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

It's a battle of offence vs. defence tonight as the HQ breaks down tonight's match versus the Milwaukee Bucks...

The NBA trade deadline is only about two weeks away.

The Toronto Raptors have 14 wins so far this season.

Put two and two together and you get four...these next two weeks could be very interesting for Toronto Raptors' fans.

With the Dinos headed straight for the lottery (last night's win by the Timberwolves puts them only two games ahead of the Raps for the third-worst record in the league), it shouldn't be a surprise to see GM Bryan Colangelo look to the future, perhaps moving some veterans around at the deadline in hopes of improving for next year and beyond.

Most likely to be moved?

With Linas Kleiza now on the shelf, the obvious two are Leandro Barbosa and Reggie Evans, hence Sunday's poll question.

However with both of them dealing with injury issues this season, and the value of expiring contracts obviously not as high this season as last, there's no guarantee anyone's going anywhere.

Of course tonight the Raptors can't worry about who's staying and who's going as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks, seeking their second straight win.  Although the Bucks have had a similar injury situation as the Raps this year, you'd be hard-pressed to say that Milwaukee hasn't been one of the league's more disappointing teams considering the way they finished last season.

But that doesn't mean Toronto can take this one lightly, as the Bucks spanked the Raps last time these teams met in January, and are still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot in the East.

This one won't be as exciting in all probability, as this Sunday's match vs. the Clippers (stay tuned in fact for our last MGD contest coming out later today), but here are our keys to a W tonight.

1)  Starter production.  In Toronto's win over Minnesota last Friday, what really stood out to me was how well the starters played.  Aside from Bargnani's 30 points, DeRozan and Weems filled the lanes and gave the club great energy on the break, Amir Johnson was a monster, and Jose Calderon conducted thangs like Maestro Fresh Wes.

This has to happen again tonight.

Toronto's defence simply isn't on par with that of the Bucks (6th most efficient team in terms of D) so to get a W, the Dinos need to be able to put points on the board tonight, and to do so, all five starters need to be locked in and ready to go.  The hope is that the Bucks are still hung-over from post-Superbowl celebrations so the Raps' starters need to attack from the jump and take advantage.

2)  Less is more.  This should be the key to the team going forward I'd argue.  One of the best sights for me as a Raptors' fan was Triano going with a tight 8-man rotation last game, including a five-some of Johnson, Davis, Weems, DeRozan and Calderon at times.  It's a group that can defend, rebound, get out on the break, and while maybe not the most efficient offensively, is an exciting and dynamic unit.

I'm hoping to see more of that tonight, and going forward.

I'm also going to apply the "less is more" theorem to Mr. Bargnani.  Yep, he put 30 big ones on the scoreboard, but as Mr. D Stance noted post-game, he shot 38% on the night; if the team had shot that percentage, they would have lost their 14th straight.

So let's see a little less from Andrea in terms of chucking it up, and hopefully a more efficient performance.  He got owned by Andrew Bogut in the last match-up between these clubs, so I'm hoping he's out for revenge.  I don't expect him to grab 15 rebounds, or even 8, but I'd like to see him pull Bogut away from the hoop and find his cutting wings.

And finally, roles, roles, roles.  One of the other things that I really liked from the win over Minny was that no one tried to do too much.  Jose got everyone involved like he should, DeRozan picked his spots and hit his J's, Sonny played his organized chaos type game, and Amir Johnson scored in close, blocked shots, and rebounded the ball.  Even bench players like Trey Johnson (the recipient of a second 10 Day contract yesterday) played to their strengths and the entire team benefitted from it.

3)  Get out and go.  This one's tied into the first point to a certain extent.  The Raps need a good start, and that means energy from the team's first five.  The Raps aren't a great shooting team this year (last in the league in terms of 3-point percentage), so get a good chunk of their scoring in transition.  Of course to get that transition going...yep, the starters need to have their collective feet on the pedal.  The Bucks play at one of the league's slower paces, and if Toronto can get out and go, this plays to their favour in terms of getting a win.  As well, Milwaukee has the league's lowest scoring average so in some ways this one will be a battle of two worlds; offence vs. defence.  

That's why it's crucial for the Dinos to play their style of fast-break game.

In a grind-it-out affair, this has the start of a new losing streak written all over it.