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

The Raptors are back from their "British Invasion" after going 0-2 against the Nets in London. The HQ’s Sasha Kalra looks at their game against the Jazz...

The Toronto Raptors have returned back to the friendly confines of the Air Canada Center and will look to bounce back against the Utah Jazz. They will be playing at their usual time today in front of their usual audience and will hopefully give their fans something far from a usual performance.

Brook Lopez paved the way for the Nets last time out with his beastly near-triple-double of 34 points, 14 rebounds and 8 blocks. Stopping his inside game was a problem for the Raptors and it will be interesting to see the schemes they have drawn up to try and contain the likes of Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap.

Tonight they welcome a Utah Jazz team that is undergoing a radical transition. Their legendary coach Jerry Sloan is no longer pacing the sidelines and their mercurial point guard Deron Williams is living it up in Newark. They are 2-8 since Sloan shocked the world by stepping down and aren’t sitting in one of the playoff spots in the Western Conference. Devin Harris has had the misfortune of once again being traded to a team that needs someone to replace a franchise player and Derrick Favours is a player that needs game time to develop his skill set.

The possible return of Reggie Evans to the Raptors lineup will give the team a much needed injection of grit. He impacts the game when he is on the floor in a positive way (as long as he doesn’t shoot the ball) but I can’t help but wonder what his return might mean for Ed Davis. Davis has been quietly going about his business for most of the year and has shown us glimpses of the player he has potential to be. With Evans back in the lineup it will be interesting to see how Triano manages the minutes amongst the bigs.

Without further ado here are the 3 keys to tonight’s game:

1) Stretch the defence.  The Jazz have been a terrible team all year at defending the 3 point shot and fighting through
picks. In various games this year they have been picked apart from beyond the arc and the most recent team to do so was the New York Knicks who shot 13/26. The Raptors should aim to run their tried and tested pick and roll with Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson a few times and see if they can get any easy open looks for their shooters. Furthermore, Raja Bell isn’t the rugged defender he used to be and DeMar DeRozan should be able to continue his great offensive play.

2) Jose Calderon. It is well known that when Calderon plays a good game the Raptors usually win. He was instrumental in their win against Chris Paul and the Hornets last week. Tonight he will come up against a point guard still learning the playbook of a completely revamped team. He will have to exploit that and look to get the team’s offense the best possible shot on all possessions.  He'll also have to do a much better job of scoring the basketball than he did in London and help with the first key by being a legit factor on O.

3) Bench Play.  The Raptors can hang with any team in the league when their bench brings the requisite energy
and scoring punch that they are capable of. After a weekend in the United Kingdom the jetlagged Dinos will need all of their bench players to bring their game if they want to defeat the Jazz. Leandro Barbosa and Ed Davis are capable of putting up big numbers with the second unit and let's see if Sonny Weems and Jerryd Bayless can bring their A games tonight.

Sasha Kalra