Here's the key NBA matchups you can catch between holiday parties in Canada this week. You can view the full Canadian Broadcast Schedule here.
Monday, Dec. 13: New Orleans @ Miami - 7:30 PM, Sportsnet One, Indiana @ Chicago 8 PM, NBATV Canada
When the Hornets knocked off the Heat 96-93 back on Nov. 5 in New Orleans, the home side was in the midst of a dizzying run to start the season, while skepticism reigned after a slow start on South Beach. What a difference a few weeks make as the Heat are now one of the hottest teams in the league and the Hornets have fallen back in the Western Conference standings by going 3-7 in their last ten games.
There's also an intriguing Central Division matchup on the sked Monday, as the Pacers (11-11) look to make an early statement in their first meeting of the season against the division-leading Bulls at United Center.
Tuesday Dec. 14: Toronto @ Charlotte - 7 PM, TSN
So what do the Raptors do for an encore after a record comeback? We'll find out Tuesday as the Raptors open a back-to-back against the Bobcats, who sit half a game behind Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings as of Monday. Charlotte does hold an edge in head-to-head play already this season thanks to a 101-96 victory back on Nov. 10 at ACC.
Wednesday Dec. 15: Boston @ New York - 7 PM NBA TV Canada, Chicago @ Toronto - 7 PM, TSN
It's a showdown atop the Atlantic Division as the Celtics (10 straight wins) visit the resurgent Knicks (eight straight) in what both teams are undoubtedly viewing as a statement game.
The Raptors were actually the last team to send the C's to a defeat back on Nov. 21 and they'll look to knock off another division leader Wednesday when the Bulls visit ACC. Toronto has played the Bulls pretty tough of late, with either a season series win or split the last four years and a 9-5 record overall during that span.
Thursday Dec. 16: San Antonio @ Denver - 10:30 PM, TSN2
The Nuggets dropped three of four on their recent Eastern Conference road trip, with the lone win coming in Toronto to give head coach George Karl career win no. 1000. There's also the distraction of the Carmelo Anthony saga, which only seems to be growing.
The Spurs meanwhile, just keep churning out wins and have used a reinvented offence to surge to the best record in the league as of Monday at 20-3. With Denver currently 10-1 at home and the Spurs 8-1 away from AT&T Center -- something's gotta give.
Friday, Dec. 17: New Jersey @ Toronto - 7 PM, TSN2, Phoenix @ Dallas 9:30 PM, Sportsnet One
The Raptors head into their first divisional matchup of four against the Nets. The Nets sit 6-18 and have lost seven in a row as of this posting, but remain well ahead of their dreadful pace of last season when they were 2-25 after a loss to Toronto nearly one year ago to the day.
Meanwhile, besties Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki reunite in an always entertaining matchup between the Mavs and Suns. Dallas is scorching with 12 straight wins, but at 19-4 they continue to trail its state-rivals from San Antonio. The Suns (11-12) meanwhile, are just trying to stay within striking distance in the Western Conference as they start the week a half-game back of Portland for eight spot.
Saturday, Dec. 18: Miami Heat @ - 8 PM, theScore
The Heat are who we thought they were (!) and have moved atop the Southeast Division thanks to an eight-game win streak. Leading the way have been Dwyane Wade (26.6 ppg, 7.75 rpg, 5.1 apg, two steals per game) and LeBron James (who's averaged 26 ppg, 6.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists during that stretch). Should be plenty entertaining to see these Supermen from South Beach doing damage in the Phone Booth.
Sunday, Dec. 19: L.A. Lakers @ Toronto - 1 PM, TSN
In what's sure to be more yellow and purple than I'd care to see at a Raptors home game, the defending NBA Champs invade ACC for their annual visit. Thankfully, these two teams have played some incredibly close games of late with the last three being decided by a total of eight points.
Dec. 13, 2010, 9:21 AM
Saturday's huge comeback isn't something you want to see all that often -- you've got to actually fall behind by 25 points before you can come back from it -- but it does afford for moments like this.
Charlie Villanueva has traditionally performed with a little bit of a chip against the Raptors, but he was getting downright demonstrative on Saturday night at The Palace. Take this play ...
Ok... a little mugging after a dunk for the home fans there... funneling Jerryd Bayless into the first row at the end of this clip was a little much, but still -- a basketball play.
I'm all for good form, but that hand seems to be a up a little longer than usual Charlie...
Now we're getting out of hand.
Of course this was all prior to the Miracle In Motown. Things were looking much different in the game's dying seconds, which Bayless made abundantly clear on his final two free throws to match a season-high 31 points.
These two teams meet again in Toronto a week from Wednesday… should be interesting.
||Game #23: Raptors vs. Nuggets
Dec. 10, 2010, 11:53 AM
Raptors (8-14) vs. Nuggets (13-7), Air Canada Centre -- Toronto, 7 PM, TSN, FAN590
The Raptors try to end their three-game slide and get back on track at ACC against the Denver Nuggets. Our LIVE CHAT, starts just before tip-off at Air Canada Centre.
The Big Story: Keeping Karl Away From 1000
For a team the Raptors just once a season at ACC, there's plenty of storylines in this one. First up, is the 999 career wins the Nuggets head coach George Karl is sitting on heading into tonight's game.
Karl, who actually earned win no. 900 at ACC back on Dec. 31 2008, has been stuck on 999 since Sunday, as the Nuggets have dropped back-to-back games in Charlotte and Boston to start their current four-game road trip.
It may be considerably tougher for the Nuggets if they're again without the services of Carmelo Anthony (22.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.3 apg), who sat out of their 105-89 defeat to the Celtics on Wednesday with knee inflammation.
Facing teams without their stars isn't a new theme for the Raptors, who enter tonight's game on a three-game slide themselves. Six of their eight wins have come against teams missing one of their top players.
||Brooks (ankle), Yao (leg)
||Iguodala (achilles tendon)
||Williams (personal) , Varejao (personal)
What To Watch: More Magic From Il Mago
So what can Andrea Bargnani do for an encore after the best performance of his career on Wednesday at MSG? The big man had a career-high 41 points, but was also solid on the glass (seven boards) and did a great job setting up teammates (six assists) in a tough loss to the Knicks. With key injuries up front for the Nuggets, Bargnani could be making headlines once again.
Regardless if Melo suits up or not, this is still a dangerous Denver team that can bomb away from the perimeter. The Nuggets sit seventh in the league in terms of three-pointers made per game and three-point shooting percentage, not too far behind the Raptors last two opponents in the Knicks and Pacers.
Prior to Denver's current two-game slump they had won seven straight and with their frontcourt dealing with injuries and Anthony in a bit of a recent shooting slump, it's been their guards stepping up.
|| Season Avg.
||Last 9 Games
||14.6 ppg, 5.2 apg
||15.3 ppg, 6.4 apg
||12.9 ppg 1.5 3PTM
||13.2 ppg, 1.77 3PTM
||11.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg
||14.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg
*Billups has only played in seven of those games
Plus, reserve guard Ty Lawson had been slumping since the calendar turned to December, but he's coming off his finest performance of the season on Wednesday, when he scored 24 points off the bench in a loss against the Celtics.
For the Raptors, rookie centre Solomon Alabi has rejoined the team after a stint in the NBA D-League. Peja Stojakovic (swollen knee) is expected to miss a sixth straight game, joining Reggie Evans (foot fracture) on the sidelines.
Denver will be without big men Chris Andersen (small fracture in lower back) and Kenyon Martin (left patella tendon). 'Melo as mentioned, is a game-time decision.
Be sure to watch pre-game coverage on NBA TV Canada beginning at 7 p.m. The Raptors official Twitter account also brings you the latest info leading up to tip-off.
Last Time They Met
If you've got the stomach, relive the heartache of the Raptors 97-96 loss to the Nuggets on March 26 to your right. Anthony led all scorers with 25 points, including the game-winning 18-footer at the buzzer.
"I think hitting one on the road, you get that much more joy out of it," said Anthony post-game. "That much more satisfaction. You've got 20 thousand people against you and you can make a shot to silence them? That feels good."
That's just super Melo! That heartbreaker resulted in Toronto being swept by Denver in five of the last six seasons (1-11 during that stretch) and a third straight loss to Denver at ACC.
||Game #22: Raptors @ Knicks
Dec. 8, 2010, 10:31 AM
Raptors (8-13) vs. Knicks (13-9), Madison Square Garden -- New York, 7:30 PM, TSN2, FAN590
The Raptors make a third attempt at trying to stop the rolling New York Knick at Madison Square Garden tonight. We'll be discussing all the action with you in our latest LIVE CHAT, starting just before tip off.
The Big Story: Canceling The Long Distance Plan
The Knicks are starting to look like they're for real as winners of seven straight on the road and five in a row overall. But despite rounding into form after a rough start, only two of their wins have come against teams that currently boast winning records.
