Weekend At Erie's...

Nov. 30, 2010, 5:00 PM

Tuesday's practice saw the highly-anticipated return of forward Ed Davis, who's been medically cleared to play after offseason knee surgery and is primed to make his debut Wednesday at ACC against the Wizards.

Not a moment too soon for the rook, who spent a weekend working in Fort Wayne, Indiana for a pair of games with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League. So what did the 13th overall selection take from the experience against the Mad Ants?

"It's a struggle down there man," admitted Davis. "It's rough. We had a five, six-hour bus ride to Fort Wayne. It's a struggle. You get the mindset you just want to work hard and just never be down there."

All things considered, a weekend in the Hoosier State should have been cake compared to what Davis has endured the last couple of seasons.

Coming off a National Championship with UNC as a freshman in 2009, Davis moved into a more prominent role the following season only to see it cut short by breaking the lunate bone in his left wrist in mid-February.

Fast forward to that summer's 2010 NBA Draft, where most mock drafts had Davis pegged as a lock for the top ten, but a surprising slide -- possibly due to the injury -- made for an easy pick by the Raptors at 13. His first game action after the wrist injury came in the Las Vegas Summer League, where Davis showed strong defensive instincts and an efficient, crafty offensive game that was a big factor in the Raptors’ 5-0 record.

But from another peak came a valley as a freak knee injury in a local pickup game at summer's end required the meniscus surgery that's brought him to this latest starting point.

A light brace serves as a reminder of the injury and Davis will wear it until he receives medical clearance, but it won't hamper him from soaking up some serious minutes in Raptors lineup that's thin up front.

The team’s top rebounder, Reggie Evans, is sidelined for the foreseeable future with a foot fracture and Peja Stojakovic -- who was hinted at as a possible replacement after Friday’s loss in Boston -- missed Sunday's game with a swollen knee. That prompted a surprising start and 20 minutes from Joey Dorsey against the Hawks, with Amir Johnson still coming off the bench.

Davis will not get that starting spot for his regular season pro debut on Wednesday, but Triano said he has zero expectations from the forward in terms of minutes.

"I think part of the rehab and part of him being sent down to the D-League is to get minutes and we'll play him as long as he can stay out there."

Encouraging words for Davis, who brings a new defensive wrinkle to the Raptors in terms of his abilities as a rebounder and a left-handed shot-blocker.

We've got tons more on Davis below, including a great assessment of what he brings to the table from Raptors Director Of Player Development Alvin Williams, a look back his work in Las Vegas, plus a preview of the NBA TV Canada special Two Rookies: D-Life.

  The Week Ahead For Fans In Canada

Nov. 29, 2010, 8:00 PM

There’s an awesome slate of NBA games on TV this week here in our fine country and you can always find the full season's schedule at NBA.com. But here’s a closer look at some of the juicier matchups for fans in Canada in the next seven days.

Monday: Houston Rockets @ Dallas Mavericks (NBA TV Canada, 8:30 PM ET)

The Mavs have been red-hot of late and are coming off an impressive 106-95 home win against the Miami Heat to extend their win streak to five games. Even more impressive? The fact that four of those wins came over a five-day stretch last week.

It's been failure to launch for the Rockets (5-11) this season, who have strung together back-to-back wins just once. Houston has been playing better basketball of late with wins in two of its last three, including a gritty 99-98 win over Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Tuesday - Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA TV Canada, 7:00 PM ET)

Cavaliers fans are undoubtedly readying the vocal chords for Thursday's must-see matchup against the Heat, but first up is a Fan Night rematch of last season's Eastern Conference semi-final.

Cleveland (7-9) has been scuffling along in the tight Central Division, but are coming off a comeback win at The Q over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday. The Celtics last played against the Raptors on Friday night in Boston, which bodes well for Rajon Rondo as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Wednesday – Washington Wizards @ Toronto Raptors (Sportsnet, 7 PM)/ San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Clippers (NBA TV Canada, 10:30 PM ET)

The Raptors-Wiz matchup could be back-to-back showcase of the league's top two rookies. Lightning-quick guard John Wall could makes his first appearance against the Raptors as he tries to help the Wizards to a second win over the Raptors this season. Wall's been tremendous when healthy and has missed two straight games with a bruised right knee.

Following that, Blake Griffin aims to continue opening eyes and dropping jaws with his explosive play for the Clippers. They face a daunting challenge in the form of the Spurs, who have been rolling with just one loss in November.

Thursday - Miami Heat @ Cleveland Cavaliers (TSN2, 8 PM)

Whether you love or hate the current circus on South Beach, this matchup is “must see” viewing for any NBA fan. Think Vince Carter ever had it bad in a return to ACC? You ain’t seen nothing yet as LeBron James makes his highly anticipated return to Cleveland.

Friday – Oklahoma City Thunder/Toronto Raptors (TSN2, 7 PM)/ Dallas Mavericks @ Utah Jazz (NBA TV Canada, 10:30 PM ET)

No team hurt the Raptors last season like Oklahoma City Thunder, who took both games in 2009-10 by an average of 23 points. The only visit to ACC this season for Kevin Durant and co., is going to be a real test for the Raptors improving defence.

Then it's another powerhouse Western Conference matchup as the Mavs visit the Jazz, who start the week ahead of the Thunder atop the Northwest Division at 13-5 and will be nearing the middle of a six-game homestand in this one. Utah has also been scorching as winners of five straight and 13 of their last 16 overall.

Saturday - Orlando Magic @ Milwaukee Bucks (NBA TV Canada, 8:30 PM ET)

If you're a fan of defence, this game's for you as it pits the league's top two teams in terms of defensive efficiency.

It caps off a week of games against Central Division opponents for the Magic, who start the week deadlocked with the Celtics for top spot in the East. Milwaukee, among last season's biggest surprises, is simply striving for consistency. The Bucks started the season by losing four of five, then winning four of five and most recently stopped a five-game slide with a home win over Charlotte on Saturday.

Sunday – New York Knicks @ Toronto Raptors (Sportsnet, 1 PM ET)/ New Orleans Hornets @ San Antonio Spurs – 7:00 PM ET

The Raptors try and exact a little revenge on the Knicks for spoiling their home opener on Sunday afternoon and that sets the table for a monster Western Conference showdown on Sunday night.

Monty Williams' squad came out blazing with a stunning 11-1 start, but the Hornets are coming off their worst week of the season. New Orleans suffered road losses to the Clippers and Jazz along with a home loss against the Spurs on Sunday to set up this week's rematch at AT&T Center.

  Game #17: Raptors vs. Hawks

Nov. 28, 2010, 9:41 AM

Raptors (6-10) vs. Hawks (10-7), Air Canada Centre -- Toronto, 1 PM, Rogers Sportsnet, FAN590

After losing their top rebounder and possibly most commanding presence on the floor, the Raptors must try and regroup at home against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

The Big Story: Reggie-less...

Starting power forward Reggie Evans suffered a right foot injury in the third quarter against the Celtics on Friday and head coach Jay Triano said that X-rays have revealed a fracture. More extensive tests are being done here in Toronto and the team is expected to have some kind official update on Sunday.

Enter the enigmatic Hawks for Sunday afternoon's tilt. Atlanta opened their season with six straight wins, then proceeded to lose five of seven, with a lopsided home defeat against the Celtics prompting new head coach Larry Drew to publicly call out his players. That tactic appears to have worked.

A competitive OT road loss to the Nets has been followed by two straight wins, including Saturday's 99-90 disposal of the Knicks at MSG. Jamaal Crawford led the way with 21 points off the bench for the Hawks, who had five other players score in double figures.

