Friday, April 18, 2014

Top Five Things to Watch For in this Raptors Playoff Run

posted by Romy Aquino (@romyaquino)

Top Five Things to Watch For in this Raptors Playoff Run

Can the Raptors take it to another level in the playoffs?

Playoff basketball has made its return to Toronto.  The first round series is set, and the Raptors will face off against the Brooklyn Nets in a seven game series that begins Saturday at the ACC. They've proved what they're capable of in the regular season and now it's time to make noise in the playoffs. Here are a few things that I'm looking forward to in this crazy tournament that we call the NBA Playoffs.

DeMar's Playoff Debut

In his fifth NBA season, DeMar DeRozan will make his long awaited NBA playoff debut. As one of the Raptors franchise centerpieces, Coach Casey will rely on him heavily to do the bulk of the scoring in his first playoff series against the Nets. DeMar isn't rookie any more, so expect Brooklyn to focus on shutting DeMar down. DeRozan will need to continue to attack the basket and do what he does best and get as much scoring done at the free throw line.

Stars are made in the playoffs and DeMar can make his mark this year.

The Quest for the Second Round

Remember back in 2001 when the Raptors won a first round series? No...not really? Yeah, it was that long ago. 

This team proved that they can make the playoffs and now they need to show the fans and the rest of the league that they can win a playoff series again...especially when you're the Atlantic Division champs and hold down the #3 spot in the East. Not only will bode well for this franchise, it will have an impact on this team's confidence for next season, it will breed a winning culture and could attract future free agents to the city of Toronto.

The Sophomores - Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas

A key to Toronto's playoff success will come down to the performance of a couple of sophomore starters, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas.  Toronto will have the advantage with the bigs with Valanciunas manning the paint versus an old Kevin Garnett and the rookie Mason Plumlee . JV came on strong in the last week of the season and he'll have to carry that same level of play into the series against Brooklyn.

Terrence Ross has had his moments this season but hasn't performed on a consistent basis. He'll be looked upon for strong performances on both ends of the floor and will need to knock down the three ball when he's open. 

Toronto will need consistency from both of these guys along with the Raptors bench if they want to advance past the Brooklyn Nets.

Overcoming the Inexperience

The Raptors roster consists of a young core of players with little to no playoff experience.  This tweet from Josh Lewenbery from TSN 1050 explains it all.

If there's anything that can help you win playoff games, it's having guys who've been there before. The Nets have that. Toronto will have to look to their youth and athleticism to overcome the age and experience of the Nets. Toronto has the coaching experience with Coach Casey who was an assistant on the championship Dallas Mavericks versus the Nets' Jason Kidd who's in his first year of coaching.

Toronto has proven they can beat tough, experienced teams in the regular season, now they have to prove it in the playoffs.

An element of toughness?

Ever since the Andrea Bargnani era, the Raptors have known to be 'soft.'  That's not what you want to be when it comes playoff time.  With guys like Bargnani out of the picture, Toronto now has an edge and an element toughness on this team. With the additions of guys like Tyler Hansbrough, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes joining forces with Jonas Valanciunas and a gritty point guard in Kyle Lowry, this team doesn't mind putting in a fight and getting their hands dirty when they need to.  They've proven time and time again this season that they can claw their way back into games when they're down and grind out a win when they need to.

Welcome back NBA Playoffs, we've missed you.


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