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3 in the Key - Raptors' Game-Day Preview vs Bobcats

After their surprising win against the Indiana Pacers the Raptors host the Charlotte Bobcats in today's game. Sasha Kalra previews the action...

Leandro Barbosa turned in a vintage performance to lead the Raptors to a great team win against Pacers' team that has some serious issues to work out.

The Brazilian Blur got off to a quick start en route to a season-high 29 points. Despite leading scorer Andrea Bargnani's off night the rest of the team turned in solid performances and Reggie Evans picked up right where he left off, grabbing 16 boards. Today they will face a Bobcats team that has undergone a bit of a makeover since they shipped Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trailblazers at the trade deadline last month.

Wallace says he feels betrayed about the trade but lets be honest for a second. If you could play for Portland or Charlotte which team would you prefer? As Raptors fans we have our own little unresolved issue with these Bobcats. This past offseason we were in negotiations with them regarding a trade that would send Jose Calderon south for Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw. Raptor forums and websites were going into overdrive as fans speculated on the role's that these two new imports would have on the Dinos going forward. The trade was ready to go through but at the last moment Michael Jordan decided to pull the plug on the deal.

The Raptors had to welcome back Calderon to camp with him fully knowing that the team had tried to trade him in the offseason. Credit to Jose though because he has been a consistent influence on the team this year and doesn't seem to be letting that episode affect his overall play. We all know what happened next. Tyson Chandler went to the Dallas Mavericks and has made them a much better defensive team. His inside presence has freed up space for their jump shooting big man Dirk Nowitzki and Raptors fans will be wondering what his presence might have done for their own Andrea Bargnani.

That is all history however and tonight represents a great chance to get a win against a conference rival. Here are the 3 keys to tonight's game:

1.  Keep up with DJ.  In DJ Augustin the Bobcats have one of the fastest players in the association. At times he can operate a one man fast break and Jose Calderon will have his work cut out trying to keep up with him all game. There is a silver lining here though. It is well known amongst Bobcats fans that most of Charlotte's players can't keep up with Augustin once he gets a full head of steam. The Raptors have a terrific opportunity to exploit this unfortunate reality today and if they can limit Augustin's options on the break he has a tendency to make bad decisions. 

2.  Stay true to plan.  The return of Reggie Evans seems to have been a nice pick-me-up for this young Raptors team. He grabbed 16 rebounds against the Pacers and seemed to have finally lost his appetite for taking shots. While this is wonderful news for the team it shouldn't hinder the effort that this franchise has placed this year on developing young talent. At a certain point in time management needs to admit this season is a write-off and switch the focus over to figuring out what young assets you posses. This has been done relatively easily over the past few months but I can't help but nitpick and argue for some more court time for Bayless. 

3.  Andrea Bargnani.  Andrea shot the ball terribly on Friday and finished the game with 8 points. Today represents a perfect opportunity for the Raptors' starting center to bounce back with a great game. He will be matched up against the lumbering and somewhat comical presence of Kwame Brown. He should have the beating of Brown on both ends of the floor in this one and if he comes out of the gates aggressive it can only help the team.

Sasha Kalra    

Note - With Franchise's Blue Devils locked in battle with the Tar Heels and other NCAA action wrapping up, we won't be doing a live-blog for this match.  However that just means we'll be paying extra attention to the various draft options which we'll be discussing in full on Tuesday...