Atlanta shoots it well (48 per cent, second in NBA), shares the ball (23.8 assists per game, T-2nd) takes care of it (14.4 turnovers per game, 12th) and boast four players in Crawford, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Joe Johnson that can easily go off for 20+ points on any given night.

This is also a Hawks team that's won more on the road (6-2) than at home (4-5) this season, so another slow start like Friday’s could prove to be costly.

What To Watch: Raptors Rotation

The injury to Evans is going to have some interesting reverberations throughout the Raptors lineup and it's going to open up a couple of opportunities for that glut of players at the 3/4 spots.

Amir Johnson is expected to get the start in replacement of Evans and that makes sense. He's provides some necessary interior help defence and rebounding next to Andrea Bargnani plus has great chemistry with Jose Calderon in pick-and-roll situations.

From there, it gets interesting. Following Friday's loss, Triano indicated that Peja Stojakovic could get a look at power forward in an unorthodox “stretch four” type of role. Linas Kleiza could be arguably be utilized the same way. But either of those options isn't going to work for major minutes on Sunday -- especially at the defensive end -- which could mean Joey Dorsey sees time against more traditional bigs like Horford or Zaza Pachulia.

Ed Davis, who will play in the second game of his rehab and conditioning stint with the NBA D-League's Erie Bayhawks on Sunday, may also be in the mix very soon if the coaching staff feels he's ready to contribute.

Until then however, Triano is going to need to get creative.

David Amber and the NBA TV Canada broadcast crew will have much more on Sunday's with Raptors Game Day, beginning at 12:30 PM.

Last Time They Met

A 45-point second quarter from the Hawks put the Raptors down by 22 points at halftime back on April 9th at Philips Arena and they couldn't overcome that deficit in an eventual 107-101 defeat.

Amir Johnson made his first start of the season in that contest (two games after Chris Bosh suffered facial fractures in Cleveland) and put up 18 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks in a losing cause. The defeat gave sent the Raptors to their third loss in four tries against the Hawks last season.

Don’t forget that you can check out the last two Raptors wins against the Hawks on with Raptors Rewind on NBA TV Canada, beginning Sunday at 10 a.m.

  Game #16: Raptors @ Celtics

Nov. 26, 2010, 11:41 AM

Raptors (6-9) vs. Celtics (11-4): TDBanknorth Garden - Boston, 7:30 PM ET, TSN2, FAN590

The Raptors are on the road tonight in Boston, where they aim to stay hot in their second matchup of the season against the Celtics. I'll be discussing it with you in our latest live chat, starting just before tip-off.

The Big Story: Bringing It To Boston

Can the Raptors do it again and stun the reigning Eastern Conference champs for the second time in a week?

It certainly won't be easy against a Celtics team that has likely has regret and revenge on their minds following the Raptors' thrilling 102-101 win at Air Canada Centre last Sunday.

Regret for a disastrous second quarter that uncharacteristically put them in a big hole and revenge after their fourth-quarter comeback ultimately fell short on a Paul Pierce missed jumper at the buzzer. That halted an eight-game slide for the Raptors against the Celtics overall and now the challenge is to ride that momentum into Boston, where they last won in late-January of 2008.

The Celtics have also been on a roll since that defeat, hammering the Hawks in Atlanta the following night and then outlasting the Nets at home on Wednesday.

Sunday’s win saw just eight bodies get into the game for the Raptors, as the game took place after the acquisitions of guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Peja Stojakovic from New Orleans, but before either player could arrive in Toronto.

The newbies certainly seemed to fit in seamlessly in Toronto's fourth straight win on Wednesday -- a convincing 106-90 victory over the Sixers. Stojakovic was lights out as always -- drilling open looks to give him an efficient seven points in just six minutes of work, while Bayless (13 points, 4-7 FGM-A) was solid in a limited debut and showed surprising range by going three-for-three from long distance.

What To Watch: RONDO! (In Mike Gorman voice)

The addition of Bayless, in particular, rounds out a very fast Raptors backcourt attack and that may be a factor against a depleted Celtics guard rotation.

As of this posting, reports are indicating that Celtics starting point guard Rajon Rondo could miss a fourth straight game due to a nagging hamstring injury. There's still a possibility he could go, but with Boston’s next game not until Tuesday and the bigger picture (championship) always on their minds, Doc Rivers might err on the side of caution tonight.

The news gets worse for Boston, as Delonte West broke his right wrist in a fall against the Nets on Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks. You can expect Nate Robinson to start (as he did in Toronto) with Marquis Daniels and rookie Avery Bradley backing him up should Rondo remain unavailable.

Check the official Raptors twitter account for updates throughout the day. Be sure to tune into NBA TV Canada’s Raptors Game Day, beginning at 7 PM, for updates closer to game time as well.

Lineup Updates

As mentioned yesterday, rookies Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi are on the Raptors roster, but both are currently with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League. You can catch them in action tonight when their game against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants is STREAMED LIVE over at the official NBA D-League site.

Last Time They Met

The Celtics wiped out a 12-point Raptors lead in the fourth quarter on Sunday with a 16-1 run. But Toronto regained its footing and pulled within 101-100 on a Sonny Weems layup 18.8 seconds to play.

Leandro Barbosa followed that by poking the ball away from Ray Allen on the inbounds pass only to see his layup attempt blocked. But Amir Johnson battled for the offensive rebound and was fouled in the process. Johnson calmly knocked down his free throws, Pierce's buzzer-beater try was off and the Raps snapped their streak against the Celtics in gritty fashion.

Andrea Bargnani was also tremendous in the win, scoring a game-high 29 points with season highs in free throws made (nine) and attempted (13).

See you in tonight's chat!

  Davis, Alabi In Action With BayHawks On Friday

Nov. 25, 2010, 4:10 PM

The Raptors are rolling as winners of four straight, heading into Boston and as always, we'll be discussing all the action here at Raptors.com.

But we're also going to try and keep an on Fort Wayne, Indiana where rookies Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi will be in action with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League.

For Davis, it's his first live game action since undergoing offseason surgery to repair a partially torn right knee meniscus. His stay in the D-League has been labelled as a "short-term rehabilitation and conditioning stint", which means debut with the Raptors may not be far off.

Alabi has already put in two games with Erie, averaging 10.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per contest.

The NBA D-League's official site will have it streamed live, so check it out... only during stoppages in play at the Garden of course.

  Game #15: Raptors vs. 76ers

Nov. 23, 2010, 8:30 PM

Raptors (5-9) vs. Sixers (3-10): Air Canada Centre - Toronto, 7:00 PM ET, Sportsnet, FAN590

The Raptors aim to extend their season-high win streak to four games when they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

The Big Story: Meet The New Guys

It's the second time in as many weeks that these teams have faced each other but you'd understand if the visiting Sixers don't recognize their hosts.

Newly acquired guard Jerryd Bayless (who will wear number five) and sharpshooting forward Peja Stojakovic (number 16) both practiced with the team on Tuesday and are poised to make their debuts against the Sixers.

For Bayless, it's going to be a baptism by fire as the team's new backup to Jose Calderon at point guard. He's had very limited time to absorb the Raptors playbook and according to head coach Jay Triano, the plan is to just keep it simple.

It's certainly not an ideal amount of prep time, but the athletic 22-year-old guard was enthusiastic about getting started in Toronto.

"I've told Bryan, I've told coach, I can't be more excited," said Bayless. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime I think and playing with these young guys and growing with them is something I've wanted to do since I've been in the league, on a team like this."

"It's definitely going to be a great situation and hopefully it's a long one."

The role and fit becomes more complicated with Stojakovic, as there's been a wait-and-see approach from player, head coach and GM since Saturday's deal went down. Stojakovic seemed happy about the international feel of the city and his familiarity with some of the personnel here, but as a veteran in the final year of his deal he's acutely aware his situation is anything but stable.

