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

After a solid win over the Knicks on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors welcome the league's best road team this afternoon...the Dallas Mavericks...

The win over the Knicks Friday night was a nice return to form.

A victory over Dallas this afternoon at the ACC would be huge.

The 26 and 13 Mavs visit the Raps this afternoon in what will surely be a tough test for the 20 and 20 Dinos.  Toronto has had a great January so far outside of the collapse to Indiana, and hopefully can keep building some momentum as the league heads to next month's All-Star break.  If this club has its hopes set on 50 wins, a number Bryan Colangelo bandied about in the pre-season, then TO needs to steal a few games like this afternoon's.

In fact, at some point if the Raps want to show that they can compete with the league's best, they need to start winning games like these period.

To do that, here are our 3 keys...


1.  Complete Team Effort.

We've seen Chris Bosh, and lately Andrea Bargnani, put up close to 20 and 10 on a consistent basis.  This primary and secondary scoring has kept Toronto in plenty a game over the past few weeks however it's when that third and/or fourth scorer steps up that TO really has had some success.  Friday's game against the Knicks was exhibit A where both DeMar Derozan and Jose Calderon took their games to another level and the Raps need much more of that going forward, especially against such a potent team like Dallas.  Toronto is in fact 10 and 4 on the season when DD puts double figures, and I'm guessing the record is even better when he gets to the free-throw line over 7 times a game.  The Raps need all hands on deck in this one, even with Dallas having a few players that aren't 100% healthy right now.


2.  Small Forward Match-Up.

For all of Hedo's woes that past week or so, this afternoon's game is a good opportunity for him to exercise some payback.  He'll be lined up against the player many fans, myself included, hoped would remain the Raptors' starting SF, Shawn Marion, and simply put, Hedo needs to bring it.  Games like these are the type of tough match-ups that BC brought Hedo in for, and he needs to be a difference-maker on the court this afternoon.  The onus is also on Jay Triano and his staff to put Hedo in situations that best utilize his skill-sets as well; translation - no more "3 point-guard closing line-ups."


3.  48 Minutes of Intensity.

Going through the Mavericks' stats, there's really no one weakness that Toronto should be able to exploit this afternoon.  The club doesn't have the offensive efficiency marks that the Raps do, but they're still a very potent scoring machine, and yet are one of the top defensive clubs in the league.  The Mavs rebound the ball well, can play both run-and-gun and half-court styles, and have the depth and athleticism to present major match-up issues for the Dinos.

Dallas is simply a very good team.

That's why this afternoon's game, like one against the Lakers, Celtics, or any of the other top dogs in the league, is going to be a tough one.  For Toronto to have a shot at the W, not only do they need their key guys to step up, but they need a complete team effort in terms of execution and intensity; from Chris Bosh on down to Jay Triano.  The Mavs have won four of the last five in Toronto, and 11 of the past 12 in this series between the clubs, so TO definitely has their work cut out for them. 

With another tough test back-to-back against the Cavs in Cleveland and Bucks in Milwaukee starting Tuesday, a win this afternoon would be huge for the Dinos, and to get that done, I'll be expecting one of the club's best all-around efforts of the season.