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

It's another game against the Celtics as the Raptors hope the third time is the charm. Kinnon Yee looks at the recent spotlight on Jeremy Lin and wonders where the Raptors equivalent is?

That Jeremy Lin guy sure is saving the Knicks season, isn't he? When the Knicks needed someone to stand up and perform better than his previous stats would indicate, Lin has pulled it off so far and has made sure the Knicks didn't lose to opponents they shouldn't lose to.

While I'm not sold that he's going to solve the Knicks issues in the long term, his current cult status in the NBA and the market that he plays in insures that he'll be in the spotlight for the foreseeable future.

Heck the Raptors are now advertising the next meet up with the Knicks as an Asian Cultural Day.

Really?

But that begs the question for the Raptors. Where's their own player who will play above his ability while their star player is out? Is there a player who can keep this team together and on track, especially on the defensive end?

I've thought that this year was going to be a good year for us to establish a few items and it was certainly going to be a good opportunity for our younger players to shine, but they just haven't been doing it. What we've found out is our shopping list is much longer than initially thought and I'm sure that we'll need to make some pretty substantial changes in the off season.

Man, that off season looks so far away. Are we even halfway there yet?

What's so concerning is that not one Raptor has emerged to take control of this team to make it "his".

I think that really speaks to the talent assembled on this team. They're all at best, B- and C-class players. How in their minds can they compete against the likes of the Celtics, the team they face tonight in Toronto? In their last outing against the big green machine, the Raptors lost in an embarrassing 64-100 romp. After the Celtics lost to the Lakers last night, I wouldn't be surprised if the Dinos found themselves down by a similar score.

Anyways, if the Raps hope just to remain competitive, here's what they'll have to do:

1) A Battle of Energy - The Celtics not only lost to the Lakers last night, but they lost in OT after playing their hearts out. For the Raptors, they'll be waiting at home for their opponents to arrive and it means they'll have to jump all over the Celtics and make it as energy consuming of a game as they can. If the Raps come out matching the C's energy level instead of dictating the pace, it'll be a bad sign of things to come.

2) Get back on track with Defense - It means holding opponents down to 90 points a game. It hasn't happened recently and the Raptors are reverting to old bad habits. I want to see guys like DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless take more pride in their defense rather than in their shot making abilities. And with Toronto being at home, I want to see more communication on the defensive end especially from the bigs. It's time to re-establish what the Raptors identity has been for most of the year.

3) Even Scoring - There's no way for the Raptors to win if they're just relying on the outside shot. I've said it multiple times but the Raptors continue to play inefficient basketball if they continue to give players like Leandro Barboss carte blanche to take whatever shot they want. They have to use and rely more on players who are going to post up and fight for high percentage shots. Players like Ed Davis and Linas Kleiza need to be given their opportunities to score to make sure that the team is making the most of every possession.

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