To his credit, the marksman has drilled the fourth-most NBA three-pointers all-time, remains lights out from long distance and the Raptors have a glaring need in that department. They currently rank last in the league with respect to three-point shooting percentage and makes from beyond the arc.

But with his team rolling and facing a surplus of wing players, Triano isn't all that interested in deviating from what's won his team three games in a row -- even if that means his team continues to shoot at the same low clip from the behind the arc (10-38 for 26 per cent).

"Well, we're not shooting the ball from the three-point line as well as I'd like, but we're winning basketball games so I'm not going to do it [play Stojakovic] at the expense of us not winning a game or giving us every opportunity to win a game," said Triano. "He will definite spread the floor and he will definitely make open shots, that's for sure."

What To Watch: Guard Play (If You Can...)

The Sixers backcourt of Jrue Holiday (17 points, six rebounds, seven assists) and rookie Evan Turner (11 points, 12 rebounds, four assists) was strong in a losing effort last Wednesday, but got little from Lou Williams, who averaged 18.3 points in four contests against the Raptors last season.

Factor in the return of Andre Iguodala (more on that below) plus the Raptors additions of Bayless and Leandro Barbosa (who sat out last week) and it could turn into a track meet between the first and fourth-ranked teams in fast break points.

Matt Devlin is going to discuss the Raptors new additions and preview the matchup in a LIVE CHAT beginning at 3 PM on game day, so be sure to stop by.

If you can't make it for that, David Amber and the broadcast crew will break it all down for you beginning with Raptors Game Day at 6:30 p.m.

Lineup Updates

The Raptors are back to full health, but will be without rookies Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi, who are currently playing with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League.

For Philadelphia, Iguodala (sore Achilles tendon) was expected to return to the lineup against the Wizards on Tuesday.

Check the Raptors twitter account for updates closer to game time.

Last Time They Met

It was a tight one down the stretch at Wells Fargo Center last week, but Toronto ratcheted up the defence and held Philadelphia to no field goals and just one point over the final 3:34 to seal a 94-86 win.

Sonny Weems who scored the go-ahead layup and added a free throw in the game's final 1:24, scored a career-high 25 points in the win, while Andrea Bargnani led all scorers with a season-high 30 points. Elton Brand led the way for the Sixers that game with 27 points.

NBA TV Canada will look back at Raptors wins from the past two seasons against the Sixers on Wednesday beginning at 4 p.m.

See you in Wednesday's chat. Should be a good one.

  A Little Extra Bayless...

Nov. 23, 2010, 9:30 AM

I'll be heading over to ACC post-practice this afternoon for a first look at Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic. In the meantime, just wanted to reexamine this interesting look at Bayless (plus a few other familiar faces) from the 2008 documentary Gunnin' For That #1 Spot.

Produced and directed by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, it's a supremely stylish look at then prospects like Bayless, Tyreke Evans, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Brandon Jennings as they build up to (and eventually play in) the Boost Elite Mobile 24 Hoops Classic at Rucker Park in Harlem.

Older? Sure. But if you haven't seen it yet, it's a good introduction to the Raptors' new young guard.

  Raptors Reshape Roster In Multi-Player Deal With Hornets

Nov. 20, 2010, 7:30 PM

In a deal that went from rumour to reality in a very short span of time, the Raptors completed a five-player swap with the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday, acquiring sharpshooting veteran forward Peja Stojakovic and 22-year-old guard Jerryd Bayless in exchange for guards Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks and forward David Andersen.

There's a few reasons for the Raptors to make this deal -- which actually required two separate trades in order to meet the conditions of the NBA' collective bargaining agreement.

- Stojakovic, 33, is in the final year of his current deal (his 13th NBA season) and he's averaged career-lows in minutes (14.8) and points (7.5) under head coach Monty Williams.

But with 11 makes from beyond the arc in 11 games this season, he instantly becomes the Raptors' leader from long distance. On a team that ranks third last in the league in both makes and percentage from long range, the three-time All-Star and the guy with the fourth-most threes all-time certainly fills a need.

The cap relief this expiring deal provides made him a often-rumoured player to be on the move before the trade deadline. He still might be. Whatever the intention with his contract, it joins a growing base of assets that offer the Raptors plenty of flexibility going forward.

- In Bayless, the Raptors get a six-foot-three scoring guard who's not too unlike Leandro Barbosa in that his strengths are speed and getting to the free throw line (albeit with significantly better hops). Also like Barbosa, he doesn't appear to be a pure point guard, although there's still plenty of potential unrealized.

Playing behind Chris Paul resulted in Bayless' numbers dropping across the board, but he should see an increase in opportunity with only Jose Calderon and possibly Barbosa available as point guard options right now.

The former standout at the University of Arizona also adds another prospect to the Raptors backcourt joining a young core of DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Andrea Bargnani and possibly Solomon Alabi.

- For the Raptors, there are two players that benefit immediately from this deal.

The first is Calderon, as he likely becomes the clear cut starter. Just a few months ago it was Calderon rumoured to be on the move, but for now, he's this team's best (and maybe only) true point guard.

This move also carves out a potential role for Ed Davis, who's getting closer to a return following right knee meniscus surgery in the offseason. Reports have him destined for a brief conditioning stint with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League, but when he returns Andersen's 14 minutes per game is an ideal starting point for him in a frontcourt rotation of Evans/Bargnani/Johnson/Dorsey.

- For those scoring at home, this two-for-three deal also opens up a roster spot for Toronto.


- You're shipping out a starter in Jack and a guy who's proven to be a key reserve in Andersen for two players that presumably aren't going to start. Throw in Marcus Banks and the Raptors are the point guard position is definitely thinner.

- You're also losing a lot of intangibles in three very professional players. Jack in particular, has been a very vocal presence with the media this season.

- With Stojakovic, the logjam now shifts to the wing positions where DeRozan/Weems/Kleiza/Wright/Stojakovic all could warrant minutes.

Basically, this looks like a deal that cementing a direction for both teams. The Raptors continue to get younger and increase flexibility for the future, while the hot start from the Hornets clearly had them thinking contention and searching for veteran depth.

Neither player will be in uniform until the Sixers come to town on Wednesday, but it will undoubtedly be a hot topic of conversation in our live in-game chat when the Raptors host the Celtics tomorrow at 1 p.m.

Let me know what you think about the deal on Twitter @jaysatur and we’ll post some of them in this space.

  Game #13: Raptors vs. Rockets

Nov. 19, 2010, 11:30 AM

Raptors (3-9) vs. Rockets (3-8): Air Canada Centre - Toronto, 7:00 PM ET, TSN, FAN590

I can finally go back to spelling "Centre" the only way I've ever known, as the Raptors return to ACC to open a three-game homestand against Houston Rockets.

The Big Story: He's Bizarro Jerry

The younger Raptors and veteran-laden Rockets share a lot of similarities after roughly a dozen game into the campaign.

Both teams have competed, but struggled to win only three games to start the 2010-11 season and like the Raptors, the Rockets can thank the league's schedule-makers for a heavy dose of road games off the top.

Eight of the Rockets' first 12 games have been away from Toyota Center and tonight's game wraps up a brutal six-game stretch. They've been to Washington, Indiana, New York, back home for Chicago then away again to Oklahoma before moving on to Toronto.

A less-than-optimal start for the banged-up Rockets, but like the Raptors, they've been battling. They've been in every game outside of Wednesday's 116-99 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday and amongst teams with early sub .500 records, Houston has played opponents about as close as you can.

