Time to go Paleolithic on the Raptors

I'll now take a break from my Chris Paul worship and give you a game preview for tonight.  Here we go:

Game Preview!
Raptors(16-15) vs. Hornets(20-10)
Relevant Blogger: Raptors HQ

The Raptors come to New Orleans for a New Years day game, having somehow managed to lose to Houston two days ago after beating San Antonio the day before.  That's pretty much the definition of their season so far.  They win three, lose three, win two, lose two.  For a team that is certain it was on the rise after last year, that's got to be disappointing.  It's not hard to see what's going wrong with this team.  Their three primary bigs, Bosh, Bargnani and Nesterovic are shooting poorly.  That's not a surprise with Rasho, but Bosh and Bargnani were supposed to be the Raptor's heavy lifters.

The Hornets are riding a winning streak where they have blown out every team, and have never looked more comfortable on the floor.  Scott has tightened the rotation, and though it is meaning more minutes for the starting five, it's paying dividends.

Positional Analysis
Chris Paul vs. Jose Calderon
Advantage: Hornets
Jose Calderon is an excellent up and coming point guard. Inexplicably, he's spent most of the season starting behind TJ Ford, who is now out dealing with scary neck problems that have plagued his career before.  Calderon is a true point guard, sporting excellent shooting percentages(51% and 40%) and a dazzling 6.2 assists per turnover.  He may be the second best young PG in the league.  Behind Paul of course.

SG: Anthony Parker vs. Morris Peterson
Advantage: Raptors
Parker took Morris Peterson's job last year, but they are surprisingly similar players.  In the end, I'd say Parker is about 110% of Peterson.  Still – that ain't much of a difference.

SF: Jamario Moon vs. Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Hornets
'Who?' I hear you say.  Moon is a 27-year old rookie who for a while was a toast of Raptors nation.  He's a good shotblocker and energy guy.  But that's about it.  He's a weak shooter and has managed to draw 25 free throws in 27 games as a starter.  You can tell from that how good he is at driving to the hoop.  Peja has been free-flowing recently, and his shots from inside the arc are falling more often.  He'll get his.

PF: Chris Bosh vs. David West
Advantage: Hornets
Both West and Bosh went in that fantastic 2003 Draft.  Bosh went 4th, after Carmelo Anthony and before Dwayne Wade.  West went 18th, after Zarko Cabakarpa and before Aleksandr Pavlovic.  Talk about a diamond in the rough.  Bosh is routinely mentioned as a star, while West is ignored, so what I'm about to say will probably hurt Raptors fans no end.  West is outplaying Bosh in all but two categories: Points per game and drawing free throws.  But Bosh only scores one more point while getting 4 more free throws a game.  A career 48% shooter, Bosh has fallen to 43% this year.  He's passing poorly, defending poorly, and in general seems like he's got injuries he's playing through.  West has developed new ways of attacking the basket, has become a much better defender, and has been destroying everyone he's faced recently.  Yay West!

C: Andrea Bargnani vs. Tyson Chandler
Advantage: Hornets
Last year's #1 pick, Bargnani is a 7-foot jumpshooter.  Somehow, despite his heigth advantage, he's hitting only 37% of his shots from close while nailing 40% from deep.  He doesn't draw fouls, he is a terrible rebounder, he doesn't defend well, and he doesn't block shots.  Last year, he shot better, but everything else was the same.  Even then, none of his stats scream 'Center'.  Why the hell is he being used there?  Tyson is going to eat him alive.

Advantage: Raptors
The Hornets rotation keeps getting shorter as the bench proves it's offensive ineptitude. The Raptors strength, however, is their depth.  Even with Calderon starting, they can call up aggressive energizer and all-around player Carlos Delfino, crack marksman Jason Kapono(52% from 3), a strong backup center in Rasho Nesterovic, efficient post scorer Kris Humphries, and a streak shooter in Juan Dixon.  This bunch is very nice.

Hornets will win this one. 93-82.

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