Al Horford and Russell Westbrook went down with injuries yesterday and will be out for an extended period of time. Horford's injury opens an intriguing door for the Raptors.
The 2013-14 Toronto Raptors have an extremely high chance of ending the season with the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Let that sink in.
They've become a better team since the Rudy Gay trade - we all know this - having recorded big wins in Dallas and Oklahoma City. Horford's absence opens up a door and the Raptors are only three games back of the Atlanta Hawks.
After withstanding an Andea Bargnani career night and winning a hotly contested game in the legendary confines of Madison Square Garden, the Raptors return to Toronto to play the second half of a home-and-home against the Knicks.
Kyle Lowry was playing like he had a point to prove which doesn't seem like a coincidence since his name has come up in various trade talks between these two teams. More of the same, please.
Anything else going on? Well, Bargnani makes his return to Toronto (in regular season action) tonight. I wonder how the fans will greet him.
Here are the three keys to getting closer to that third seed:
1) Attack Chandler: Tyson Chandler is one of the best rim protectors in the league and arguably the only player on this team whose reputation hasn’t been tarnished at all this year. His importance increased when Bargnani arrived in town and Chandler is in a position that various Raptors’ big men were in for a number of years; bailing out Bargnani after he lets his man blow by him. An effort to attack Chandler should be made. With him out of the lineup, the Knicks are an even worse proposition.
2) Kyle Lowry: Lowry was all over the court last night, finishing with 15 points and 11 assists in an impressive outing. He even had time to take a charge against Chandler which is something many point guards would shy away from. His name has come up in trade talks between both teams so a big performance was no surprise. The Raptors will go wherever Lowry goes and another huge night from him could set the tone towards a victory over a division opponent.
3) Play to the crowd: Bargnani's return is sure to attract a massive, passionate crowd. Fans will likely come in droves to tell the former first overall draft pick what they think of his tenure in Toronto. The crowd, this season, has been fairly in and out of games. Marquee matches against the Heat no longer attract sellouts and vehement chanting like they once did. Booing Chris Bosh or Vince Carter is a thing of the past. That being said, booing Bargs is still a new thing, relatively speaking. Get the crowd into it early and you just might keep them engaged for the entire game, Toronto An actual home-court advantage would be something worth cultivating seeing as how this team will have it in the first round!