Point differential among sub. 500 teams

Team  Point Differential
Bucks (5-6)   -1.8
Rockets (3-12)  +1.5
Knicks (4-8)            -2.4
Bobcats (4-7) -2.3
Nets (4-7)               -3.1
Grizzlies (4-8) -3.7
Raptors (3-9)   -3.9

For the Raptors, two four-game road trips are now in the books and the schedule turns in their favour with 12 of their next 17 games played within the confines of ACC. With a home record of just 1-3 so far with losses to the Knicks and Bobcats however, the Raptors have to consistently bring an effort similar to Wednesday's against the Sixers (not Tuesday’s in Washington) to truly make home court an advantage.

Why To Watch? Rockets Still Have Fuel

With at least two significant Rockets regulars out tonight (more on that below), Houston bench may be thinner, but they still boast plenty of talent with shooting guard Kevin Martin (23.1 ppg) and power forward Luis Scola (22.9 ppg , 10.0 rpg) leading the way.

Those two should provide an interesting contrast to the Raptors duo of Andrea Bargnani and Sonny Weems, who are coming off their best performances of the season in a win against the Sixers on Wednesday.

Also keep an eye on DeMar DeRozan tonight, who returns home after his quietest performance of the Raptors recent road trip. The second-year high-flyer ran roughshod through Florida by getting to the line 23 times versus the Magic and Heat, but shot just four free throws combined in Washington and Philly. He dished out a career-high five assists against the Sixers, but posted only four points with one made field goal in 32 minutes. Expect a bounce back performance.

David Amber and the broadcast crew will have a full preview of tonight’s game, beginning with Gate 5 Live, beginning at 6:00 PM on NBA TV Canada.

Lineup Updates

Toronto could see the return of lightning-quick combo guard Leandro Barbosa tonight. The Blur sat out of all four-games on the team's recent road trip with a left shoulder strain and his potential return gives head coach Jay Triano his healthiest roster in a while.

Ed Davis (right knee meniscus) remains sidelined as he continues to prepare for his eventual debut.

Houston, on the other hand, has been hit hard by a trio of left ankle injuries to key regulars Aaron Brooks, Yao Ming and reserve forward Chase Budinger.

Only Budinger is expected back for the Rockets on Friday. Brooks remains at least a couple of weeks away from returning, while Yao did not join the team in their game in Oklahoma and isn't expected in Toronto either.

Check back closer to game-time for further injury updates.

Last Time They Met

The Raptors and Rockets split their two-game season series, with Toronto earning an impressive 101-88 victory at ACC on Dec. 13, 2009. In a game they lead nearly wire-to-wire, the win gave the Raptors their sixth in their last seven meetings at ACC.

You can see the Raptors’ last two victories over the Rockets on NBA TV Canada, beginning at 4:00 PM.

I’ll be courtside for tonight’s matchup and hosting our live in-game chat with Akil Augustine. See you then!

  Game #12: Raptors @ Sixers

Nov. 17, 2010, 11:30 AM

Raptors (2-9) vs. Sixers (2-9): Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, 7:00 PM ET, Sportsnet, FAN590

The Raptors aim to get back on track TONIGHT when they close out a back-to-back and their four-game road trip against the 76ers in Philadelphia.

The Big Story: So... About Last Night...

So which team shows up in the City of Brotherly Love tonight? Is it the undermanned squad that outworked the Magic and battled the Heat? Or the group that folded up shop quickly after halftime in Washington?

They get a quick opportunity to find answers in Philadelphia, where they've had more road wins (14) than in any other NBA city. The Sixers are also mired in their own four-game losing streak and boast an equally egregious 2-9 record.

But as the Raptors learned the hard way last night, teams are now looking at them as a 'gettable' game as well, and they can’t afford not to bring the requisite level of intensity.

It all starts with, well... starts. The Raptors continue to allow teams to get into an early offensive flow and put themselves in catch up mode early with sluggish first quarters (allowing an average of 29.5 point to opponents in their last eight first quarters) and it's killing them.

By the end of the first quarter Monday, the Raptors cut a lead as big as eight points down to 27-23, which is manageable. But all of Andray Blatche (eight points), Kirk Hinrich (four assists), Gilbert Arenas (five points) and JaVale McGee (seven rebounds, two blocks) got off to solid starts, while Nick Young started his big night off the bench with his first four points. All five of those players were instrumental in the win.

Of even greater concern has to be Tuesday’s effort on the glass, which saw the Raptors outrebounded 47-36 by the (at the time) worst-ranked rebounding team in the league.

On a team with some key weaknesses, the Raptors have got to play to their strengths. Early on this season, those have been forcing turnovers, scoring on the fast break and attacking the glass (particularly at the offensive end) and they were beat in all of those categories on Tuesday.

Armed with their potent young guards (more on them below), athletic wings and versatile bigs, the Sixers may be off to a similar start, but they have the necessary talent to make for another long night on the road.

You can relive last night’s game against the Wizards with Game In An Hour on NBA TV Canada at 3 PM.

What To Watch: Philly's Young Backcourt

They may have missed first overall pick John Wall against the Wizards on Tuesday, but they'll still get a good look at a dynamic rookie guard on this trip. Second overall pick Evan Turner moved into the starting lineup on Nov. 7 and since that point, the shooting guard has been a solid contributor with averages of 10 points and 7. 4 rebounds per game.

He'll be paired up with impressive second-year point guard Jrue Holiday who's averaging 14 points per game and has been on a tear distributing the ball this month, with at least eight assists in six of eight November games.

From the Raptors perspective, it's going to be interesting to see how this team responds after arguably their worst effort of the season. Much like last night, both teams probably view this game as "gettable".

Of particular interest should be Andrea Bargnani, who was coming off a poor three-for-13 performance with just two rebounds versus Washington, but seems to bring is best to Philly. In both meetings against the Sixers in Philadelphia last season, Bargnani averaged 23 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Matt Devlin and Leo Rautins will tee up all the action from Wells Fargo Centre with Raptors Game Day on NBA TV Canada at 6:30 PM.

Lineup Updates

Ed Davis (right knee meniscus) and Leandro Barbosa (left shoulder strain) remain inactive for the Raptors. Triano revealed pregame in Washington that he's hopeful Barbosa can return to the lineup on Friday against the Rockets.

For the Sixers, explosive forward Andre Iguodala missed Tuesday's game -- a 101-93 road loss to the Cavs -- with an Achilles tendon injury. He's officially listed as a game-time decision.

Last Time They Met

As mentioned earlier, Philly has been very kind to the Raptors in recent years, where they've racked up seven of those 14 all-time wins there in their last nine trips. That includes wins in both visits last season, the most recent being a thrilling 128-123 OT result on April 3.

You can relive Toronto’s last two wins over the Sixers with Raptors Rewind, beginning at 4:30 PM on NBA TV Canada.

We'll discuss it all in our live chat, starting just before tip-off from Philadelphia.

  Game #11: Raptors @ Wizards

Nov. 16, 2010, 11:30 AM

Raptors (2-8) vs. Wizards(2-6): Verizon Center - Washington, 7:00 PM ET, TSN, FAN590

The Raptors aim to continue their recent improved play away from Toronto as they continue a four-game road trip in Washington against the Wizards tonight.

The Big Story: The Best 2-8 Team In The League?

The Raptors can hold their heads high after a weekend that saw them gut out a 110-106 win in Orlando and threatening the Heat well into the fourth quarter in an eventual 109-100 defeat the following night in Miami.

In terms of winning percentage, the Miami loss drops the Raptors into the dregs of the Eastern Conference at 2-8. But six of their eight losses have been by nine points or less, with the Raptors threatening late in the majority of those games.

