Opponent: Toronto Raptors (3-2)
Efficiencies: Offensive: 105.9. Defensive: 107.0. Differential: -1.1.
Last season: New Orleans wins season series 2-2. Game 1: Raptors win 98-79. Game 2: Bobcats 110-98. Game 3: Raptors 104-100. Game 4: Bobcats 105-100.
Efficiencies in last season's games:
Offensive: 108.0. Defensive: 107.5. Differential: +0.5.
Game Preview from RaptorsHQ – I did a Q&A exchange with Adam from Raptors HQ. Scroll down that link and you will find it. Here are his responses.
Opponent Blogger Q&A with Adam from RaptorsHQ at HoopLife.ca:1. How has the addition of O'Neal worked for the Raptors so far? Is he looking more spry with access to Canadian medicine?
The Canadian medicine hasn't quite kicked in yet! O'Neal has definitely looked better than he has in a while but he's not there yet. His offense has definitely lagged behind his defence and the rebounding numbers many fans expected have yet to appear.
However there are two huge things that the Jermaine O'Neal trade has already provided the Raptors that aren't directly related to JO's own statistical performance.
First and foremost, his attitude and defensive mentality has been a much-needed addition to a traditionally “soft” club. Since game one you can now see a different swagger to this Raptors' crew and the entire team just seems that much more confident, especially on D.
Second, the trade paved the way for Jose Calderon to take over at the 1 for Toronto. Jose has been an absolute MVP candidate for this team so far and I can only see some sort of injury derailing his first All-Star game appearance this season.
2. With people quick to call both Adam Morrison and Andrea Bargnani busts, what have you seen from your potential “bust” to make you think people are jumping the gun? (I maintain it is too soon to call it for both – just look at how Mike Dunleavy started slow in Golden State, and blew up for the Pacers last year).
This is a tough question. To start I've always been a Bargnani backer and while I actually wanted Ty Thomas that draft year, I did think Andrea would become a very good player in the league. The big worry we had at the HQ was whether or not Andrea could become a 5 and play alongside Bosh.
Last year didn't exactly do much to ease our fears and what started off as a promising rookie campaign for Andrea essentially became a regression for him in his sophomore session. He's shown some nice signs of life this year but admittedly needs to show a lot more to justify his selection.
Players like Rudy Gay and Brandon Roy look like young stars in the league and others like LaMarcus Aldridge and Foye from his draft class look to have more than solid careers ahead of them as well.
It's definitely too soon to label him a bust however.
I mean, we gave Hoffa almost 3 years and Andrea has shown WAY more upside than Araujo!
The tricky thing is going to be for Sam Mitchell and even Bryan Colangelo, to find a way to get the most out of Bargs' skill set. His defense has improved each season but he's still essentially a 7-foot perimeter scorer trapped between the 3 and the 4. With Bosh occupying the latter spot and the 5 not an option after last year's fiasco, one does have to wonder if his skill set wouldn't be better served with another club, much like what happened with Jr. Dun.
3. Keys to the game: An unexpected victory for the Raptors, but what do they have to do to ensure it?
This Charlotte team actually scares me as a Raptors' fan because the Cats have bigs like Emeka Okafor who rebound the ball well, and athletic swingmen who can get to the rim. Toronto over the past few seasons has struggled in these two areas and so far this year things haven't been much different (witness Tayshaun Prince's 27 on Wednesday night and the fact that Toronto has lost eveyr rebounding battle so far this season.)
Therefore to get this win, the Raptors really need to do a much better job containing dribble penetration from the wings, and focus on rebounding the basketball. Yep, two things that at face value seem simple and perhaps overly obvious but the Dinos have had issues in these departments as stated and need to address them before they can entertain any thoughts of competing with the Bostons and Orlandos of the East.