By: Adam Pasternak
On to game six! With a win today, the Raptors can advance to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. If they play the way they did last game, I have no doubt that the Raptors will come home to Toronto victorious. But before we get to game six, I have a few reactions to what went on during game five.
DeMar DeRozan, the lead endorser for red shoelaces, came alive with 34 points – he seems to like game fives. DeRozan got high percentage looks near the basket early on, and finally realized that layups are much easier than contested jumpers. Once he got going an in a rhythm, the jumpers also started falling. With most great scorers, the key to breaking out of a slump is seeing the ball go in the basket early, and DeRozan did just that. He and Kyle Lowry came out determined not to go to Miami down 3-2, and it showed in their play.
This was the first game all series where the Raptors came out and played their brand of basketball. The bigs were working hard for Toronto, duelling Erik Spoelstra’s small-ball lineups with Justise Winslow at the centre position. The bench didn’t score as much as Dwane Casey and co. are used to, but they did enough on the defensive end that it really didn’t matter. What did matter was when Casey deployed his bench, and how he mixed and matched his lineups at the end of the game. Casey finally decided to make the other team adjust to his lineups, instead of vice-versa, and it made the difference in the game.
The Raptors have a great chance to move on to the next round; here are the keys to do so.
1) Play Raptor Basketball:
The Raptors have had the most success with traditional lineups that were able to space the floor, pound the ball inside, and run in transition. The transition points and points in the paint were huge for the Raptors in game five, and without a doubt contributed strongly to the victory. They have to repeat this again in game 6ix.
2) Lock Down Defensively:
The only way the Raptors get out in transition and get their stars easy looks is if the can get steals and rebounds off of missed shots. With the Heat scrambling, they can’t set up their half-court defence, and the Raptors get good looks. Miami shot 36% near the rim during the game, and most of that was because of a great 38 minutes from Biyombo. The Raptors need to continue to go big and contesting the Heat’s shots in the paint, as that is where most of their offence comes from.
3) Feed Off the Pressure:
The Raptors have a history of not being able to close, whether it be quarters, halves, games, or series. Most of these struggles have been blamed on not being able to cope with the pressure. Now, the excuses are gone. The monkey is off their back. It is time to play up to the pressure, not crumble under it. DeRozan and Lowry have to be their All-Star selves, and have to up their game to another level to close out a determined Dwayne Wade and Miami Heat squad.
Do you think the Raps can close out the series tonight down in South Beach? Comment below!
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