Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
After consecutive one point road losses to the Charlotte Bobcats and lowly Detroit Pistons, the Toronto Raptors return home to the Air Canada Centre with the hopes of upsetting the second place San Antonio Spurs. The HQ's Chris Walder previews this afternoon's action.
With the 100th Grey Cup championship taking place later this evening between the Calgary Stampeders and the hometown Argonauts, the Raptors will be playing second fiddle in Toronto today.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially to sports fans here in the city.
Less focus on a team in dire straits and more attention on a team one game away from winning a league championship could very well mask the struggles the Raptors will most certainly face this afternoon.
On the other hand, the Raptors have lost three of their last four.
The Spurs find themselves currently sitting at the second seed in the Western Conference at 10-3, just behind the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Raptors dwell in the cellar of the Eastern Conference, sitting second from the bottom and a mere 1.5 games ahead of the winless Washington Wizards.
This is a tale of two basketball teams going in completely opposite directions.
After Friday night's loss to the Detroit Pistons, many a fan in Raptor land has begun to seriously question the direction this team is heading in.
Whose fault is it? Andrea Bargnani? Bryan Colangelo? Dwane Casey? A combination of the three? Is it someone else's entirely?
As a little throwback to the American Thanksgiving that took place this past Thursday, Raptors fans certainly have something to be grateful for at the moment.
Those three victories.
Wins over a Danny Granger-less Indiana Pacers (which was the ugliest of ugly wins), a Timberwolves team with no Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and an injured J.J Barea, as well as a Magic squad that underwent a huge roster transformation this past summer (on top of missing J.J Redick) is all the Raptors can brag about at the moment.
That's why, with the current state the team is in, it's hard to imagine Toronto pulling out its fourth victory of the season against a San Antonio Spurs squad which is considered to be one of the best teams in the entire league.
Is it impossible?
Of course not. Nothing is impossible in the NBA.
So how exactly are the Raptors keep it interesting against San Antonio?
It's time for the Triple W: Walders Winning Ways.
1) REBOUNDS, REBOUNDS and REBOUNDS
Despite having the seventh-best rebounder in the league with Tim Duncan (10.9 a game), the Spurs as a whole are not overly efficient when it comes to grabbing boards.
The team averages just 39.9 a night, which is fifth worst in the association.
The Raptors aren't exactly masters of the glass themselves (22nd, 40.1), so it's really going to come down to effort and who wants it more.
2) KEEP TONY PARKER AT BAY....OR ELSE
Tony Parker finished the night with 33 points on 15 for 23 shooting. He also dished out 10 assists in the process.
The last time the Raptors battled the Spurs, Parker had similar numbers. He scorched Toronto for 34 points and 14 assists to help lead San Antonio to a 113-106 victory on the road.
Obviously, the equation has changed now with Kyle Lowry in the mix. He's going to have to be a defensive stopper on Parker for the Raptors to find success.
Nothing should come easy to him, even if Tony makes it look so, so easy on a nightly basis.
3) EXPLOIT ANDREA BARGNANI'S MATCHUP
Cue Andrea Bargnani.
Whether it be getting the ball at the perimeter or just plain old driving by his opponent as the quicker man, it's going to be of the utmost importance for "Il Mago" to get going early on in the game, find himself easy looks and take advantage of his slower opposition.
If he can lure in San Antonio's front court into guarding him 15-20 feet away from the basket, Andrea could have a field day, which yes, hopefully helps the Raptors you know...get a win.