The Toronto Raptors are still pleasing their fans with their A.T. (aka After Trade) attractive and successful basketball. The team is winning, players like Patrick Patterson are grabbing the opportunity that coach Dwane Casey is giving, and fans are selling out the ACC. This explains their current record (20-19), which gives them the luxury to be 1st in the Atlantic Division and 3rd (currently) in the Eastern Conference. This team, as coach Casey said after the loss against the Boston Celtics, isn’t of championship caliber, so they may lose few games that theoretically are winnable. Against LA Lakers, the Raps were sloppy, and the result was a disappointing loss. We don’t want to witness such results against the Charlotte Bobcats (Hornets soon to be), one of the few teams that grabbed a win against the new-era A.T. Raptors, with the infamous buzzer beater from Kemba Walker.
This time, Raptors has to play against the Cats at Charlotte. So, apart from the “revenge” against the team that beat them at their own house, and a team that besides their bad record are fighters (they lost against the Heat during OT) they have to prove that they can stay strong and effective away from Toronto, as they didn’t do last time they played away, against the Celtics. Raptors can win this game if they:
- Play strong peripheral defense. Fortunately, Kemba Walker will not play on Monday due to an ankle injury. But, besides him, there is Gerald Henderson who stepped up this month and plays very well (16,6 points per game), and against Toronto he has 17 ppg and 3 apg. He will play more minutes on Monday, so Lowry and co must be careful. We’ve seen weak peripheral defence lately, especially against the Lakers. This phenomenon should change.
- Play hard against Al Jefferson. Tyler Hansbrough may be out again. So it’s up to Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Chuck Hayes and maybe Patrick Patterson to prevent him play as effectively as he did last time (24points and 11 rebounds). Without Kemba Walker, he will get the most feeds. So our bigs must play…big.
- Stay concentrated and play smart. Last time the Toronto Raptors played away, and against Lakers, they didn’t get a good grade. Now, they have to be more concentrated on both ends, and especially on offence, they must continue their unselfish play, with a lot of ball movement and finding the right player at the right time. And please, don’t give so many 3pt fouls. Play smart basketball.
I think this could be a close one, but the Raptors will leave his Airness territory with a win.