The Toronto Raptors (19-6) will be aiming for win #20 tonight versus their division rival Brooklyn Nets (10-13). Today is an important day for the Eastern Conference leaders for a variety of reasons. For starters, it marks the ten year anniversary of the infamous Vince Carter trade to none other than this Nets team rolling into town. Also, this matchup marks the first meeting between the two squads since last season’s first round playoff battle, which was nothing short of spectacular throughout. The series had general managers dropping f-bombs, incredible crowd turnouts (in Toronto, at least), and even graffiti on the Brooklyn Bridge. Who knows what the 2014-15 chapter of the rivalry will hold. Useless observation of the day: if the playoffs began today, the Raptors would be matched up with these Nets… again. Be on the lookout for one of our commentators making a mention of this. Boy, do the basketball gods work in mysterious ways.
Oh yeah, it’s also the second “Drake Night” being held at the ACC. Like last season’s edition of Drake Night, fans attending tonight’s game will receive tees which put a unique twist on the OVO x Toronto Raptors collaboration. Still not hyped? The game will be aired on ESPN for our neighbours south of the border. Get ready to witness a playoff atmosphere. Should be fun.
Cage’s Keys to the Game
This is a matchup that’s been circled on the calendar. From top to bottom, everyone needs to show up ready to contribute to what could turn out to be one of the signature games this year. As we’ve seen time and time again, the team is at their best when the rotational players leave a positive mark when they’re put onto the court. With DeMar DeRozan out for the past while, we’ve all seen the team try to adapt to life without the all-star swingman. In some moments we’ve seen the players merge together and compensate for DeRozan’s absense with a balanced team approach, and in other instances, we’ve seen hero-ball have a negative impact on the on-court chemistry and result in additions to the loss tally. Tonight, pay attention to the bench contributions on both sides of the floor. Patrick Patterson has been awesome as of late, James Johnson has been solid, and Lou Williams has, well… been Lou Williams; doing his part to compensate for DeRozan’s injury. If the rotational guys can continue to help out, Toronto should walk away with a W.
Avoid the Drought
If you watched the most recent game versus the Orlando Magic, you may have noticed a six minute stretch during the second quarter where absolutely nothing was dropping for the Toronto Raptors. Against a veteran Nets team, such an inactive offensive stretch could have larger effects on the game’s final outcome. No team is perfect, but the good teams know when to stray away from particular offensive strategies when they aren’t succeeding. Less hero-ball, more team play. Move the rock. Work together.
“Game 7 (Part 2)”
#Redemption. Okay, it’s not like if the Raptors win tonight, the team advances to the Eastern Conference semi-finals for a date with the Miami Heat or anything— it’s a bit late for that. However, this is still a huge statement game that Toronto can use to prove their legitimacy. It’s about time people begin to take the team seriously. It’s time for the Raps to be perceived as threat, and not just a team capitalizing on temporary good fortune. Now’s the time for the fans to show that Toronto is a grim place for road teams to visit. The players will need to feed off this too— with the rest of the league watching, hustle plays will need to be made and execution will need to be precise. No better time than now to show the rest of the Association that the team has continued to grow and improve.
X-Factor: Greivis Vasquez
I may sound crazy because I’m going out on a limb here by putting the important x-factor title on Greivis Vasquez tonight, but he’s due for a good game. He’s been struggling as of late, but it’s only a matter of time until he’s back in top #SwaggyV form. Tonight presents an opportunity for bench guard to get back to contributing to the squad in the positive ways he can. The team needs it.