They’ve done it with an offence that's fallen back to middle of the pack this season (100.6 ppg, ranked 16th overall), but it’s an improvement on the defensive end is going to be the yield some positive results. During their most recent four-game stretch, the Raptors have regressed to the bottom third of the league in points per game allowed (104.5, 23rd overall) and are even lower in terms of defensive efficiency (108.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, 27th overall).

What's kept the Raptors in those games has been their prolific ability to score on the fast break (21.7 ppg, first in the NBA) along with some strong work on the offensive glass (13.5 per game, fifth in NBA).

In short, the Raptors are doing well to stay in a lot of games, the next phase of development is to avoid those early deficits and start playing with and holding leads sooner.

Why To Watch: Tight Games In The Phone Booth

There's no 'easy' place to get a road win in this league, but the Raptors have had recent success at Verizon Center, home to a couple of memorable wacky finishes in Raptors history. Remember Mo Pete's last second desperation heave after Michael Ruffin (inexplicably) attempted to kill the clock by launching the ball into orbit? What about last year's visit that saw Hedo Turkoglu hit a clutch corner jumper that ended a nasty slide and sparked some strong mid-season play for the Raptors?

The Raptors have taken four of the last six matchups overall and three straight on the road against the Wizards, but these two teams typically play each other very tight. At least one meeting in five of the last six seasons has gone to overtime with the 2008-09 season being the lone exception. That year however, the point differential in three matchups between the two teams was just +5 favouring the Wizards.

Washington is also looking banged up (more on that below), but one concern has to be the warming up of the Hibachi. Controversial guard Gilbert Arenas may not be back to All-Star form, but always seems elevate his game when his opponent is wearing Raptors red, with career averages of 23.2 points, 5.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds versus Toronto. Arenas has struggled through an ankle injury this season, but exploded for 30 points against the Bulls on the weekend (11-of-22 FGM-A, 7-10 3PT FGM-A).

Lineup Updates

Like the Raptors, injuries are also affecting the Wizards and most notably, the mild foot sprain suffered by lightning-quick first overall pick John Wall against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. Wall, who's averaging an astounding 18.1 points, 9.8 assists and 4.0 reboundsas a rookie, left the United Center in a walking boot that night, has been spotted on crutches since and is officially listed as a game-time decision for tonight's contest.

Also potentially missing in action for the Wiz are forwards Andray Blatche and Yi Jianlian, who are both listed as day-to-day with knee injuries.

For the Raptors, Leandro Barbosa did not travel with the team due to his left shoulder strain. Rookie forward Ed Davis remained inactive as he continues to recover from surgery to repair the injured meniscus in his right knee. Linas Kleiza, who has missed the last two games with a sore right Achilles, returned to practice with the team in Miami on Monday and is expected to go tonight. Reggie Evans once against sat out with the flu-like symptoms that shelved him against the Heat and is listed as day-to-day.

For all the latest info you need leading up to game time, tune in to Raptors Game Day on NBA TV Canada beginning at 6:30 PM.

Last Time They Met

We mentioned the Raptors dramatic win in Washington last December, but their last meeting took place in Toronto on Feb. 20, when they rattled off an astounding 18-4 run to earn a 109-104 comeback win. Six Raptors scored in double-figures in the victory, with Jarrett Jack scoring a team-high 23 points and adding eight assists in the victory.

You can relive two of the Raptors’ last two matchups with the Wizards on NBA TV Canada today, beginning at 4:30 PM.

You and I should have a little chat about this, starting just before tip-off in Washington. See you then.

  Game #10: Raptors @ Heat

Nov. 13, 2010, 11:30 AM

Raptors (2-7) vs. Heat (5-4): American Airlines Arena - Miami, 7:30 PM ET, TSN, FAN590

The Raptors move on to Miami, where they'll face former franchise player Chris Bosh and his superfriends with the Miami Heat.

The Big Story: So, How Was The Move?

From a Raptors perspective, this is a matchup they've probably had circled since Chris Bosh decided to leave the only professional team he’d ever known to join Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Miami this summer.

But early on, it's been very clear that Bosh has struggled somewhat in Miami. He's shot 50 per cent from the field in each of his last four games, but his overall production has dipped drastically (down to 14.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg and just 4.8 free throw attempts per game) and perhaps more tellingly, opposing power forwards have taken a flamethrower to the Heat's interior of late.

Check out these numbers from opposing bigs in the Heat's last three losses (coming in their last four games).

Emeka Okafor - 26 pts (12-13 FGM-A), 13 rebounds
Paul Milsap - 46 pts (19-28 FGM-A), nine rebounds
Kevin Garnett - 16 points (6-8 FGM-A), 13 rebounds

Granted these were VERY close early losses against some top tier teams, but it's been a surprising turn for the Heat after finding an early groove by winning four straight.

That being said, the Raptors need to be very wary here against a Heat team that's rested and probably itching to try and get back on track.

Why To Watch: Those Other Two Guys

The Raptors can come into this one with some confidence after a thrilling 110-106 win over the Magic to open a back-to-back on Friday.

They'll need a similar effort against a Heat team that's going to bring a much different look.

Gone are the gaggle of perimeter shooters that Orlando thrives on and its anchor in the middle in Dwight Howard. Tonight, Miami's dynamic slashing wings in Dwayne Wade and LeBron James -- who remain Raptor killers -- are undoubtedly going to be focal points tonight.

Wade (19 career games vs. TOR) - 27.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 6.6 assists, 1.6 spg
James (25 career games vs. TOR) - 27.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.6 assists, 1.5 spg

Head coach Jay Triano came into Friday's contest with a solid game plan and made some great adjustments at halftime to keep the Magic firmly on its heels. It's going to be fascinating to see how he turns that around in 24 hours and tries to contend with these two elite-level talents.

Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong will have much more on tonight's game with Raptors Game Day on NBA TV Canada, beginning at 7 PM.

Lineup Updates

Both Ed Davis (right knee meniscus) and Leandro Barbosa (left shoulder strain) will not play for the Raptors tonight. The status of David Andersen (flu) and Linas Kleiza (sore right Achilles) remains unknown as of this post.

For the Heat, sharpshooting forward Mike Miller remains sidelined with a right thumb injury.

Last Time They Met

The Raptors and Heat split their four-game series last season, with each team winning twice on their home floor. Throw those numbers out however as both teams have changed drastically since then.

The Raptors sit 21-33 overall against the Heat and are just 8-20 when they take their talents to South Beach (I had to do it once).

  Game #9: Raptors @ Magic

Nov. 12, 2010, 11:10 AM

Raptors (1-7) vs. Magic (5-2): Amway Arena - Orlando, 7 PM ET, TSN2, FAN590

The reeling and suddenly banged up Raptors hit the road for four games and open a back-to-back in Florida against the Magic.

The Big Story: Paging Hawk & Animal

The last time I was in Florida, my foot got caught in an escalator.

As I arrived at Miami International Airport, claimed my baggage and made my way to the exit with my family, the moving staircase proceeded to treat my united shoelace on my right British Knight like a piece of al dente pasta and my 11-year-old foot like a meatball, bringing it to a halt and generally causing a pretty good level of panic.

The end result was nothing more than a skin cut (and a shopping trip for some new Reebok Pumps), but it remains the only time that I've been able to have police, fire and paramedics services at my beck and call.

Sufficed to say, if the Raptors don't bring a maximum effort this weekend, they may be poised to have a worse time in the Sunshine State than I did all those years ago. This latest back-to-back tips off yet another four-game trip for the Raptors (all against teams on the Eastern Seaboard) as they try to win their first road game of the season and snap a six-game skid overall.

Injuries are definitely going to be a factor.

