Game Five between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets tips off tonight at the Air Canada Centre. The series is currently tied 2-2- both teams have been evenly matched thus far. In the previous game on Sunday, Toronto pulled out a momentous 87-79 victory despite blowing a large lead in the second half. Three starters (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson) came up huge for the winning side and were instrumental in the fourth-quarter defensive shutdown to close the game. Tonight’s game has huge implications. With an advantageous win on their homecourt, the Raptors can head to Brooklyn and close out the series while avoiding the pressure of a Game Seven. Let’s get into the Cage’s Keys to the Game:
Guard the Perimeter
In Game Four, the Raps held the Nets to just 20% from beyond the arc. This was vital in the overall defensive effort. Key opponents like Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Mirza Teletovic struggled to shoot the three, and consequently, Brooklyn could not produce at their usual offensive level. If Toronto can repeat this accomplishment tonight, they will put themselves in a good position to win. The Nets can be deadly from three-point range, so it’s important to limit their looks on every trip down the floor.
Did you lose your ticket?
Kevin “The Big Ticket” Garnett is still a grizzled veteran, and I still believe he can dominate in the playoffs. Although he’s been quiet so far in this series, he has 135 playoff games on his resume and he can contribute beyond the statsheet. Intangible examples include: mental games, on-court communication and relentless taunting. Garnett should still be considered a threat, as he can produce both solid numbers and veteran tactics.
You hear this all the time, but the team who wins the rebounding battle will often win the game. It’s true. In Game Four, the teams were deadlocked at 43 boards apiece and Toronto pulled away due to its stellar late-game defense. The Raps can avoid another close game by committing to a full 48-minute rebounding campaign. Leave it to Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson to lead this charge- hopefully the rest of the team will follow suit.
X-Factor: Terrence Ross
We’ve all been waiting on a big game from T-Ross, but it hasn’t happened yet. Granted, it’s only his first career playoff series, but it’s about time he proves his worth as a post-season starter. Specifically, we should hope for a scoring burst from the sophomore along with his consistent defense. It would significantly help his team in gaining a series lead.