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3 in the Key: Raptors' Game Day Preview vs Suns

The Toronto Raptors continue their road trip as they check into the US Airways Center for a match against the Suns. Do they have what it takes to stop their losing streak from reaching 9? The HQ's Sasha Kalra checks in with his thoughts

After their loss at the hands of the Lob City Clippers, the Raptors are in the desert and looking to right the ship against the Phoenix Suns. Not too many things have gone their way in recent games and the first quarter offense has to be a concern for Dwayne Casey. Our own Scott Campsall brought this up in his recap of the Clippers' loss and noted that we haven't reached the 14 point threshold in 4 of our last 5 first quarters.

The Suns are a team that has started the season slowly and many pundits don't see them finishing in the playoff spots out West. Alvin Gentry moved Jared Dudley and Channing Frye back to the bench (where they had flourished last season) and results have since improved. Steve Nash grows older by the season but his on-floor effectiveness and importance has yet to take a hit.

Marcin Gortat is another dangerous weapon that Dwane Casey will no doubt highlight in his team talk. It will be interesting to see if he goes with Amir Johnson on him throughout the game, as he wasn't too impressed with Amir's performance last time out against DeAndre Jordan.

Without further ado, its time to roll out the keys to the game:

1) The Polish Hammer: Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat are seen as being central to the unlikely scenario of the Suns making the playoffs. Gortat has been a force since being liberated from his role of "that backup who would start on 15 other teams" in Orlando. He is currently averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds while shooting a shade under 60% from the field. After watching DeAndre Jordan and LaMarcus Aldridge tear up our interior defense in recent games, the focus will have to be on keeping Gortat from making a difference

2) Which DeMar DeRozan shows up?: Which version of DeMar DeRozan shows up tonight will have a significant impact on whether or not the Raptors can end their 8 game slump. When Andrea Bargnani went down it was evident that DeRozan would have to increase his production to a higher level. He became the first option on O and his scoring ability above all was needed on an offensively-challenged team missing their top guy. But DeRozan has been a frustrated player as of late and has had some pretty terrible shooting nights. I still think he has the potential to develop into something special but he needs to start showing he impacts a basketball game in multiple ways and on a consistent basis. The best way to do this is to take it one game at a time.

3) Turn up the Tempo: After watching a few of their games this year it becomes quite clear that these aren't the Suns of yesteryear. Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Marcin Gortat and Michael Redd aren't going to win any 40 yard dashes anytime soon and this might just be the game for our young team to rediscover their offense. Making their job easier will be the older legs on the opposite end of the court and fast break points will help soften the blow of our "hit and miss" half court schemes.

Sasha Kalra