Head coach Jay Triano revealed following Thursday's practice that Leandro Barbosa (left shoulder strain) will not travel with the team to Florida and may not join the team at any point of the trip. No other player has been officially ruled out as of Friday morning, but Linas Kleiza (right Achilles) is listed as doubtful, while Reggie Evans (hip bruise), Jarrett Jack (hyper extended knee) and David Andersen (flu) didn't practice Thursday.

Regardless of their participation, expect players like Sonny Weems, Julian Wright, Amir Johnson and Joey Dorsey to get more burn a they begin a back-to-back against a Magic team that has about 12 regulars that warrant minutes themselves.

Why To Watch: Battle On The Glass

IF Reggie Evans can go, tonight's matchup on TSN2 and the FAN590 should pit two of the league's top rebounders against each other, with Dwight Howard serving as the other half of that matchup.

  Rank (based on rebs/game) Rebounds Per Game Rebounds Per Game (Off.)
Evans 4 11.8 4.4
Howard 7 11.0 2.4
Raptors 17 38.6 41.5
Magic 4 38.3 45.7

Howard remains the premiere defensive and rebounding force in the league, nothing new there. But a summer of work on offence with Hall Of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and another mysterious unnamed NBA star has suddenly made Howard even more potent at the other end of the floor and goosed his average by roughly 4.5 ppg early on this season.

Leading the team in scoring was something Howard did 35 times last season, but so far he's done it in five out of the Magic's seven games so far and gone above the 20-point plateau four times.

If Evans can't go, there has to be an emphasis on rebounding by committee, but much more is going to be expected of Andrea Bargnani. Despite a late giveaway from Bargnani that cost the Raptors an opportunity to tie the game late against the Bobcats on Wednesday, he played possibly his best all-around game of the season and he's going to need all that and then some if he’s going to offer any kind of resistance to Howard.

Be sure to check out Raptors Game Day at 6:30 PM on NBA TV Canada for more on Howard's early prolific production and what the Raptors are going to need to do to stop it.

Lineup Updates

Raptors mentioned above. For the Magic, there's a big blank space in their game notes next to their Injury Report. Awesome.

Last Time They Met

The Raptors went 1-3 against the Magic last season, with their only win -- a 108-103 result -- coming in the final matchup at the old Amway Center on January 6th. No Raptor scored more than 18 points (team-high honours shared by Bargnani and Chris Bosh), but six players hit double-figures in points in the win.

You can scout the Raptors' last two wins against the Magic on NBA TV Canada this afternoon, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

We’ll be discussing all the action in our LIVE CHAT beginning just before tip-off.

  Morning Shootaround Video

Nov. 10, 2010, 3:10 PM

We've got morning shootaround video fromhead coach Jay Triano and Andrea Bargnani below...

  Game #8: Raptors vs. Bobcats

Nov. 10, 2010, 11:10 AM

Raptors (1-6) vs. Bobcats (1-6): Air Canada Centre - Toronto, 7 PM ET, TSN2, FAN590

Something's gotta give at Air Canada Centre tonight as the Raptors and Bobcats each try for just their second win in eight games.

The Big Story: Clawing Out Of The Basement

It's the first of four meetings between the two teams this season and both are understandably chomping at the bit to get a win after opening the season with troubling 1-6 records.

Slow starts, turnovers plus poor transition and help defence have haunted the Raptors during their current five-game skid -- marring some positives that the team has displayed of late.

The Raptors remain in the top half of the league offensively at 99.9 ppg and have used a balanced scoring attack to get it done. Six Raptors are scoring in double-figures (Bargnani, Jack, DeRozan, Kleiza, Barbosa & Weems) but not one is averaging more than 20 ppg.

Bench play has also been a huge plus with the Raptors reserves outscoring their counterparts in four straight games and doing it pretty convincingly by a +82 margin.

But Charlotte's bench is also coming around and nearly helped them rally against the Spurs at Time Warner Cable Arena on Monday. The youth and athleticism of that unit featuring Shaun Livingston, Gerald Henderson and Tyrus Thomas could be a factor tonight.

With losses in six of their last seven games (and three straight entering tonight's game) the results clearly haven't been there all season, but they're a much different team on the road. They've lost each of their three home games (vs. the Pacers, Magic and Spurs) by a total of 10 points, in their three road losses against the Mavericks, Bucks and Pistons that total balloons to 32 points.

Last season, the Bobcats had the worst road record among Eastern Conference playoff teams at 13-28.

Raptor To Watch: Andrea Bargnani

Simply put, Bargnani has to be a consistent offensive threat and a better rebounder and help defender if this team wants to start winning a little more consistently. He admitted that his game was "terrible" on Monday and he was certainly limited by foul trouble that saw him largely benched for the entire fourth quarter against the Warriors. Keep an eye on how Bargnani responds tonight.

We've got morning shootaround video from Il Mago below...

Bobcats To Watch: Gerald Wallace/Stephen Jackson

Your best players need to step up on the road and the Bobcats will be looking to their veteran starting starting wings to continue their recent dominance against the Raptors.

In three games against the Raptors last season, Wallace averaged 21 points (on 50 per cent shooting) and adding 12.3 rebounds per contest.

Jackson, the former Bryan Colangelo first-round draft pick with the Suns back in 1997, was equally troublesome against Toronto last season with averages of 23.7 points, 4.7 assists and three rebounds.

Lineup Updates

As mentioned yesterday, minor injuries are starting pile up for Toronto, but it remains unknown if it will affect tonight's lineup. All of Leandro Barbosa (left shoulder strain), Linas Kleiza (sore right Achilles) and Jarrett Jack (hyper extended right knee) all sat out of Tuesday's practice, but expect any updates closer to game time.

Forward Ed Davis (right knee meniscus), continues his recovery and will not be in the lineup tonight.

For the Bobcats, both centre Kwame Brown (left ankle sprain) and forward Dominic McGuire (stress fracture, left shin), will be inactive tonight.

Last Time They Met

With both teams fighting for the final playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, the Raptor marched in to Charlotte and earned a crucial 103-101 road victory on March 29 to keep their postseason hopes alive. Toronto shot 51 per cent in that contest and became the first team in 14 games to reach 100 points against the Larry Brown's defensive-minded club in a game with a playoff feel.

The Raptors took two of three matchups against the Bobcats last season and are 7-3 overall against them at Air Canada Centre.

Akil Augustine and I will discuss all of tonight's action with you in our live game chat. See you then.

  Banged Up Before The Bobcats

Nov. 9, 2010, 7:40 PM

Mired in a five-game slump, the Raptors may suddenly have to contend with the injury bug when the Bobcats visit on Wednesday.

Head coach Jay Triano spoke following Tuesday's practice at Air Canada Centre revealed that Jarrett Jack (hyperextended knee), Linas Kleiza (sore right achilles) and Leandro Barbosa (left shoulder strain) all did not participate.

You'll note that Triano also reveals that Ed Davis practiced "a little bit" on Tuesday, but clearly, there's no immediate timetable for his debut. No updates were available on the status of any of the three vets, but Jarrett Jack said that despite some stiffness due to the strain he felt on Monday, he's confident he'll be in the lineup Wednesday.

Kleiza said he's "hopeful" he'll go due to that sore achilles. Nothing new here as it's something we've seen him working through since Vancouver.

Finally, we've got Sonny Weems revealing that his knee tendinitis responded well after an explosive fourth quarter on Monday against the Warriors. His 12-point performance came after sitting out against the Blazers on Saturday.

In case you missed it, this is the kind of bounce I want in my step after a day off...

  Morning Shootaround Video

Nov. 8, 2010, 3:40 PM

We've got video from morning shootaround including Jay Triano, Amir Johnson and Jose Calderon...

