The Hawks opened their season with 118-109 loss in Dallas. They looked dangerous offensively but couldn't contain the Mavs' hot-shooting trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Monta Ellis. Ellis and Carter combined for 53 points and the Raptors' wing duo of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan were probably licking their chops while watching game tape.
The Hawks are something of an unknown quantity this season. Jeff Teague runs their offence well and their big men, Al Horford and Paul Millsap, are reliable and consistent at both ends of the court. The big question mark would be on the wings where Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll have flattered to deceive since the beginning of the preseason.
As usual, the three keys to a Toronto win:
1) Bench Production: The Raptors' bench showed up against Boston and in Atlanta it will be crucial to have guys like Tyler Hansbrough, Landry Fields and Terrence Ross make an impact. The strength of the team's starting lineup has been well documented in recent days, but the only way this team is going to be truly competitive this season will be if the bench can consistently provide secondary scoring and great team defence.
2) Dribble Penetration: After watching the extended highlights of their loss in Dallas it becomes pretty clear that Atlanta has trouble adjusting to dribble penetration. Their entire defence collapsed and guys like Carter and Ellis were shooting a lot of uncontested jump shots. Gay and DeRozan's respective ‘ranges' are just within the three-point line (on past evidence) and getting them open looks from their preferred spots could be just the thing to get them going.
3) Kyle Lowry: Kyle Lowry just might be the most important player on the 2013-14 Raptors. His health will be closely monitored and he came into training camp looking more lean and cut than he has in seasons past. Lowry has a tendency to try a bit too hard at times but when he plays within himself the results can be positive. He had a solid if unspectacular game against Boston, finishing with 11 points and eight assists. More of the same, please.