3 in the Key - Raptors' Game-Day Preview vs Nets

The Raps have a big chance to get over .500 tonight with a win against the Nets. The HQ's Sean Tepper breaks this one down...

You know you're only six games into the NBA season when:

-DeMar Derozan has a better three point shooting percentage than he does field goal percentage,

-Andrea Bargnani is sixth in the league with scoring and playing at an all-star level

-and at .500, the Toronto Raptors are looking like a legitimate playoff team.

Like every other Raptors fan, I'm prepared to be let down and disappointed but right now I'm just enjoying the ride and with the New Jersey Nets in town tonight, that ride shouldn't end anytime soon.

While early success doesn't necessarily breed late season success, it's comforting to see that Toronto is staying competitive in this young season, regardless of the fact that two of their three wins have come against the porous Cleveland Cavaliers.

So how about tonight's match?

Well, for the first time, in a long time, I can finally say without a single doubt that the Toronto Raptors will beat the New Jersey Nets. Scratch that, the Toronto Raptors are going to manhandle the New Jersey Nets.

As of yesterday, the Toronto Raptors are seventh in the league in points allowed, and they lead the league in defensive field goal percentage allowed, a statistic that they were second to last in last season. Add that to the fact the Nets will be without Brooke Lopez and will start an injured Deron Williams and Kris Humphries, and there is just no logical way for the Dinos to lose.

With that being said, here are three things that the Raptors need to do to win their fourth game of the season.

1) Andrea Bargnani: I never in a million years thought that I would ever say this, but Andrea Bargnani is playing like an All-Star. In six games this season, the 7'0 centre is on a tear, averaging a team leading 24 points and six rebounds per game. With Bargnani likely being guarded by either Mehmet Okur or Kris Humphries, who is fresh off of what was initially believed to be a serious shoulder injury, expect Toronto's go-to guy to have yet another big night at the Air Canada Centre and lead the Dinos to their third straight win.

2) Keep Playing D: Toronto's defence got significantly better the second that they hired Dwane Casey as their head coach, and that was even before they had a single practice. Now, with over a month of instilling his young squad with a defensive mindset into a team that at times last season looked scared to get in anyone's way, we are finally getting a preview as to what Dwane Casey has to offer over the long haul. While almost every player is playing above average defence, James Johnson has quickly separated himself as the team's best and most aggressive stopper. A sparkplug off the bench, Johnson will play a pivotal role in stopping any sort of run that New Jersey may attempt to make.

3) Don't Mess Up: Here are some fun facts about the visiting New Jersey Nets. They are 1-6; they are 30th in points per game, 23rd in rebounds per game and 22nd in points allowed per game; they are in the midst of a six-game losing streak and will take to the court without their all-star centre and two of their best players will be at less than 100 per cent. To put it simply, unless the Nets can acquire Dwight Howard by tip-off there is no excuse for the Raptors not to win. With that being said, if the Dinos let this game slip away, Raptors fans should stop dreaming about a potential playoff team and start preparing for yet another long year.

SEAN TEPPER

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