Tonight's matchup: Spurs @ Toronto 7:00 pm EST
The Spurs are a tough team, they can take players like former Raptors, Roger Mason and Matt Bonner and maximize their strengths turning them into quality starters. I can't think of any other team that can be a consistent championship threat consistently every year besides the Spurs. The Spurs are 34-15 and sit on top of the Southwest division. The Raptors on the other hand are now 20-34 and are on a one game winning streak beating the Wolves last night. They look to go into the break on a high note, but ugh....this is gonna be a tough one.
The three of us at Hoop Heads North are thirty somethings that love basketball, we've all had favorite teams before the Raptors were even born. My favorite team growing up has always been the Spurs as I was a big fan of the Admiral. One of my favorite Spurs blogs is Pounding the Rock, and I got to ask David at Pounding The Rock a few questions about the Spurs, the Red Rocket and MC Tony Parker.
HHN: Does San Antonio still have the tools to make another run for the championship? Or do they need to make a move/trade to be competitive in the playoffs?
David (Pounding the Rock): Ah, that's the million-dollar question, isn't it? Spurs fans seem to be split in this regard, although most agree that a trade would be preferable. In addition, our opinions are quite malleable (we are sports fans, after all) and fluctuate as the Spurs improve during this regular season. The consensus is that we're still a step below the Lakers, and that we need to shake things up somehow to make the leap. However, the team has played at a high level in the past month, and the win at Boston was probably the season's summit so far. Do we want to try to fix what isn't broken? Is it worth it to risk the team's excellent chemistry at this point in the season?
Personally, I'm torn. I'm convinced that the Spurs need a trade to cover the center position, someone able to play physical defense and grab rebounds. The question is whether we're better off trying to find a serviceable scrub/journeyman that we can get cheap or going all-out and selling the family jewels to bring another all-star big -- if there's even one available. 'Sheed Wallace's name has been heard in ESPN.
HHN: Toronto is sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, what do the Raptors have to do to compete with the Spurs?
David: Well, the Spurs have the darndest habit of playing down to the opposition, so the Raptors will have that. Regardless, the game plan against the Spurs should include:
- Defending Duncan as physically as they can. Timmy has been settling for jumpers more often this season, probably saving his aging body for the playoffs, and O'Neal has to try to keep him away from the basket. If Duncan is on with his bank shot, Triano has to send double teams at him and hope Mason and Bonner aren't on from beyond the arc.
- I'm of the opinion that Tony is a better passer when he can score his own points comfortably, so denying him easy layups should be first and foremost in the Raptors' minds. Go behind the screen and let him shoot long 2s at will. That's his shot, but it's still preferable to letting him drive and score easily or kick out to our perimeter shooters.
- Manu is back in shape and will wreak his usual havoc. However, his 3-point shooting is still suspect at best, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to give him that shot. If he makes his first two, you're in trouble.
- Bonner has been overachieving this season, and he comes from a special game at Boston. That said, he's still Matt Bonner, so you can post him up over and over again until you force coach Pop to put Kurt Thomas in. Thomas is a better defender and can make the long 2, but triples are beyond his range so you will have an easier time clogging the lane. If Bosh and O'Neal play well, Timmy and Kurt will have their hands full with them.
- Finley is old and streaky. You caught a break there.
That's as much insight into our starters as I'm comfortable writing. The truth is that Tim, Manu and Tony are three All-Star caliber players, and stopping them on any given night is easier on paper than in reality. Your best bet is to contain everyone else - and don't let Mason open at the end of the fourth quarter.
HHN: Matt Bonner was a fan favorite while he was in Toronto, is he anywhere near as popular in San Antonio?
David:I don't live in San Antonio, I'm afraid, but he's popular enough in the blogosphere. Everybody loves to cheer for the redhead playing above his level, and he's the quintessential nice, goofy guy off the court. This has also been a breakout season for Matt, and his snub for the 3-point shootout during the ASW is unforgivable. Not five months ago most of the Spurs fans I know had given up on Bonner, and wanted to trade him immediately - now he's a starter and sometimes even looks like one. (A good idea of how popular he's gotten? He has his own fansite: http://theredrocket.net Kapono, eatcher heart out.)
Of course, he'd be even more popular if he gifted us with his dance moves, like he used to do for you lucky fellows.
David: Spurs fans outside France like to believe that Tony's career as a rapper doesn't exist, so I sincerely hate you for making me watch those videos. If I have to choose, I'll go with Premier Love, because Tony isn't trying to look suave and gets to show off those big soulful eyes of his. The distinct lack of Eva doesn't hurt, either.
Personally I like Balance Toi as it's just a straight up party joint but I'm up for the debate. Thanks to Dave and the guys at PoundingTheRock.com for taking the time do the Q&A. Any chat about Matt Bonner and MC Tony P will always be a good time.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)