After losing three consecutive nail-biters, the HQ's Sean Tepper breaks down how the Raptors can end their current three game losing streak.
It's been a tumultuous ride for the Toronto Raptors over their past few games, but fans have to be excited by what they're seeing. Here is a team in the midst of a rebuilding phase, missing some of their best players, yet over the past week has shown that they have the guts to compete with some of the league's best.
Over the past week, the Dinos have gone toe to toe with three playoff bound teams, and if it wasn't for a Kobe buzzer beater and Mr. Lincredible, they could have had a few more wins to their season total. Over their past three games against the L.A. Lakers, N.Y. Knicks and San Antonio Spurs, Toronto has lost by a combined 12 points. While they continue to lose players to the injury bug, various members of their personnel like Jose Calderon, Ed Davis and DeMar DeRozan have given more consistent efforts, something else that bodes well for the club's future when they finally get guys like Andrea Bargnani back.
After losing a few heartbreakers, it is only fitting that the Raps square off against the league's worst team.
With only three wins on the season, the Bobcats are just the team that Toronto wants to be facing, and here's our three keys to getting a much-needed win:
1) Give the ball to Calderon: Remember when Calderon was a phone call away from being the Bobcats` newest point guard? Well that was a long time ago. With Bargnani still out and Kleiza expected to miss this one with a sore left ankle, the weight of Toronto`s offense will be put squarely on the Calderon`s shoulders. Over his past five games, Jose Calderon has been as good as any point guard in the league, as he has averaged 19.4 points and 11 assists during that span. To put that in perspective those numbers are on par with elite point guards such as Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings and John Wall. With D.J. Augustin still fresh off of his toe injury, Kemba Walker is likely going to defend Calderon, which bodes well for the 6'3 Spaniard. While Walker has shown flashes of brilliance, Augustin has been known to feast on the Raptors, as he averaged 18.5 points and just over six assists against Toronto last season. If Calderon can continue doing what he`s been doing and limit Walker`s scoring, the Raptors should be able to cruise to an as mentioned, much needed victory.
2) Play Defense and Control the Boards: To put it bluntly, the Charlotte Bobcats are a terrible team. Forget the fact that they have won a total of three games all year, but they rank 29th in points allowed and 30th in points per game. While the Raptors aren`t having the best of seasons, one area that they have improved on dramatically from last season is on defence. Simply put, if the Raptors show up and play the type of defence that Casey has been preaching all season, this should be a Toronto W. In addition to playing defence, the Dinos will also have to dominate the glass, which shouldn`t be difficult seeing as how the Bobcats rank 26th overall in rebounds per game and their two leading rebounders are Boris Diaw and a ah...Tyrus Thomas.
3) Don't let MJ Suit Up: If the Raptors lose this game, it will be because Michael Jordan was so sick of watching his franchise get blown out that he decided to suit up and hit the hardwood. Again, this is not a very good basketball club and the ‘Cats really have no threats on either side of the ball. Sure Kemba Walker has played well in spurts and Gerald Henderson could be a solid fourth, maybe third, option one day, but as of right now I think that last year`s Cleveland Cavaliers would beat this Charlotte squad by 20. One must also remember that this team has not won a game since beating the Golden State Warriors January 14. Additionally, their 10 road losses during this streak have come by an average of 16.2 points.
I know that some people will say that this has "trap game" written all over it, but if the Raptors lose this one, fans should start showing up to the games with paper bags over their heads.