posted by Mike Masaya
With a little under two months left in the NBA season the Raptors will have to forget the bad calls and the “could have, should have and would have” moments that littered their record throughout their first 20 games. The Raptors currently sit at the 9th spot in the East tied with the Philadelphia 76ers and 6 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks. If the NFL is a “game of inches” then the Raptors mantra is about winning games “decided by stats” with variables all less than 10.
The Indiana Pacers are force to be reckoned with and have won 4 of their last 5 games and are tied for 2nd in the East. The season series between these 2 teams is 2-1 in favor of the Raptors. One can only hope that the with the Pacers losing the first of back to back games, a day off for the Raptors and a concentrated effort that they can win the season series at 3-1 tonight.
In order to make that possible there are a few important things Toronto will have to do and the room for error is very small.
Bench Mob: All season long we have had great break out performances from the likes of Alan Anderson and John Lucas III. It’s always fun to watch a bench player have a game where everything goes their way and it makes for a great story. The key is turning these one-off situations into a common occurrences. By all accounts Andrea Bargnani should be leading the charge off the bench with Landry Fields and Terrence Ross should they get the playing time. The Raptors bench averaged 18 points in their last 3 losses and averaged 25 in their last 2 wins. Before you say that small of a margin doesn’t make a difference, all 3 losses mentioned above were by an average of 7.6 points.
Free Throws: Every team needs to shoot well from the line to stay in close games. Although the Raptors are doing great in that category averaging around 80% as of late, the truth is they will need to stay around or above 85% as they did in their last 2 wins. The Raptors lost by 6 points to the Wizards and that just so happens to be the exact number of free throws they missed that night. I know asking a team to shoot 100% from the line is unrealistic however getting to the line which Toronto already does a great job of doing, will have to be better. With a few more free throw opportunities or a higher free throw percentage it could make all the difference. With Toronto tied for 6th place in free throw percentage among all NBA teams there is nothing to frown at and proves they have what it takes to make that extra push and turn close games into wins.
Turnovers: Every team wants keep their turnovers down and its obvious the Raptors keep themselves in every game when they keep their turnover numbers low. Only New York and Philadelphia average less turnovers than Toronto who themselves average 12.7 turnovers per game. As shown by their last 3 losses going even slightly over that number to 14.3 can make a huge difference. Indiana is a tough defensive team so passes will need to be sharp and the Raptors will have to avoid charges and fouls under the basket because the Pacers are in no way afraid of contact, they welcome it.
Photo via Raptors HQ