The Toronto Raptors run into the red hot San Antonio Spurs tonight who are currently on a 5-game winning streak. The last time the Raptors(38-25) played the Spurs (39-23) they squeaked away with a victory over the reigning NBA Champions using solid defence and playing great basketball. Lately the Raptors haven’t been playing very well (losers of 3 in a row) and are trying to break out of a slump. In their last contest, they encountered potential MVP Russell Westbrook who tied a career high 17 assists against Toronto, while posting his 7th triple-double of the season. Toronto faces another quality opponent in the Spurs and will definitely have their hands full with San Antonio’s team attack mentality. The Raptors will need to put on their big-boy pants for this game or else they’ll be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
Cages Key’s to the Game:
Monkey see, monkey do
If there was an example of play style for the Raptors to mimic it would be that of the San Antonio Spurs. Greg Popovich is a basketball genius who brings the best out his players no matter how many minutes they play. In their last game against San Antonio, the Raptors played some of their best TEAM oriented basketball although they weren’t shooting particularly well. The Raptors approached their last game with professionalism and will need that same mentality if they plan on shaking this three-game losing skid. The playoffs are around the corner and it’s about time that Toronto right the ship. Let this game be the catalyst that propels the Raptors into the playoffs with positive momentum.
It’s about that time that the Spurs start turning up the intensity heading into the post-season. In the last three games Tony Parker has averaged 25 points on 64% shooting which poses a problem for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry is making just his second appearance since returning from injury, and his last game he didn’t fare too well against one of the NBA’s elite lead guards. Even with 3 rings, Parker is still one of the most underrated guards at his position. Last time out Parker had a terrible performance in Toronto finishing with just 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting. If the Raptors don’t pick up Parker he’ll absolutely carve the Raptors with his ability to penetrate into the paint and find his teammates for open looks. However if his teammates aren’t hitting, Tony will go into full Parker mode and that’s when the Raptors should worry. Stop Parker tonight, stop the Spurs.
The Raptors’ loss to the Thunder was a tough game to swallow, but the silver lining was that the Raptors were playing competitive basketball. They didn’t show that occasional disinterest that usually infuriates me and many other Raptors faithfuls. The Raptors have a rare opportunity to sweep the defending NBA Champions. If they’re able to accomplish this feat, hopefully it will put the NBA on notice that the Raptors are a team to be messed with come April.
X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
After making a less than stellar return against the Thunder, Kyle Lowry now has a chance to redeem himself against the best that the NBA has to offer. With Toronto being looked at as the underdog in this matchup, expect Lowry to come out with a chip on his shoulder.