Following a valiant 21-point comeback against the Dallas Mavericks at the ACC on Wednesday night, the Toronto Raptors (21-20) will hit the road tonight to do battle with the Philadelphia 76ers (14-28).
The Raptors will be looking to establish some rhythm at the Wells Fargo Center versus their divisional opponent; in what appears to be a winnable game. After hitting somewhat of a rough patch at the beginning of this week, the Raptors have found a way to sit with an over-.500 record at the mid-season point— and it’s been quite some time since that very statement could be made. In order to remain in the chase for the elusive #3 seed in the Eastern Conference, Toronto will need to take care of business when games like this one are to be played. However, as we all know very well, no matchup on the NBA schedule is ever a guaranteed victory. There’s a few things that the Raptors have to do in order to ensure a their 22nd win tonight…
Here are the Cage’s 5 Keys to the Game:
Start Out Strong:
It probably sounds cliché, but this will really have an influence on the chances of our beloved Raptors getting this win on the road. In the past two games (against the Mavericks and the Charlotte Bobcats), the Raptors have been outscored by a combined score of 60-26 in the opening quarter. Why play catch-up when you can set the tone early? Toronto’s players have to crank their effort level up a notch tonight, especially in the first 12 minutes of the game.
Against an offensive-minded Dallas Mavericks team, the Raptors allowed only allowed 51 points in the final three quarters of Wednesday’s 93-85 win. The fact is: when they put their mind to it, Toronto is actually a great defensive team. That’s a not a typo. If they lock in on their assignments tonight, not only can they push an inexperienced 76ers team into forcing the issue offensively, but they can also create transition opportunities for themselves.
Attack the Basket:
When the Toronto Raptors are aggressive on offense, good things usually happen. They get to the charity stripe, they make layups, and the bigs are solid at cleaning up missed shot attempts. Through attacking the basket, Toronto also creates drive and kick opportunities that result in open looks from long range. With Terrence Ross hitting corner threes at an astonishing clip, attacking the basket to attract the defense seems like a good idea.
Keep it simple tonight. Execute on offense and make the smart passes. Avoid giving this Philly team easy fast break chances that could give them the momentum they need to make runs at home.
Encore Performance For DeRozan?:
Will DeMar DeRozan follow up his career-high 40 points with another high scoring night? It’s possible. DeRozan’s scoring numbers have been up lately; as he’s been putting up an average of 24.2 points per game in Toronto’s last 12 outings. If he can continue his recent hot streak, Toronto should have a good chance in this matchup.
Tonight’s game in Philly will be another homecoming game for Kyle Lowry, so it isn’t crazy to think that he’ll be looking to give a solid performance in front of family and friends. The fact that he shot 0 for 6 from the field against Dallas should increase the chances of Lowry showing up tonight. Need more convincing? With DeRozan looking like the player who will represent Toronto in the NBA All-Star Game, Lowry’s play over the next couple of games could make coaches consider sending him to New Orleans too. It’ll be tough to take two Raptors, but it isn’t impossible.