Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the folks at Raptors HQ. Put down the turkey sandwich, the hottest team in the Eastern Conference is back in action!
This game represents a perfect acid test and will allow the fans to see the level of improvement that this team has sustained over the last couple of weeks. This should represent an assessment for the players, fans and coaching staff.
The Raptors’ winning streak has been a pleasant surprise to most of us.That being said, beating teams like Orlando is one thing. Going into San Antonio and beating the perennially-elite Spurs is very different. It’s going to be something of a Christmas miracle if the Raptors’ pull this one off.
Kyle Lowry should be returning for this contest and will probably play around the same number of minutes that John Lucas has been getting recently. One of the highlights of the last time these two teams met was watching Jonas Valanciunas battle Tim Duncan in the post. That won’t be happening this time around and instead we’ll be treated to watching Aaron Gray try his best.
Gregg Popovich is the kind of coach who does whatever he wants to do regardless of the consequences. He’s been known to rest some of his core players every now and than. Both teams have had a few days off though and it’s pretty certain that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker will take the floor today. Kawhi Leonard recently returned from injury and he’ll most likely be tasked with guarding DeMar DeRozan.
Without further ado, here are the 3 keys to the game:
1) Point Guards: Jose Calderon and Tony Parker have played each other many times over the years. Leo Rautins will be the first to remind you about their international matches. Tony Parker has historically won this matchup and Calderon usually has a hard time dealing with his opponent’s penetration. Calderon has been in great form during the last couple of weeks and he’ll need to maintain that level of play today.
2) Bench Mob: The Raptors’ bench has been crucial during their winning streak. Terrence Ross exploded to life against the Magic and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. He contributed on both ends of the floor and will need to bring more of the same energy against the Spurs. Amir Johnson has been playing quietly-effective basketball since his ill-advised technical foul against the Blazers. Kyle Lowry is expected to come off the bench tonight and it will be interesting to see how he does in limited minutes. If he plays well and leads the Raptors to an unlikely win than does he return to the starting lineup
3) Fast Start It is much easier to win on the road when you get off to a good start. The veteran Spurs will be rested and raring to go and a quick start is essential. If the team gets going quickly and can set the tone for the game it will only help their confidence.