  Game #7: Raptors vs. Warriors

Nov. 8, 2010, 2:00 PM

Raptors (1-5) @ Warriors (4-2): Air Canada Centre - Toronto, 7 PM ET, Sportsnet One, FAN590

The Raptors aim to end their current four-game slide as they return from their Western Conference road trip to host the Golden State Warriors tonight.

The Big Story: Warriors Have Come Out To Play

At 4-2, the Warriors have to be considered among the season's early surprises. They've gone from Don Nelson’s wildly entertaining (but equally unsuccessful) up-and-down style to fewer points and more of a defensive presence under new head coach Keith Smart. The payoff has been the team's best start in years.

Want proof? Look no further than their 85-78 win over the Jazz on Friday, when they held Utah to 78 points (on 39.5 per cent shooting). Those 85 points were the fewest the Warriors have scored in a win in five years.

Like the Raptors, the Warriors are also a vastly improved team on the glass, outrebounding or matching their opponents in five of their last six games.

The Warriors have showed some zone defence this season, which is something to keep an eye on as it seemed to disrupt the Raptors in stretches on Saturday in Portland. On offence though, this team is still looking to push the ball at every appropriate opportunity. They remain atop the league in fast breaks points per game at 21.5 (just ahead of the Raptors at 20.8).

The Raptors will also catch the W's on the second night of a back-to-back, following their 102-97 loss to the Pistons on Sunday night. It's early in the season, but the Warriors have been leaning pretty hard on their starters so this could be a factor. Monta Ellis, for example, played 44 minutes last night and has averaged just under 40 per game this season. Three of his fellow starters (including 'limited' minutes to Stephen Curry due to an ankle injury) average more than 30 minutes.

The Raptors by comparison have just one player averaging more than 30 mpg in Andrea Bargnani (34:26 per game).

Raptor To Watch: Jose Calderon

The postives came in dribs and drabs on the Raptors' winless trip out West, but Calderon may have been the one player who consistently improved as the trip progressed, going 17-for-28 from the floor with 20 assists through that stretch. The Lakers' game, in particular, stood out for his assertive approach in terms of finding teammates and blowing by defenders through the tightest of seams for layups at the rim.

In short, it looked like the Calderon we saw a couple of season ago. A couple of examples below:

With Stephen Curry seeing limited minutes as he play through an ankle sprain, that means an increase in ball handling for a group that posted nearly as many turnovers (12) as assists (13) without him on Sunday. The result could be a big night for Calderon and the Raptors reserves

Blazer To Watch: Monta Ellis

Based on his start, you have to consider him amongst the league's best players right now. He's been an absolute scoring machine and leads the league at 27.8 ppg while chipping in 4.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game.

Factor in his increased commitment to the defensive end and the 25-year-old is developing into a leader for this young group.

"It's all coming together for him," Warriors head coach Keith Smart told the San Jose Mercury News recently. "He's moving into another group, another area with his play."

Lineup Updates

For the Raptors, forward Ed Davis (right knee meniscus) will once again sit for Toronto. Raptors head coach Jay Triano revealed post-game Friday that Sonny Weems was forced to sit due to tendinitis in his knee flaring up. He's listed as a game-time decision.

Matt Devlin reported pre-game Saturday that rookie forward Ed Davis (right knee meniscus) could be cleared to return to practice as soon as Tuesday, but he won’t be in the lineup tonight. Sonny Weems (right knee tendinitis) sat out of Saturday’s game, but there’s no word on his potential return tonight.

For the Warriors, Lou Amundson (surgery - fractured right index finger) and Ekpe Udoh (left wrist surgery) are out.

Last Time They Met

Hard to forget that heartbreaking 113-112 loss to the W's at ACC last season that dealt a huge blow to the Raptors' playoff hopes.

The Raptors nearly wiped out a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but emerged from a lengthy free throw shooting contest down 113-112 after two at the line from Chris Bosh with 2.9 seconds to play.

Sonny Weems then stole the ensuing inbounds pass from Ronny Turiaf and flipped it blindly back under the basket. Bosh recovered and immediately went at the bucket from a few feet out but Turiaf challenged it just enough and it caromed off the rim just before time expired.

The loss resulted in a season sweep for Golden State and an eighth loss for the Raptors in their last 10 meetings.

Hope to see you in tonight's chat with Akil Augustine and I tonight, starting just before tip-off at ACC.

  Game #6: Raptors @ Blazers

Nov. 6, 2010, 2:00 PM

Raptors (1-4) @ Trail Blazers (4-2): Rose Garden - Portland, 10 PM ET, Sportsnet One, FAN590

The Raptors aim to end their current four-game road trip on a winning note tonight, as they conclude a back-to-back in Portland against the Trail Blazers.

The Big Story: Give It Away Now

It's tough to take much comfort in a loss, especially when it's your third overall on this road trip and your fourth in five games overall this season, but there were positives in Friday's 108-103 defeat.

It was another sluggish start (not quite Utah sluggish) and you could almost hear the Randy Newman start to warm up after 12 minutes. But the Raptors reserves had their finest night of the season collectively and helped pick a pretty good fight the rest of the way with the defending champs.

Turnovers remain a problem though. The Raptors were great on the glass and shot it well, but 21 turnovers resulted in too many easy momentum-killing buckets the other way for LA.

The Raptors currently rank in the bottom half of the league at 16.2 giveaways per season. It's still very early and this is the time of year you're going to see more turnovers, but that's a far cry from Toronto ranking eighth (12.9), 10th (12.9) and second (11.2) in that category the last three seasons.

If they can take better care of the ball and cut down on some of the careless passes that lead to four-point swings (two points you don't get, two they do the other way), they'll find some of these close losses turning into wins.

Raptor To Watch: Amir Johnson

Without question his best performance of the season on Friday. He was tenacious on the glass by grabbing a game-high 15 boards and generated nine extra Raptors possessions on the offensive end. So was it a turning point for Johnson after a slow start? He'll have a pretty good opportunity to build on it against a Portland team that's been outrebounded in four straight games.

Blazer To Watch: Marcus Camby

With Portland extremely shorthanded up front (more on that below), the former Raptors draft pick is going to have his hands full. He's had double-doubles in three of Portland's games this season, currently ranks ninth in the league in rebounding (10.8) and leads team in blocks (1.50).

Lineup Updates

Greg Oden (left knee), Joel Przybilla (right knee) and rookie Elliot Williams (right knee) are out for Saturday's game. Making matters worse, guard Rudy Fernandez missed Friday's practice with a sore back and starting power forward LaMarcus Aldridge also sat out with a sore left knee. Aldrdige however, is listed probable for tonight's game.

Meanwhile, centre Fabricio Oberto surprisingly was forced to retire earlier this week due to reoccurring palpitations related to a prior cardiac condition.

Last Time They Met

In what's hopefully not a parallel situation, the Raptors faded down the stretch and lost 109-98 in Portland to end a four-game road trip winless. Nicholas Batum and Aldridge each scored 22 points to lead the Blazers, while Brandon Roy added 20.

Hope to see you in tonight's chat as we watch the action from the Rose Garden.

  Game #5: Raptors @ Lakers

Nov. 5, 2010, 10:00 AM

Raptors (1-3) vs. Lakers (5-0): Staples Center - Los Angeles, 10:30 PM ET, TSN2, FAN590

The Raptors move on to the third game of their four-game road trip tonight, opening a back-to-back against the red-hot defending champs at Staples Center.

