3 in the Key - Toronto Raptors' Game-Day Preview vs. Cleveland

With the NCAA season concluding in the best possible way for Mr. Franchise, it's time to turn full attention back to the Dinos and the task at hand - securing a playoff spot in the upcoming NBA playoffs.  First step in making this a reality?  Beating the Cavs tonight...

Ok, enough Duke talk.

I've had my moment in the sun, time to get back down to business.

And for the Toronto Raptors, that business is finding a way to win one of their next three games.

The Raps face the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, the Boston Celtics tomorrow night, then end the nightmarish trifecta by heading to Atlanta to take on the Hawks on Friday.

Not exactly a recipe for locking down a playoff spot.

The team chasing them, the Chicago Bulls, also faces the Cavs during that same stretch, but has matches against the Nets and the Bogut-less Bucks as well, games that on paper, look a lot more preferable than those Toronto will be playing.

Therefore if Toronto wants to still be ahead of Chicago in the standings when these two teams face off this Sunday, it's imperative that the Raps get at least one of these next three, starting tonight.

On that note, here are our three keys to getting back in the wins column:

1)  Intensity.

We've seen from this Toronto team all season that when they're locked-in and focussed on both ends, they can be a very solid club.  However more often than not, this intensity and mental focus varies from game-to-game and even quarter-to-quarter.  Over the final six regular season games, this intensity has to be on point.

Rumour has it that Cleveland will be resting some of its starters over the next few games since they've guaranteed themselves the league's best record, something that could play .  right into Toronto's hands.  Of course we're talking about a team that barely beat Philly and lost to Golden State, so again, regardless of who suits up for the Cavaliers this evening, the Raptors need to come out ready to play.

2)  Bosh, Bosh and more Bosh.

As much as I've praised CB4 this season for the effort he's given, it's these final few games down the stretch that may end up defining his career as a Raptor to a large extent.  If indeed this is his final season here, fans will remember quite vividly if he goes out like a lion or a lamb so to speak.

Therefore after a monumental effort against the Warriors on Sunday, I'm hoping to see a very similar effort tonight against the Cavs.  Yes, Cleveland has some formidable defensive players in the post, but none should be able to stick with Bosh's quickness.  (Or Andrea's for that matter.)  For Toronto to win, they need an aggressive and decisive Bosh constantly probing and attacking the Cleveland defense, finding open teammates when he's doubled.

There was a ton of discussion on the site yesterday as to whether or not Chris is a max player...it's these final few games that he needs to prove he is once and for all.

3)  Second and Third Offensive Options.

In the previous point I highlighted the importance of a big game from Toronto's franchise player.  However as witnessed Sunday, he can't quite do it alone.  The Raptors need to be able to give him some offensive support, especially against one of the league's best defensive teams like the Cavs.

So yes, I'm looking squarely at the big bread-winners on this team, Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu and Jose Calderon.  Toronto has gotten solid production from the likes of Sonny Weems, Jarrett Jack and Amir Johnson lately - sometimes getting more than you'd expect.  However the previous three, especially the latter two of the trio, just haven't been getting the job done.  This is a game tonight that Hedo was brought in to impact and I expect him to do so, even if it's not via scoring 30 points.  If he's facilitating others, all power to the Ottoman, but he can't post a line like he did against the Warriors, it's as simple as that.

One final note about the players surrounding Bosh going down the stretch.  If I'm someone like Hedo Turkoglu, I WANT Bosh back on this team next year.  I know how much the club will struggle without him, and playing for a lottery team is definitely not what I signed on for last summer.  So wouldn't I want to bust my hump through these remaining few games not only to secure as high a playoff spot as possible, but also to show Bosh what "could be" next season should he stick around?

I'm hoping the entire team takes this approach because frankly, they're all in a very similar boat should CB4 depart.

The proof of course is in the proverbial pudding, so let's see just what Bosh and his teammates cook up tonight against the Cavs.

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