The Raptors take on the Bobcats in what should be a match to avenge a loss earlier in the year. However, where the Raptors need to even up a series against a middle-of-the-road contender, this match up may prove to mean much more towards evaluating the Raptors as the Bobcats are precisely the kind of team the Raptors must work hard to beat.
If the last series of games were fairly boring to you because they represented the Raptors beating the marginal talent of the NBA, then good news!
The Raptors play the Charlotte Bobcats today.
All throughout the past few games, I've been extremely guarded in my appraisal of the Raptors. After writing previews and recaps for about a week and a half, the conclusion is pretty simple:
This Raptors team can beat bad teams fairly easily.
And while as a fan, it's nice to see our team do well and kick those "lesser opponents" of the NBA, the Raptors are still a team that exhibited troubles against a recovering Pistons team. Therefore, the Hornets, with their rebounding prowess and physical players, should be an interesting match up for the Toronto Raptors. Tougher opponents mean tougher challenges and it's these challenges that will force our Raptors team to grow.
It will also answer some questions about Jarrett Jack, the resurgence of Hedo Turkoglu, and the abilities of our bench.
So with tonight's anticipated match up, the three keys will be in areas that I believe the Bobcats will challenge the Raptors and what I'm most interested in seeing is how the Raptors take a punch and fight back against Charlotte.
1) Box Out, Fight For Rebounds
Against a team that has Stephen Jackson as a guard, you are probably going to have a lot of trouble winning the rebounding battles. What that means is that the guards are going to have to come in and assist. I'm looking for Jarrett Jack to have a fairly strong rebounding game and he'll need to battle Raymond Felton who is averaging 3.4 rebounds per game. Asking DeRozan to guard Stephen Jackson may be too much, so I am hoping that Triano will consider playing Sonny Weems on Jackson for most of the evening. Then, I can't begin to tell you how worried I am about Gerald Wallace, who is averaging almost 12 rebounds per game this year. The Raptors may not be able to win this rebounding battle, but they can at least attempt to minimalize Charlotte's second chance point opportunities.
2) Active Hands
Charlotte is a league worst in turnovers per game with 17 per game. The Raptors need to make life very difficult for them by continuing to be aggressive in the passing lanes and to not shy away from tearing the ball away from the Bobcats. With the Dinos having one of the lowest turnovers in the league (4th), they must exploit this weakness for their gain. Good teams scout their opponents and attack their weak spots while reducing exposure of their own weaknesses. It's time the Raptors started to show some qualities of being a good team.
3) Make the Bobcats be "average"
Our Raptors team has been very good at keeping opponents below 100 points during this current win streak. They cannot allow Charlotte to become another team that shoots above average against them. Being third-last in the league in points per game, the Raptors simply need to make sure they play enough token defense to make sure that the Bobcats have no way of making the magical 100 points mark which is the difference between a sure win and a tiring loss. The Bobcats are not exactly the most gifted offensive club so the Raptors should not allow them to impersonate one.