fter pulling off a surprise win against the San Antonio Spurs, the Raptors enter Florida yet again for their fourth date with the Magic in less than half the season. The Magic will be coming off a back-to-back, so Vicious D takes a look at how the Raptors will take advantage of their days of rest like so many other have done against them this year.
And now, we bring you Goliath.
There are some teams in the NBA that you just know that your team will struggle with. They can be the top teams of the NBA or they can be teams that simply exploit your weaknesses. For the Raptors, those top difficult teams have to be the Lakers, the Hawks, and tonight's opponents, the Orlando Magic. At just about every position, the Orlando Magic outmatch the Raptors, save power forward and maybe starting point guard. There are no assignments where the Raptors can be lax. In fact, although the Raptors may need to double-team Dwight Howard, they may not be able to spare the defenders to do so. Double teaming the Magic's Dwight Howard must be done sparingly or else the Magic will expose the Raptors' three point defense.
And that's just how the Raptors have been overwhelmed by the Magic in three meetings this year.
Even with the emotional high of defeating a San Antonio Spurs team, having two days of rest, and having Orlando play the tail-end of a back-to-back after a two game losing streak, the Raptors will need more than a few breaks to come out with a win. With Orlando just losing to the Bulls and Pacers, the Raptors will probably welcome a very hungry and angry Magic team.
But just every once in a while, David can beat Goliath. If the Raptors play smart, take advantage of their strengths, and get a little luck on their side, they may pull out a win. To do so, the Raptors will need to:
1) Energize the Floor
In an opponent's stadium, the Raptors will have to work to generate the plays that usually energize them. For the Raptors to win this game, players like Marco Belinelli, Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan, and Amir Johnson will be the ones that will make the the Orlando Magic feel every bit of their back-to-back. Personal accountability to guard their man will come from the energy that the Raptors bring to the game. Imagine our own players staying in front of Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter. Imagine our players running out to the 3-point line to close out on players such as J.J. Reddick. Energy is what will make sure that the Raptors survive the Magic and stop them from sweeping the series. And speaking of 3's...
2) Contest All 3's
I was there at the beginning of the year when the Raptors absolutely horrid defense allowed JJ Reddick, Jameer Nelson, and Ryan Anderson to score five threes a piece. That's 45 points accounted to players who are supposed to be supporting role players in the Magic lineup. While the Raptors did better in their second game against the Magic, the next game at Amway Arena allowed the Magic to go 14-30 from the field with Rashard Lewis making five of his eight attempts. There's little denying that the Magic are a team that rely on the 3 pointer and with the fourth highest 3-point shooting percentage in the league, they have reason to keep hoisting it up. Therefore, the Raptors need to plan their attack accordingly and need to make the Magic do something that is out of their character by running the Magic players off the line.
The Raptors, by the way, are right behind the Magic for overall team 3-point percentage. So they must counter the Magic's 3-pointers with their own.
3) Maximize Possessions
It doesn't matter if the Raptors score points on every possession, but the Raptors must make sure that they execute their plays and get good looks. Making the Magic work on the defensive end on the tail end of the back to back will make sure that Orlando will lose energy as the game goes on. Making sure to at least create quality plays every time they come down the court and get fouls racked up on players like Dwight Howard will go a long way to make sure that our home club will be able to build a large lead in the first half.