The Toronto Raptors have had plenty of opportunity of being on the wrong side of NBA history.
Kobe's 81, the Vince Carter trade, Bosh's exit, etc, etc.
In all seriousness this should be a very entertaining affair so let's hit the three keys...
1. DeMar DeRozan. Remember last season when we had Andrea Bargnani as one of the three keys quite a bit in the second half of the year? Due to his play in that infamous 13 game stretch, he took on a bit of a bulls eye as we fans hoped to see a return to that level of play.
The bulls eye is being passed to DeMar DeRozan.
Obviously we'll still be discussing Bargs, as well as everyone else on the club, but there's no question there's increased pressure going forward for DD to live up to the expectations Bryan Colangelo's set forth with this recent contract extension. Tonight interestingly he faces Joe Johnson, a player that the National Post's Eric Koreen argued may have factored into BC's extension decision. BC let Johnson, an up-and-coming swingman in Phoenix, jet to Atlanta where he blossomed into one of the league's best players. Koreen's point was that BC may have said "hmm, I've seen this movie before," and opted to risk overspending to prevent losing a player that when paired with upgraded talent, took his game to the next level.
Tonight DD's got a great chance to start proving BC right.
2. Offensive Execution. Not that the defence has been a juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but the offense to me has been fairly sketchy at times. The team couldn't buy a basket at points in the third quarter against Indiana and some of the line-up decisions failed to produce optimal execution. I'll be looking for the Raps to improve upon this tonight against what should be a fairly soft Nets' D.
3. Lowry vs. Williams. The marquee match-up? Quite possibly as two bull-dogs battle it out for point guard supremacy. More important than one out-scoring the other though, is which one does a better job of getting his teammates involved and impacting the pace of the match.
Lowry did a phenomenal job of that against Indy although he forced things a bit down the stretch. We'll see if he can make end-game adjustments tonight but play his style of contest, all the while limiting the offensive game of Deron Williams.