NBA Toronto Raptors

2014 NBA Playoffs: 5 Ways The Toronto Raptors Can Guarantee A First-Round Win

5 Ways The Toronto Raptors Can Guarantee A First-Round Win

DeMar DeRozan
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

With their first-round playoff opponent yet to be decided, the Toronto Raptors head into the 2014 NBA postseason playing perhaps the best basketball the 19-year-old franchise has ever seen. If Canada's only NBA team wants to win their first playoff series since the 2000-01 postseason, they will need to focus on a few key elements of their game. Here's a look at five ways the Raptors can guarantee a first-round playoff victory.

5. Continue Great Play Off The Bench

Tyler Hansbrough
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

5. Continue Great Play Off The Bench

Tyler Hansbrough copy
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

After Rudy Gay was traded to the Sacramento Kings for players that would immediately take their place on the Raptors bench, fans were skeptical of how the season would play out for the Dinos. However, these players along with those that were already coming off the bench for Toronto came together to create perhaps the NBA's strongest secondary squad. If the likes of Greivis Vasquez and Tyler Hansbrough play well, the sky is the limit.

4. Play Better Defense

Amir Johnson
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

4. Play Better Defense

Amir Johnson
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors currently rank in the bottom half of the NBA when it comes down to defensive rebounds. The club currently averages 30.6 defensive rebounds per game, which won't be enough to make a solid run in the playoffs, let alone getting them past the first round. Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas will have to step up their game on the defensive side of the ball if the Raptors want to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

3. Continue To Play Well On The Road

Amir Johnson
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

3. Continue To Play Well On The Road

Amir Johnson
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014 the Raptors have played relatively well on the road, which is something the team has had a lot of trouble doing in their recent history. Their current road record of 22-18 was enough to help them top the Atlantic Division, but road games during the playoffs are a beast of their own. Home-court advantage doesn't mean anything if you can't steal a game on the road, so they will have to tame their opponent's home crowd immediately.

2. Kyle Lowry Needs To Continue His Breakout Season

Kyle Lowry
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

2. Kyle Lowry Needs To Continue His Breakout Season

Kyle Lowry
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Lowry is enjoying an unexpected career season that will surely help him get paid very well at some point during this offseason. If the Raptors want to advance deeper into the playoffs than their franchise is used to, Lowry will have to continue to play at the top of his game on both sides of the ball.

1. DeMar DeRozan Needs To Continue Hitting His Shots

DeMar DeRozan
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

1. DeMar DeRozan Needs To Continue Hitting His Shots

DeMar DeRozan
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan has finally come into his own. Now that DeRozan doesn't have to play in the shadows of another marquee player, the shooting guard can be the Raptors' go-to-guy when they need a key play down the stretch. If DeRozan can continue to knock down the turnaround jumpers he has shown all season long that he is extremely comfortable taking, the Raptors will get those important baskets that will help send them to the second round.