@Wolstatsun: Win tomorrow would put Raptors in first place in Atlantic after at least 10 games for first time in many years
The Raptors (4-7) are coming off a tough loss against the Portland Trail Blazers, where they struggled to defend the perimeter with the Blazers’ hot shooting. This time, the Raptors are looking to start a winnable stretch against the Sixers (5-7) on the road, then back at home hosting the Washington Wizards on Friday.
Rookie point guard Michael-Carter Williams is questionable for tonight, and he’s been huge for Philadelphia. What will the Raptors need to take a “W” on the road against a young squad? Here are the…
Cage’s 5 Keys To The Game
1. Defend the 3
Toronto struggled against the Blazers who are a terrific jump-shooting team. This time, the Raptors will once again have to worry about guarding the perimeter. Philly is averaging a solid 36% from three, rating them at 14th in the league. The rotations in this game must improve, the contests have to be harder, and the communication to guard shooters is imperative to their success.
2. Jonas Valanciunas, again.
Jonas has been the focal point of the Raptors’ offense to start games, and it has proven to be an effective part of the game early on for the team. He has been able to rebound at a solid rate, and he’s been quite dominant on the inside. For him to be fully engaged in this game, the Raptors not only need to involve him in the first quarter, but the entire game. He’s a key to the Raptors’ success, especially with the lack of size Philly has.
3. Rebound The Basketball
Despite the Sixers having a lack of size on the inside, they are ranked 9th in the NBA in total rebounding at nearly 45. The Raptors have to attack the glass, and limit second chance points. The offensive glass is one of the Raps’ outstanding strengths, being ranked 2nd in the league with 14 offensive boards a game. This is something the Raptors need to consistently outplay other teams in.
Because the Sixers are a very young team, it will play to Toronto’s advantage if they can stomp on Philly early. Young teams have a hard time climbing out of deficits because of their lack of inexperience and confidence. Guys like Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry have to lead by example. Don’t take them lightly – this is a team that beat the Miami Heat.
5. Watch Out For Thaddeus Young
He’s been one of those famous “Raptor Killers”. He’s a match-up nightmare, because he’s too quick for the bigger centers and power forwards in the league, and he’s also very strong and very crafty for the more athletic bigs. He has an underrated ability to pass the ball, defend, and can shoot the mid-range jumper. He’s arguably the Sixers’ main offensive option after Evan Turner, so if the team can force him into tough shots, and contain him on the boards, it will force the Sixers’ role players to carry a bigger role – something they’re not used to doing. Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, you sirs have quite the task tonight.
X-Factor: Jonas Valanciunas
If JV can take advantage of the Sixers lack of size (Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen), then it will open up shots for this team, especially with reports saying Steve Novak may be seeing more floor time. JV being a go-to threat in this game will take eyes off of DeMar and Rudy, meaning less defenders loading up on a consistent basis – hopefully this would allow them to take better shots, and improve their poor efficiency.