It's not a Christmas game but it's a Canadian Boxing Day special. That's close enough, right?
The Toronto Raptors are back in action to continue their six-game western road trip against the Portland Trail Blazers in their first matchup of the season.
Raptors Previous Game
The Raptors were in Salt Lake City on Friday night to take on the Utah Jazz where Kyle Lowry busted his lip and turned into the monster you hope not see in your dreams, helping catapult the Raptors to a 104-98 win.
Lowry poured in 19 of his season-high 36 points in the fourth quarter and didn't look remotely human.
The Raptors are hoping he can translate his hot performance into Monday's affair with one of the best premiere point guards in Damian Lillard.
Arguably the best start in franchise history, for this young Raptors squad, that hasn't seen much trouble out on the road with a 10-3 record away from the Air Canada Centre.
The matchup at hand won't be an easy one, though. The Blazers are desperate, losers of five straight and are bound for a win. Coming off of an embarrassing 20-point loss of the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, the Raptors will have their hands full in what should be a fun, high-scoring contest.
Three Keys to the Game
1. Move the basketball
This shouldn't be an issue for this Raptors team, that is one of the more willing teams in the NBA in regards to ball movement, even though they rely heavily on isolation from DeMar DeRozan.
The Blazers allowed the Spurs to shoot 60 percent from deep last game and taking that into consideration and how successful the Raptors have been from long distance this season, we should expect to see a lot of penetration resulting in kick out's that equal to raining three's that we all love.
The Blazers rank dead last in the NBA in defensive efficiency with a 111.1 rating, so there are really no excuses offensively for the Raptors.
2. Limit Turnovers
It may feel as though this should be a key to the game for every road team. If the Raptors are able to handle the basketball, which they have done so well this season, ranked first in the league in fewest turnovers committed a game with 11.8; they should be able to keep the rowdy Portland crowd silent and in their seats.
Any team going up against the Blazers don't want to give Portland fans something to cheer for, so limiting turnovers and forcing the Blazers to score on half court sets would take them out of their rhythm.
3. Jump on them Early
The Raptors shouldn't wait till the third quarter to put them away, they need to do it faster. The Blazers are ranked fifth in the league in scoring in the first quarter and if you're a Raptors fan looking at the schedule and spot the Golden State Warriors slotted up next, you're going to want your best players to be rested for that highly anticipated matchup.
Casey has been able to find his backcourt players in Lowry and DeRozan some rest in the closing month of November and throughout December. It's expected that's what he's hoping for again in this matchup before taking on the Warriors, who you can only guess are angry after their loss on Christmas against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Rest! Rest! Rest! That's what the Raptors have to hope for.
Nonetheless, this matchup should be great. Lowry and DeRozan going up against Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Which backcourt will come out on top? Tune in at 10 p.m. E.T.
UPDATE: *Damian Lillard is doubtful to play tonight with a left ankle injury*