves (7 PM, TSN2, FAN590, GET TICKETS).
Let’s Play Three: Tonight kicks off the only stretch of three games in as many night for the Raptors and based on recent events, you have to wonder how they’re going to respond. The Raptors struggled in both games of a back-to-back over the weekend, culminating in a terrible second half in Philadelphia that saw them outscored 56-28.
Head coach Dwane Casey said post-game that his team was mentally and physically fatigued by that point, but they’ll need to find a way to finish that second game and dig even deeper this week. Help could be on the way at some point during this stretch from Jerryd Bayless (sprained left ankle), Linas Kleiza (right knee surgery) or Aaron Gray (rapid heart rate), who are all listed as day-to-day.
It can always be worse. When the Raptors played in the 1998-99 lockout shortened season, they had to play three back-to-back-to-backs (although they fared pretty well).
Higher Love: According to Kevin Love of the Wolves, the best power forward in the league is Kevin Love.
“I believe I’m the best ‘4’ in the league,” Love said in a recent interview with 1500ESPN.com. “I think you have to believe that you’re the best. I think Mohammad Ali even said, ‘I was the greatest before I knew I was.’ I think everybody needs to have that mindset. That’s part of winning the mind game from the very start. You have to believe it. You have to hold yourself accountable.”
Statistically, it might be tough to disagree with him right now. He’s been tremendous to start the season entering tonight’s game fifth in scoring (26.1 point per games) and third in rebounds (14.9 per game). He’ll present a major challenge for Andrea Bargnani defensively and on the glass tonight. Should be a fun matchup to watch.
DeRozan Adjusting: DeMar DeRozan would probably be the first person to admit this was not the most epic of weekends. In two losses he posted a combined five-for-19 shooting for 11 points with two trips to the free throw line, four assists and three rebounds.
DeRozan has noticed a change in the way he’s being defended this season.
“A lot of teams are starting to pack it in the paint. You see all five jerseys of the opponents looking at you. They’re starting to double team me in the post. Once I watch film and get a hold of it, it’ll come easier.”
Countrymen Clash: Jose Calderon could match up against countryman and rookie reserve Ricky Rubio, in the first ever NBA meeting between the two Spanish point guards.
We’ve seen Calderon’s strong start first hand and the 21-year old Rubio has been the stuff of highlight reels early in his NBA career, looking well worth the wait for the Timberwolves. With averages of just under 10 points and eight rebounds per contest (including a 13 point, 14 assists, six rebound effort on Sunday in a win), he’s been a difference-maker for a Minnesota team on the rise.
The pair have also been teammates with Spain’s national team at 2011 Eurobasket and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, so there’s going to be a familiarity in terms of playing style and tendencies. At the very least, they know what each other had for dinner last night…
Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun has more thoughts from Calderon on facing off against Rubio.