3 In The Key: Toronto Raptors Game Day Preview vs. Orlando

Hot on the heels of their first questionable loss of the season, the Raptors return home to face one of the most sought after tickets of the year in the Orlando Magic.  Vicious D takes a look at the keys to today's match up.

Well that was a downer.

Some might say it was predictable for the Raptors to come out flat against the Grizzlies, but I really was hoping that this year's group would have learned something from the last few seasons. 

Especially Bargnani and Calderon.

I guess expectations were flying a bit too high after the more complete effort against Cleveland.  Nevertheless, the weaknesses we've outlined previously definitely reared their ugly head in Memphis.  A repeat of a similar effort will  destroy the Raptors in today's match.  Good news though, is that the Raptors have traditionally played the Orlando Magic very well at home.  Another good piece of news is that Vince Carter is currently slated to miss today's game thanks to a leg injury suffered the other night against the New Jersey Nets

Today's game is a ticket I've always had for the past few seasons and this year it'll be no different.  There's something about the match up between Orlando and Toronto that goes beyond just the Vince vs Raptors.  For me personally, it's just how the Magic seems to bring out the best in Chris Bosh and how Dwight Howard keeps constantly pushing Bosh to his limits.  Both players seem to get up for these games and hopefully, Sunday will be no different.

However, the season is still really young.  Traditionally, these teams do not meet in Toronto until after the holiday break, but this year, we're seeing the Raptors play Orlando twice fairly early in the schedule.  In order to beat the Magic, the Raptors will need to focus in on these points.

1) Hunt in Packs

Yeah, we hear about "packs" all the time when it concerns the Raptors, whether they be of the Dance, Game, or Ticket variety.  However, this Raptors team has to be better than its individual parts, which is why Triano has been preaching a system all year.  When the breakdowns occur and the Raptors lost last game was because they relied on one person to get the job done at any one time.  When they were their best against Cleveland, it was when they covered for each other and made effective rotations thanks to their communication.  When Andrea Bargnani went out to hedge on a defender, DeMar DeRozan would come over and help cover Shaq.  When the Raptors slashed from every position to attack the basket, it left defenders wondering where the next basket will be.

As individuals the Raptors will fail, especially if there continues to be an over reliance on Chris Bosh.  Balance is key and getting everyone working together will make the Raptors aggressive and dangerous.

2) Protect the Home Court

As was the case with previous Raptors teams, this year's Raptors have to start to develop their identity by defending the home court.  Having an under .500 record at home like last year is simply unacceptable and the Raptors simply must protect their home court if they will hope to become one of the better teams in the league.  Against some of the better teams in the league, the Raptors will be faced with tough opponents on their home for almost all of November.  If the Raptors start to lose their toughness at home, it could spell disaster for the development of the team. 

3) Focus

Don't let the Hedo Turkoglu signing become an issue.  Vince playing or not playing?  Doesn't matter to the Raptors.  Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard being friends?  Sure that's important, but Bosh has stopped playing the 360 according to himself.  These dramatic story lines may make for good talk around the water cooler, but when the lights come up and it's time to play, the Raptors no need for them.  The Raptors have to make sure they stop the dribble penetration of Jameer Nelson first and foremost as Calderon was once again exposed as a severe weak spot against protecting the Raptors' "house".  They also have to make sure they close out on Orlando's shooters as they still have a lot of players who can light it up from beyond the arc.  The Raptors will also need to make use of Turkoglu's size to neutralize Mickael Pietrus's size.

When all is said and done, this is a game that many have circled as a "must watch". As the first game of the year to be broadcast by CBC, and the first one that we'll be attending this year (both Franchise and myself will be at the game in different sections) we're looking forward to a strong showing by the Raptors.  Keep in mind that although the time of the game to start is 1pm, our clocks have to be moved back by one hour due to the change in Daylight Savings Time.

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