After basically getting blown out by the Indiana Pacers last night, the Toronto Raptors‘ backs really are against the wall.
Sitting 6.5 games back from the 8th place Milwaukee Bucks with 23 games left leaves the Raps with a very tough hole to climb, and that 4-19 start is looking that much worse.
However, two of those games are against the Bucks, and if the Raps want to hang on to those playoff hopes, tonight must be treated as a playoff game itself. This is truly do or die territory for the Raps, and a loss tonight will shut the door on any playoff aspirations.
Missing the playoffs may have its positives, however we can talk about that if/when the time comes.
The Cage’s 5 Keys To The Game
1. Move The Ball
12 assists isn’t going to get it done. The Raps were brutal offensively this week, and last night vs the Pacers was no exception. Kyle Lowry has to be in attack mode, as he really is a different player when he’s looking to create rather than play ‘Jose-ball’.
That isn’t a knock on Jose, I’m simply referring to the fact that Lowry has been passive ever since Jose took the starting job, and Lowry’s passing isn’t as crisp, safe, and accurate as Jose’s so it doesn’t work.
2. Better Shot Selection
The DeRozan-Gay duo only works when both of them are attacking the rim, slashing, and taking high percentage shots. Neither of them can shoot the three, but mid-range is their game and both of them have to look for better shots.
3. Calm The Backcourt
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis make up a pretty dynamic back-court, and adding JJ Reddick to that list gives the Bucks one of the toughest backcourts to defend against in the league. Bottom line is the Raps will have to be ready to help – a lot.
Lowry will have to be on top of his defensive game, and show why he was brought here in the first place tonight, by playing hard-nosed defense and attack.
This typically goes without saying, but Dwane Casey‘s rotations have not made sense for a large portion of the Raptors games. Playing starters for over 40 minutes isn’t going to give them an edge in crunch time, and not adjusting when other teams are making a run isn’t exactly a great strategy either.
Casey should also consider playing Lowry with the bench unit for points to allow him to look for his offense, but hey, maybe that’s just my personal thoughts.
5. Play With Some Intensity
Again, this is another that is usually a given, but these past three games the Raptors have not looked like they want to make the playoffs. If you want it, go get it.
Andrea Bargnani has got to step up sooner rather than later. This team desperately needs scoring output from their frontcourt, and if there is one thing Bargnani can do, it’s score. He should be able to take advantage of the slower Bucks frontcourt, and this could be a breakout game for him. The Raps certainly could use it, because when Bargnani is playing like himself, he is exactly what this team is missing- a scoring power forward that can stretch the floor. Just get your groove back Bargnani. Please.
Credit to John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports for the photo.