Raptors Go for Four - Cleveland @ Toronto (3 in the Key)

OK, the NBA doesn't use these balls, but the image in my head always thinks they do.

Another game at home, and the Raptors face a lottery bound team that they've suddenly surpassed over the past week. Kinnon Yee takes a look as the Raptors enter into the final 11 games of the year.

Someone please tell the Raptors to stop taking pages out of the Maple Leafs' book of useless wins.

I've tried to be mum on the subject because the other writers at Raptors HQ have been pretty vocal about tanking. I won't lie. It's been a worry from the beginning of this year that this Raptors team might not be bad enough to get a high draft pick in this year's lottery. The running fear for me going into this season was that the Raptors would have enough improved 3 point shooting that they'd basically shoot themselves into wins some night simply because they were lucky.

Thank god for Rasual Butler.

But now that we're down to the final stretch, the Raptors are doing their best Leafs impression by winning a bunch of meaningless games.

And in little over a week, the Raptors have now leapfrogged Sacramento, Cleveland, and New Jersey in the standings.

So with Cleveland coming into town, the Raptors almost need to lose this game to make sure they don't now surpass Detroit in the standings. With Cleveland riding a nine game losing streak, losing the season series 3-0, and Kyrie Irving re-injuring his shoulder, the job of losing just might be impossible.

In that case then, here's a list what the Raptors need to do to win and frankly, the areas that they need to continue to work on.

1) Continue the Bargnani and DeRozan Show - I didn't think that these two could find a way to get on the same page, but for at least the past two games, Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan have found ways to lead the team in scoring. For one thing, getting to the free throw line is something that they've been able to do, and frankly, it's gotta increase. Both players have the ability to draw fouls and finish at the line because in subsequent years, we'll need that free throw shooting to be a consistent part of both players' games.

2) Defense is the Bread and Butter - The Raptors have done well during their streak to hold off teams using their defense. In the three wins, the Raptors had great performances from their front court which dictated the flow of the game. They simply can't allow marginal players to have monster games against them. For example, the Bucks almost allowed Anthony Parker to get the best of them on Wednesday by letting AP drop 27 points and seven rebounds. The Raptors have been good about managing the other team's players, and should continue the trend tonight.

3) Play up Trade Values - At this point, the Raptors are probably going to look towards making trades during the draft. With the way Bryan Colangelo approached the trade deadline and the room the Raptors have going into the draft, the Raptors may have to look at trading up several spots to get an impact player. We may also see Colangelo make moves that utilize guys like Linas Kleiza, Gary Forbes, and others. Seeing as how MLSE gave Colangelo a two year contract and this being the final year of his contract, I expect Colangelo to be very active in the off season.

So while we may be unable to "tank" the rest of the games, making our own players look valuable to others is a decent second objective. It'll at least give Bryan Colangelo more assets to shop with.
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