"Behind Enemy Lines"

The Raptors are on a 3 game road trip after hosting the Pistons at the ACC on Friday and need to consider two things about their opponents: the depth of their bench and sustaining a lead for more than 2 quarters. We are seeing some pretty good basketball from the Raptors and their starters putting up better numbers but their downfall has been playing consistently. This week they are up against Detroit, Washington, New Orleans and San Antonio. Consider the points I mention below when watching these games. I look at each game individually and analyze what the Raptors need to do to win. Yes, even against the Spurs who are first in the Western Conference because I believe the talent is there. Let's get to it.

Detroit Pistons @ Toronto Raptors - Friday, January 14
  • These two teams have played twice already this season and split the wins.
  • Their last meeting on December 22, saw Detroit win 115-93 over the Raptors.
  • During this game, Detroit's top 4 starters averaged about 24-28 playing minutes. Toronto's top 4 averaged a significant amount more at 33-37 minutes. Not much difference in production from the top 4, the difference came from the bench.
  • Detroit Pistons Inactive List: Jonas Jerebko (right Achilles tendon - partial rupture), Terrico White (broken right foot) - both have missed 37 games so far and Ben Wallace.
  • The Raptors need to watch: Richard Hamilton and Tracy McGrady who had 35 and 17 points respectively coming off the bench during their last meeting with the Raptors.
  • The Key for Raptors: Go hard in the first two quarters and go into the 3rd quarter with a respectable or sizable lead. During their last meeting with Detroit, the Pistons dominated the 2nd quarter producing 38 points to the Raptors' 21. The Raptors' fought to catch up after that.

Toronto Raptors @ Washington Wizards - Saturday, January 15
  • These two teams played twice this season and split the wins.
  • Their last meeting on November 16th saw the Wizards win 109-94.
  • Washington lead the first 3 quarters of this game. Three of their 5 starters put up double digit points, including Gilbert Arenas with 20 and Andray Blatche with 22.
  • The key to this game was Washington had a more consistent and productive bench: Nick Young with 20 and Hilton Armstrong with 10.
  • Washington's Inactive List: Josh Howard and Hamady Ndiaye.
  • Key for the Raptors: Do not let the lead change hands and if it does change, keep it to a minimum and of course, on the Raptors side. And shut down Nick Young. Young had 43 points in the Wizards' last meeting with Sacramento which saw the lead change 5 times and tie 8 times. Be consistent and solid.

Toronto Raptors @ New Orleans Hornets - Monday, January 17
  • This will be the first of three meetings for these two teams this season.
  • New Orleans currently sits at 6th in the Western Conference and is on a two game win streak as of Thursday morning.
  • New Orleans pulled off a 92-89 win in their last game versus Orlando where they lead the 1st and 4rth quarters.
  • This will the first time the Raptors will meet their former teammate Jarret Jack since he was traded to New Orleans. He has played 27 games in a Hornets jersey - none of them as a starter. (As a Raptor this season, he played 13 games all of which were starts).
  • The next time they meet after Monday's game will be on March 1st in Toronto.
  • Key for the Raptors: stay strong in the first half and even stronger in the 4rth quarter. The Hornets have guys like Chris Paul and Marcus Thorton who can be counted on for key shots and for putting up solid numbers.
  • Hornets Inactive List: Marcus Banks and David Anderson.

Toronto Raptors @ San Antonio Spurs - Wednesday, January 19

  • This will be the first of two meetings for the Spurs and Raptors.
  • San Antonio currently sits at 33-6, is in 1st place in the Western Conference and is on a 4 game win streak as of Thursday morning.
  • Their last game against the Bucks saw a 91-84 result in favor of the Spurs. They only lead the 3rd and 4rth quarters of this game.
  • Spurs Inactive List: James Anderson.
  • Key for the Raptors: Don't count out the Spurs if you are leading at the half. They are a team who has proven their ability to re-group and score points. And forget about their record and standings - they are just like any other team in the NBA - a team to beat.

Thanks for joining me today. As always, I love hearing your comments and suggestions. Please add me on Facebook and Twitter - I am the one with a purple jacket and a red microphone. Or you can leave a comment after this article and I will add you. (Go to the friend page not the "public figure page". The "public figure page" just popped up and is not authorized).

As always have a great weekend and I will see you here on Tuesday for more NBA coverage in "NBAz in 7 Dayz".

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