The Toronto Raptors (23-34) are on the road to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers (19-38) and look to bounce back from Monday’s loss against the Washington Wizards.
This is a very crucial week for the Raptors in this post all-star break playoff push. Every game from here on out is important as Toronto is still five games behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern conference playoff race.
With all-star point guard Kyrie Irving out of the game tonight (knee injury), the Raptors will have an easier time on defense but still should not take their opponents too lightly.
Cage’s 5 Keys To The Game
1. Do Not Take The Cavaliers Lightly
One complaint from Monday’s was the lack of energy from Raptors players. Toronto just came off a huge win against the New York Knicks last Friday and took Monday’s game lightly. As a result, it was no surprise that they lost. Even with Irving out, this Cavaliers team has some young weapons in Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Marrese Speights. Play every possession tough and try to get out of Cleveland with the win.
2. Ball Movement
In the current system, unless Kyle Lowry is making plays, there is next to no ball movement for the Raptors. Toronto has way too many ball stoppers in Alan Anderson, John Lucas, and Andrea Bargnani. Coach Dwane Casey should seriously consider playing newly acquired Sebastian Telfair ahead of Lucas in the rotation. This team needs plays and needs them now.
3. Take Advantage of Irving’s Absence
With Irving out, this game will be much easier for the Raptors but still won’t be a cake-walk. Irving is responsible for a large portion of the Cavaliers’ offence and as such, they will definitely miss him tonight. This is Kyle Lowry’s time to shine. Back-up point guard Jeremy Pargo will most likely get the start tonight and there is no way he can check Lowry.
4. Crash Those Boards!
The Raptors were out-rebounded Monday 49 to 39 and even gave up 10 offensive boards. This is totally unacceptable going forward. Other than Amir Johnson, no Raptor player had more than six rebounds. We know all about Bargnani’s rebounding woes but Rudy Gay, Jonas Valanciunas, and even Lowry will need to help out on the boards if the Raptors hope to win.
5. Better Rotations
This one goes without saying. Coach Casey’s rotations have been very questionable at times and sometimes make no sense whatsoever. Why are Anderson and Lucas getting late fourth minute quarters? Why is Gay playing 42 minutes a game? Why does Terrence Ross get no shine? Coach Casey needs to solidify a good rotation that includes the young guys well before the playoffs if this team hopes to have a chance.
Tonight’s X-Factor for the Raptors will be Lowry. As stated above, with Irving out due to a knee injury, this is Lowry’s time to be assertive. He needs to get his teammates going and even get his own shot going. The Raptors need this win tonight and Lowry will be a big reason if they win.
Photo credit: RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR