While the Hawks started out hot, they’ve lost 10 of their last 11 and rival the Raptors in terms of trips to the health ward and key players who've been MIA.
And by key, I mean Tyronn Lue.
No joke, Lue was one of the reasons Atlanta was so successful early on this season and was playing the best ball of his career. I mean, he was averaging almost 15 points per game, a career high! Whether Lue plays tonight or not is debatable. He’s still struggling with a groin injury and has missed the last seven games for the Hawks, incidentally, all losses.
But I won’t get carried away here.
The other player Atlanta has been missing is of course the high-flying Josh Smith. Smith has been attempting to rehab after hernia surgery and won’t be back for at least a few more weeks.
And to top it all off, Joe Johnson, an early season MVP candidate, has fallen on hard times as well with bouts of turf toe and just hasn’t been playing up to par.
However I’m not about to start feeling sorry for Atlanta, every team has its injury woes each season, and the club just signed Dijon Thompson who should fill the void nicely.
So with the injuries to Atlanta and their recent aversion to winning, this should be a W for the Raps right?
I think so.
Even if TJ Ford and Jorge Garbajosa can’t go, I think this game is Toronto’s for the taking because of the recent defense the club has been playing. They held the league’s best offense to 40 points in the second half Wednesday night and have been playing better defense overall the past 10 games as evidenced by close wins over the Clippers and Blazers. Sam Mitchell’s various zone permutations have done wonders for the club and Chris Bosh was recently quoted as saying:
"Guys have just become more dedicated to talking, to being where you're supposed to be," he said. "We know the coaches are watching."
For most Raptor fans, this is truly a sight for sore eyes considering the defensive malaise plaguing this franchise for the past four or five years. They’ve still got a ways to go but players like Anthony Parker and Rasho Nesterovic have been instrumental in leading the defensive charge and Toronto should be able to keep tonight’s contest a low-scoring affair.
The Hawks are only scoring on average 93.2 points per game and besides Joe Johnson, have been unable to find a reliable second or even third scoring option in the absence of Lue and Smith. The Hawks do get to the line a decent amount but if Toronto can keep the fouls down, and if Anthony Parker and Mo Pete can keep a lid on Johnson, the Raptors should be ready to face Agent Zero and the Wiz on Sunday, coming off a fresh W.