To the Raptors, who the Knicks can lay claim to beating twice this season, they probably seem very real.
Sunday's loss at ACC, in particular, drove home two pretty major points.
First, Amar'e Stoudemire is pretty good in the fourth quarter. His athleticism and explosiveness in the pick-and-roll makes him a really tough cover and although Amir Johnson did a pretty good job defending him for three quarters, Stoudemire went to work in the fourth. The man called STAT scored 15 points in the final 12 minutes, including a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line and several mid-range jumpers.
Shooting from even further out was the other killer. Sunday's game saw the Raptors having a tough time defending the perimeter as they were slow to close out on shooters and allowed 12 threes. It's an alarming defensive flaw that extended to Monday's blowout loss to the Pacers, where they allowed 13 from long range.
The Knicks' game plan probably isn't going to change much tonight, so the Raptors have some adjustments to make.
What To Watch: Amir's Heating Up
Johnson had a quiet debut in the starting five back on Dec. 1, but he's been lights out the last three games with averages of 17 points, 11.3 rebounds (five offensive) and 1.66 steals while shooting an absurd 68 per cent from the floor.
The biggest of those three performances came against the Knicks last Sunday at ACC, where he tipped in and dunked everything in sight on his way to a season-high 22 points and a career-best 16 rebounds. Keep an eye on him tonight.
For more on Johnson, check out his one-on-one interview with Matt Devlin over at his blog.
Neither Reggie Evans (foot fracture) or Peja Stojakovic (swollen knee) traveled with the Raptors on their two-game trip through Indiana and New York.
Be sure to watch pre-game coverage on NBA TV Canada beginning at 7 p.m. The Raptors official Twitter account also brings you the latest info leading up to tip-off.
Last Time They Met
.. Was just four days ago. Check out our Game Rap for all the grisly details from that 116-99 defeat.
||Hoops On Tap In Canada This Week
Dec. 6, 2010, 1:07 PM
Here's what on the dial in Canada in terms of great hoops matchups for the remainder of the week. You can check out the full slate of games being show in Canada this season HERE.
Tuesday: Washington @ L.A. Lakers - 10:30 PM, SCORE
If you're an East Coast hoops fan that doesn't operate heavy machinery, it's worth showing up to work a little groggy on Wednesday as electrifying first overall pick John Wall makes his debut at Staples Center tonight.
The reigning champs have hit somewhat of a rough patch of late with losses in four of their last five, but a visit from the Wiz -- the NBA's lone team without a road win -- might be good for what ails.
Wednesday: Denver @ Boston - 7 PM, NBA TV Canada, Toronto @ New York - 7:30 PM, TSN2
Raptors fans can worry about the present in the form of the Knicks and scout ahead with a little channel surfing on Wednesday.
The Knicks are starting to look dangerous, especially on the road where they've won seven straight. But within the confines of MSG, it's been a different story as they've gone 4-5. Regardless of where this game is played, the Raptors are going to have to come up with a better solution for Amar'e Stoudemire, who's come up huge in both meetings this season.
Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets hit ACC on Friday, but first up is a big matchup in Beantown against the Celtics. Both teams hit this one incredibly hot with each having won seven straight as of Tuesday morning.
Thursday: Orlando @ Portland - 10:30 PM, TSN2
Two teams moving in very different directions square off late-Thursday in Rip City. The Blazers have won just three of their last 11 games overall and have gone into the tank offensively of late, scoring just a hair over 91 ppg which puts them among the lowest-scoring teams in the NBA over that stretch. They did find some offensive spark early against the L.A. Clippers at the Rose Garden and earned a 100-91 win in their last game on Sunday.
Orlando continues to hum along as winners of eight of its last 10 games overall. Their only obstacles during those 10 games? The even-hotter San Antonio Spurs and the flu, which sidelined several Magic players -- including star centre Dwight Howard -- in a 96-85 road loss to the Bucks.
Friday: Raptors vs. Nuggets - 7:00 PM, TSN
Masai Ujiri statement game! George Karl may still be hunting for career win no. 1000! OK, if that doesn't move you, how about the return of the Raptors from their short two-game road trip to face those aforementioned Nuggets?
It will be game three of a four-game, six-night trip for the Nuggets, who have won three straight meetings at Air Canada Centre and six straight overall.
Saturday: Toronto @ Detroit - 7:30 pm, TSN, Miami @ Sacramento
Sensing a theme here? It's a very busy week for the Raptors, who thankfully only need to make the short trip to the Motor City to close out their second home-road back-to-back in a week. The Raptors haven't had much success until recently against the Pistons. Toronto was just 13-40 all-time against Detroit until a season-series sweep last season goosed those numbers somewhat.
There's also a nightcap as the Heat take their talents to another beach as they visit Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and the struggling Sacramento Kings.
Sunday: Cleveland @ Oklahoma City - 7:00 PM, Sportsnet One
The week ends with a visit to raucous Oklahoma City Arena, where the high-octane Thunder try and keep pace in the Northwest division. The Thunder have a healthy Kevin Durant back in the lineup after a knee sprain and despite a brief benching in Chicago on Monday, the MVP-candidate is still filling it up with 28 and 29-point efforts since his return.
||Game #20: Raptors vs. Knicks
Dec. 4, 2010, 5:31 PM
Raptors (8-11) vs. Knicks (11-9), Air Canada Centre -- Toronto, 1 PM, Sportsnet, FAN590
The Raptors and Knicks both roll into an intriguing divisional matchup on Sunday afternoon at ACC. Akil Augustine and I discuss it all in our latest courtside LIVE CHAT, beginning just before tip-off.
The Big Story: Big Back-To-Back
So 19 games in and the Raptors find themselves staring at what suddenly feels like a fairly meaningful back-to-back, beginning with the Knicks on Sunday before traveling to face the Pacers the next night.
The Raptors hit the quarter-pole as winners of six of their last eight, but could be looking at a key point on the schedule these next two games.
The East couldn't be any more wide open after the top few teams and at 8-11 the Raptors would be playing in the post-season if the playoffs started today.
Here's the problem. The playoffs most definitely do not start today.
The reality is that the Raptors are also just three games up on the last-place Sixers.
But there's opportunity in these next two days against the two teams immediately ahead of the Raptors in the conference standings.
Win both games and they could vault a spot and are right near that .500 mark again. Lose both or even split them and they're falling back with a handful of teams right behind them. It's not make or break for a young team that's clearly going to experience inconsistency. But maybe it's one of those points on the schedule you look back on at season's end and notice it's where things started moving in a particular direction.
What To Watch: Gotham Road Warriors
Enough with looking ahead two games. Sunday's game pits two high-scoring teams against each other that are both going pretty good right now.
New York has won eight of its last nine and has been very good away from MSG, where its piled up eight road wins to tie San Antonio for a league-high.
Only three of the Knicks' 11 wins on the season have come against teams with winning records, but their last victory on Friday was an eye-opener. Amar'e Stoudemire put up 34 points and 10 rebounds as they took charge in the fourth quarter against the Hornets and earned a convincing 100-92 road win. It was the third straight effort with at least 30 points for Stoudemire.
Also seeing good things in threes was starting point guard Raymond Felton, who added his third straight double-double with 17 points and a game-high 13 assists in the Knicks' sixth straight road win.
For the Raptors, just take the footage of Friday's third quarter against the Thunder and keep it handy for whenever this team needs a reminder of what it can do. Bench play has been a strong suit for this team all season long, but when the starters come out and set the tone like they did after halftime on Friday, this team can be pretty fun to watch.
It's been an impressive week for the Raptors, who enjoyed their best offensive performance of the season against Washington and possibly their best quarter on both sides of the ball Friday vs. OKC. Those efforts helped boost their scoring average to just over 103 ppg during this recent eight-game stretch and that bodes well against a Knicks team allowing 106 ppg.
Just a reminder that Sunday is also Canada Basketball Day at Air Canada Centre with a lot going on throughout the afternoon.
Several athletes from our various national teams and new appointments will be in attendance, plus we'll see a pre-game presentation highlighting MLSE's ongoing financial commitment to the program.
Whether you're on hand to celebrate or not, you can also help support Canada Basketball with their GIVE THE GIFT OF THE GAME campaign for this holiday season. Visit basketball.ca today to find out how you can help by purchasing gear online, bidding on some cool experiences and memorabilia, buying discounted tickets to Sunday's game or simply by making a charitable online donation.
We'll have video and photos of all the festivities right here after the game.
Reggie Evans (foot fracture) and Solomon Alabi (NBA D-League) will be inactive for Sunday's game. Peja Stojakovic (swollen left knee) who has missed the last three games with a swollen left knee, remains listed as day-to-day.
For the latest injury updates, be sure to check out our pre-game coverage on NBA TV Canada, beginning at 12 p.m., and follow the official Raptors Twitter account.
