The Toronto Raptors (11-2) face a major, Western conference challenge in the up-tempo Phoenix Suns (9-5) tonight. The Raptors are coming off an impressive comeback victory against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. On the other hand, the Suns, also coming off a large deficit victory against the Indiana Pacers Saturday night, looking to end their road trip on a winning note. They have won 4 straight and are playing some very solid basketball. It’ll be another test for the Raptors to deal with; potent offensive players and major versatility – it’s going to be a project for Dwane Casey to find the right group of guys that will be the first to give it defensively.
Raptors Cage’s Keys To The Game
1. Defend the perimeter
Simple to say, although the task certainly won’t be. When a team has Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas, that in itself is already a major, major concern for Coach Casey and the perimeter defence. Gerald Green is making an early argument for Most Improved Player of the Year, and the Morris twins are versatile and can do their work on the inside, or step out and pull the bigs. Close-out fundamentally, and be physical, and the results should follow suit.
2. Get Jonas Valanciunas going
The Suns don’t have the size to stop Jonas Valanciunas, and if guys like Larry Sanders, or Marc Gasol can’t contain JV, what are the likes of Miles Plumlee and Alex Len going to do? Get the pick-&-roll, feed him with his back-to-the-basket, and watch him when driving to the lane, as the defenders come over to help. This is a game where Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, and JV can do their work; not a great interior defensive team.
3. Weather the storm
This is an up-tempo, quick, and potent offensive team. They will score, and they will get their points regardless of how well you can defend them. With that being said, the Suns will make momentum shifting plays, and go on runs. This is where the Raptors must have the minds mentally strong enough, to deal with the adversity the Suns will throw at them. Do what you do best; defend, draw fouls, and try to slow it down by throwing it into the big men, and the Raptors should be able to find their way through a stormy night.
X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
It’s going to be a battle of the guards tonight, but Kyle Lowry may be the best guard in this evening’s bout. He will have a major task in slowing down his former team-mate Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas coming off the bench. Lowry has illustrated his willingness to be passive this season, however, this must be game where he has to be aggressive offensively and put the defence on their heels. With DeRozan being hounded likely by Bledsoe and P.J Tucker collectively, it’s going to fall upon his shoulders.