The Big Story: Ain't No Half-Steppin'

Needless to say, a complete 48-minute effort with a minimal number of mistakes is what it's going to take to knock off a Lakers team that's burst out of the gates with five straight wins. That makes the following very scary:

i) The Raptors start in Utah, where they were outscored 41-22 in the first quarter. A sluggish start against a quality team that runs a well-executed system resulted in Raptors turnovers, weak defence in transition and a derth of rotating over to help teammates on the weak side.

ii) Kobe Bryant's start against the Kings on Wednesday, when he knocked a three-pointer during LA's first trip down the floor and finished with 10 points, six assists and four rebounds after 12 minutes. He finished with a triple-double of 30 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

The Raptors need to bring the intensity from tip-off and avoid Bryant getting that engaged, that early in the game once again.

But Bryant is just the tip of the iceberg for, arguably, the most talented team in the league this season. The Lakers are torching opponents to the tune of 113.8 ppg through five games -- easily tops in the league.

Not surprisingly, Phil Jackson hasn't been too impressed with his team's 5-0 start -- especially on the defensive end.

"Defensively I'm not really happy with where we are, but those things happen at this time of year," Jackson said post-practice at Lakers.com. "It's about penetration, getting to the basket. We have to start sealing that off a little better. We're doing a pretty good job with screen and rolls, but last night we gave up a lot of things (at the) basket."

Raptor To Watch: DeMar DeRozan

With Jackson talking about a focus on denying penetration, DeMar DeRozan could face a big challenge in his latest homecoming (season two, episode one).

Luckily, the Compton native returns on the heels of some of the strongest play on his young career. He's averaging 20 points and three rebounds in about 30 minutes of burn these last two games, but it's his shooting that has been most impressive, connecting on 13 of 22 shots from the floor.

Laker To Watch: Lamar Odom

With Andrew Bynum out of the Lakers lineup, Lamar Odom has stepped up big time as LA's starting power forward. He's carried that momentum from a strong run at the FIBA World Championship into the 2010-11 season with per game averages of 16.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.6 assits. He's also been a threat from outside by making eight of his first 10 three-point attempts.

In terms of defence, he's also been locked in so far in this early season. It seems pretty unlikely that Jackson lost sleep on how to contain Reggie Evans in terms of scoring (on the glass may be a different story), so it's going to be interesting to see if Odom is used to help more on Andrea Bargnani.

Lineup Updates

Ed Davis (torn meniscus, right knee) remains out of the lineup for Toronto. For the Lakers, towering centre Andrew Bynum will definitely miss tonight's game as he continues to recover from right knee surgery. Fellow big man Theo Ratliff (sore left knee) is listed as probable, while forward Luke Walton (strained right hamstring) is doubtful.

Last Time They Met

As was the case against the Kings and Jazz on their home floors, the Raptors will have to reverse recent history in order to earn a road win. Factor in the Raptors 2-12 road record against the Lakers and the Raptors now sit 7-37 all-time when traveling to face the first three opponents on this road trip.

They were about as close as possible to getting getting a win in their last visit to Staples, tied with the Lakers at 107-107 before Kobe Bryant hit a 17-foot dagger at the buzzer over two defenders. It was the Lakers' eighth straight win over the Raptors at home.

Our LIVE CHAT begins tonight right before the tip in Tinseltown at 10 PM. See you then.

  Game #4: Raptors @ Jazz

Nov. 3, 2010, 11:00 AM

Raptors (1-2) vs. Jazz (1-2): EnergySolutions Arena - Salt Lake City, 9 PM ET, Sportsnet One, FAN590

Coming off an heartbreaking fourth-quarter fade in Sacramento, the Raptors have little time to dwell as they move on to face a dangerous Jazz on their home court in Utah.

Matchup To Watch: Jarrett Jack vs. Deron Williams

Jack could use a bounce-back performance after a quiet night in game one of the Raptors four-game West Coast swing. The veteran point guard was strong in an opening-night loss to the Knicks (16 points, six assists, four rebounds, three steals), but has since shot just one-for-five from the floor in each of his last two games and finished with just two points in 23 minutes against the Kings on Monday. They'll need Jack at his driving, dishing best against a Jazz team that's shown a propensity for sending teams to the foul line (36.3 FT attempts by opponents per game).

Williams got off to a solid start in his first two games averaging 15 points and six assist per game, but took his game to another level in the Jazz's first win of the season in Oklahoma City on Oct. 31. Williams put his elite-level playmaking ability on display and torched the Thunder for 16 points and 15 assists. That assist total is just one shy of the 16 dimes he dropped against the Raptors the last time these two teams met on March 24.

The Big Story: Please Turn Off The Jazz

The Raptors will need to bring a better 48-minute effort if they hope to end their current 10-game losing streak to the Jazz -- their second-longest current slide against an opponent.

Frankly, the matchups haven't even been close with Toronto losing by an average of 13.6 point during the losing streak.

The personnel may change, but Jerry Sloan's well-executed halfcourt offence remains the same and should provide the stiffest test yet for the Raptors' new defensive approach.

Lineup Updates

Ed Davis (torn miniscus, right knee) remains out for Toronto. For the Jazz, sweet shooting big man Mehmet Okur remains sidelined (left Achilles), while forward Jeremy Evans is officially listed as day-to-day (sprained right wrist).

Last Time They Met

As mentioned, Williams was potent in the Jazz's 113-87 victory over the Raptors at ACC last season. The Raptors were down 6-0 after 90 seconds and while they traded buckets with the Jazz to keep the deficit within single digits for the majority of the first quarter, Utah pushed its advantage to 18 points by halftime and the Raptors never cut it down to less than 13 the rest of the way.

Our LIVE CHAT begins tonight right before the tip at 9 PM. See you then.

  Game #3: Raptors vs. Kings

Nov. 1, 2010, 11:00 AM

Raptors (1-1) vs. Kings (2-1): ARCO Arena - Sacramento, 10 PM ET, Sportsnet One, FAN590

The Raptors begin a tough four-game West Coast trip in Sacramento TONIGHT when they visit Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings.

Matchup To Watch: DeMar DeRozan vs. Tyreke Evans

Should be fun to watch these second-year swingmen square off. Both players thrive when taking it to the tin, so keep an eye on how these players defend each other early on and if fouls become a factor.

DeRozan averages 6.64 free throw attempts in his rookie campaign and, although were obviously dealing with a small sample size of just two games, he's raised that to 10 attempts per contest.

The Big Story: Agony At ARCO

With an overall record of 2-14 at ARCO Arena, Sacramento has been less than kind to the Raptors over the years. But they enter Monday's contest coming off a solid 101-81 victory over the Cavaliers that was largely a product of strong defence.

The Raptors are going to need a similar-type effort against a high-octane Kings team that returns for their home-opener with a 2-1 mark, their best start since the 2003-04 season. Evans (19.5 ppg, 6.5 apg, 5.5 rpg) leads a balanced scoring attack that has averaged 108.5 ppg so far. The additions of free agent Sam Dalembert and fifth overall pick DeMarcus Cousins up front also give the Kings some serious size to contend with.

Lineup Updates

Ed Davis (torn miniscus, right knee) continues to participate with the team in non-contact drills, but remains out of the lineup. As of this post, the Kings appear to have a full lineup available.

There are also several connections between the two franchises. Joey Dorsey, a former collegiate teammate of Evans with the University of Memphis, played eight games for the Kings during the 2009-10 season, while Antoine Wright makes his first appearance against the Raptors since playing with them last season.

Forward Reggie Evans and Dalembert were also former teammates for two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Last Time They Met

In the Raptors' last visit to ARCO Arena -- a 113-90 loss on March 10 -- Evans recorded a triple-double (19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) on the aptly named “Rally for Reke ROY Night”.

The two teams split the 2010-11 season series 1-1, with the Raptors winning 115-104 at ACC on February 7.

We'll discuss all of the action in our LIVE CHAT tonight, beginning right before tip-off at 10 PM. Hope to see you there.


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