The Toronto Raptors look to get win number 49 against the disappointing Charlotte Hornets. The 49th win of the season would set a franchise record in regular season wins for the Raptors. A win for the Hornets would mean…absolutely nothing. The Hornets are eliminated from playoff contention and are missing a number of their core players for their final game of the season. Al Jefferson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Lance Stephenson will all be inactive for their rematch against the Raptors. Last week the Raptors blew out the Hornets 92-74 on their home court. DeMar DeRozan is also expected to return to action tonight after resting a sore groin.
With a Raptors victory and a loss by the Chicago Bulls to the Atlanta Hawks; the Raptors could move into third place. A third place finish for Toronto would see them face the inexperienced Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. If the Raptors lose, they’ll see the Washington Wizards regardless of the outcome of the Bulls game.
Cage’s Keys to the game:
Eyes on the prize
The Raptors have a tendency to lose focus when it matters the most. The playoffs are less than a week away, and this is the time to step it up. They showed how dominant they could be against the Hornets the last time they played; so they’ll need to exert that same effort. If the Raptors try to plan their own fate by looking to far ahead in the playoffs it could prove troublesome. Play for the win and not the position.
Play your game
If Kemba Walker gets going early on it won’t be from great ball movement or team play. Walker operates from isolations, meaning his defender will likely be the one with his pride on line. Whether that be Kyle Lowry or Greivis Vasquez, the Raptors can’t get caught up in 1-on-1 play so close to the post-season. Go out there, run your ‘sets’ and get into the post season on a positive note.
Regardless of whether the Raptors win or lose, they’re in the post-season and had an incredible season. The Raptors are playing their last regular season in game in front of what’s sure to be an electric ACC crowd. Give the fans a show, because once this game ends it’s time to get down to business. Take this game to exorcise all demons and head into the playoffs confident and prepared.
X-Factor: Dwane Casey
Tonight’s X=factor is head coach Dwane Casey. How Casey decides to manage his team’s minutes for the final game of the regular season will be crucial. Casey needs to understand what’s at stake and not get too caught up in the drama that Raptors’ games tend to come with. If the game get’s out of hand early, Casey shouldn’t hesitate to give Bruno Caboclo some minutes against real NBA competition in the middle of the game.