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3 In the Key – Toronto Raptors Game Day Preview vs. Milwaukee

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Reaching his potential....

Reaching his potential....

After Sunday’s deconstruction of the LA Clippers the Raps now face legitimate NBA competition yet again, this time facing the Milwaukee Bucks, a team still fighting for their play-off lives and a mere 2 games out of the eight spot.

Yes, the Bucks despite the crippling injuries they have suffered over the course of the season are still in contention for the second season. Having lost both Redd and Bogut for the majority of the season this Milwaukee squad has managed to keep themselves in contention with great play from the likes of Ramon Sessions, Richard Jefferson and of course Charlie Villaneuva, a HQ favourite.

Charlie Villaneuva, who has become a total "Twitterholic" (if that is even a word), has had a career year on the court. CV Smooth has taken full advantage of his team’s injuries and has put himself in position for a substantial pay raise this summer. He is starting to become the player that I am sure Rob Babcock envisioned when he stunned most Raps fans by taking this UCONN product in the 2005 draft.

Villaneuva’s solid season shows just how important depth is on a basketball team. I for one believe that Superstars win championships but all winning teams’, whether or not they have legitimate championship aspirations, have the ability to deal with injuries. The Buck’s season is a perfect example. When Redd and Bogut were shut down earlier in the year this squad could easily have tanked the rest of the season, but their roster had enough talent to allow the team to continue to compete.

Now, compare what has happened with the Bucks to what has gone on with the Raps this season. Like the Bucks the Raps have had to deal with the injury bug for most of the season (although to a lesser degree), but without any depth they are languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. This is, as we all know, something that BC is going to have to address this off-season.

In that vein the Raps continue to scour the D-League looking for players who might be able to contribute when given the opportunity. Yesterday the Raps signed former first round pick Quincy Douby to a 10-day contract. This Rutgers product and former Sacramento King has been toiling away in the D-League with the Erie BayHawks for most of this season where he has averaged 18 ppg. Douby, although touted by some when drafted as being a PG, is essentially an undersized SG. Douby is 6’3", rail thin and when with the Kings had a tough time finding a role. Although considered a scorer Douby never shot higher than .400 from the floor while with the Kings.

Although you can be critical of many of the things that have gone on this season with the Raps it is nice to see BC being active with the playoffs out of reach. The Douby signing is another venture into the D-League and with most transactions of this type there is little to lose and everything to gain. The current return the team is getting from the Pops Mensah-Bonsu experiment is all the evidence you need. The Raps, much to my surprise are making full use of this resource which is a nice positive given the situation this team currently finds itself in.

In that vein here are tonight’s three keys:

1. Play the Youngster’s: With Douby aboard and Jawai back, the Raps have a nice opportunity here to spread the minutes around and give everyone a chance to play. I for one would rather see what Jawai can do then see Bosh log more than 40 minutes of playing time. Triano is obviously being paid to win games, and by no means am I supporting Tankapalooza, but the benefits of giving the young guys minutes far outweigh any negatives, including adding another L to the record.

2. Contain CV Smooth: So just how well has Villanueva played since he has been inserted into the starting line-up? Over the past 30 games Charlie has averaged 21.2 points and 7.9 rebounds with nine double-doubles. Dude has been fierce and as we all know he loves to come back to the ACC and light the place on fire. It will be up to Bosh to slow #31 and now that his legal woes have become public it will be interesting to see how he responds to the negative press on the court. Will he take his frustrations out on CV Smooth?

3. Get on the Glass: Even without Bogut the Bucks are still a proficient rebounding team with the like of Elson, Mbah a Moute and of course Villaneuva, luckily the Raps should have a response with Bargnani back and Mensah-Bonsu coming off the bench. If the Raps intend on putting together a two game winning streak winning the battle on the boards will be key.

HOWLAND