Away before the holidays, the Raptors return home in an attempt to double up on a team they just recent took down a few days ago. Vicious D looks ahead at the game today.
Did you enjoy your presents? Get all the basketball gear you wanted? Argued with all your friends about the merits of trading Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon, or the entire team?
Good, because after a few days hiatus and a full stomach of "Christmas cheer", it's time to get back into the swing of things. As the Raptors converge back on the lovely City of Toronto and I return home to write this preview after getting my fill of Korean B.B.Q. After coming home feeling stuffed with good eats, there's one quality that I hope the Raptors and I do not share.
I hope the holidays haven't made them bloated and lazy.
As a returning tune-up though, there's nothing that you can want more than a return to the Detroit Pistons. After completely thumping them in a win before the break, the Raptors now have the opportunity to take a fourth win in a row. The Pistons are reeling from a sixth loss in a row, with multiple injuries to their starters, and a bench that is being asked to do too much of them at times. A repeat performance is not entirely out of the question, despite Charlie Villanueva's quote the other day calling for some pride and fight in his team.
Nevertheless, the Raptors should expect the Pistons to come out fighting to avenge their loss, so here are the three keys to today's game.
1) Weather the Storm
The Pistons may come out all fired up, but it'll be up to the Raptors to try and dictate the pace of this game as soon as they can. The Raptors cannot allow themselves to be caught up in the Pistons' game by under estimating an opponent they throughly destroyed in Detroit. The Pistons still have a good point guard in Rodney Stuckey, a few offensive weapons in the aforementioned Charlie Villanueva and Will Bynum, and more than a little heart to take down a listless Raptors team. It'll be up to the Raptors starters to burn through and dissipate whatever emotional high the Pistons may have.
2) Repeat the Pattern
No need to get creative. The Raptors need to use their second unit to stomp the life out of Detroit. Getting Sonny Weems, Marco Belinelli and Amir Johnson all going as quickly as possible will allow the Raptors to run the Pistons out of the Air Canada Center. As much as the media wants to try and make Ben Wallace relevant, the Raptors have more than enough weapons to attack Detroit up the middle and keep attacking them until they are completely broken. All three bench players have the ability to be relentless and in a game like today's, they should have an open season in the Detroit interior.
3) Make it Over, Quick
If the Raptors want to play with fire, they can certainly play this game in a lazy and unenthusiastic manner. Their record at home has been pretty unspectacular, and their own record on early weekend starts has been less than glowing. If the Raptors want a way to keep themselves "entertained" throughout this game, they should be simply looking at this game as another in a series to show the world that they are not quite as bad as they seem. The Raptors have a lot to fight for, and seeing this team fight through an early start, the malaise of the holidays, and their own tendencies to hoist jumpers will go a long way towards convincing the masses that they've turned the corner.