Last Time They Met
Stoudemire was big down the stretch in Toronto's 98-93 loss to the Knicks in Toronto on Nov. 27. In the game's dying minutes, the veteran blocked a Bargnani lay-up attempt, made one of two at the line and proceeded to rattle off three straight field goals that restored an eight-point Knicks cushion.
The Raptors managed to get it down to just 96-93 with a minute to play, but Linas Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa both missed three-point attempts, allowing Felton to ice it at the line with two free throws.
||Game #19: Raptors vs. Thunder
Dec. 3, 2010, 10:41 AM
Raptors (7-11) vs. Thunder (13-6), Air Canada Centre -- Toronto, 7 PM, TSN2, FAN590
The Raptors aim to carry some momentum from a big win on Wednesday into tonight's matchup with the explosive Oklahoma City Thunder. Don't forget, Akil Augustine and I will be discussing all the action with you live from ACC, beginning just before tip-off.
The Big Story: The Kids Are Alright
It's easy to get cynical and say that Wednesday's 127-108 win at ACC over the Wizards was nothing to get too excited about. The Wizards remain winless on the road this season and still managed to put up 108 points in a blowout loss.
But Wednesday's win wasn't impressive so much for the 19-point spread, it was really more this team's young core not just stepping up but thriving in a dominating win.
Andrea Bargnani (18 points), DeMar DeRozan (game-high 20 points), Sonny Weems (18 points), Ed Davis (11 points, six rebounds, two blocks) and Jerryd Bayless (16 points, six rebounds, five assists) were all big factors in the win and if that carries over tonight, we're in for a fun matchup with a Thunder team that boasts just as much youth, athleticism and scoring.
In order to grab a win tonight, a good start is imperative. The Thunder can fill it up and will allow opponents to get theirs on offence, but they've got the necessary defenders at a couple of key positions to stifle the Raptors.
The Thunder also don't share the ball particularly well (but take pretty good care of it) and like the Raptors, outside shooting isn't exactly its forte. The challenge for Jay Triano and the Raptors' defence tonight is to limit high-percentage drives and try and force the Thunder to become shooters.
What To Watch: Booming Thunder
All eyes are going to be on the possibility of the Kevin Durant suiting up at ACC tonight, but the Thunder have a couple of other weapons that have been doing just fine lighting it up without KD.
Most notable is Russell Westbrook, the explosive guard who put up 38 points with 15 rebounds and nine assists in the Thunder's 123-120 triple overtime road win over the Nets on Wednesday. He's been on absolute tear this season and containing him might be a bigger priority as he's the one that makes this offence go.
Also shining for OKC in Wednesday's win was forward Jeff Green, whose 37 points continues his strong return from a left ankle injury that sidelined him for seven November games. If Durant can't go, expect Green to slide over to the starting small forward spot once again.
Durant sprained his left knee on Monday versus New Orleans and by all accounts it's not considered to be serious. But his absence would be a factor. According to John Rohde of the Oklahoman, the Thunder are 8-2 with their traditional starting five of Westbrook, Sefalosha, Durant, Green and Krstic intact. They're just 5-4 if they need to switch it up.
For the Raptors, leading rebounder Reggie Evans has undergone successful surgery on his right foot and will be sidelined for an estimated eight weeks.
Forward Peja Stojakovic, who remains day-to-day with a swollen left knee, is expected to miss a third straight game.
For the latest injury updates, be sure to check out our pre-game coverage on NBA TV Canada, beginning at 6 p.m., and follow the official Raptors Twitter account.
Last Time They Met
Back on March 19, the Thunder used a 17-4 run at the end of the first quarter to take a 39-25 lead after 12 minutes at ACC and the rout was on. Durant scored 31 points in 31 minutes, Green scored 25 and Westbrook added 11 points and 10 assists in an eventual 115-89 blowout win for OKC.
We'll skip both of those matchups entirely as we flash back to happier times against the Thunder (then the Seattle Sonics) on NBA TV Canada, beginning at 4 p.m.
Dec. 2, 2010, 12:58 PM
Great win for the Raptors last night and guard Jerryd Bayless was a big part of it with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists. He's also clearly becoming more comfortable with his team and this city with each passing day. Here's a sample of his latest entry posted on his personal blog on Wednesday.
"... A new country, a new climate, a new beginning. I can't lie and say that I knew to much about Toronto prior to being here, but for the short time that I have been here I hope this is something that doesn't come to an end. It's not only a city that embraces us as the players we are, but as the people we are as well..."
Check out more of it here and you can hear more from Bayless on Twitter.