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3 in the Key - Raptors' Game-Day Preview vs Hawks

With THAT loss to the Bulls in the rear-view mirror, the Raptors head into Atlanta to play the dangerous Hawks. The HQ's Sasha Kalra weighs in on the action...

The Raptors are in the midst of a 3 game road trip and head into Phillips Arena for an early tip-off against the Atlanta Hawks.

Both teams are without their star big men but its become quite clear which is better equipped to deal with their respective injury woes. The Hawks are 2-0 without Al Horford and will look to keep on rolling today. They haven't faced the toughest opposition the league has to offer yet but their bench and team have come together to power through his absence. On the other hand, the Raptors haven't won a game since Andrea Bargnani went down and they are missing his presence on the floor.

Toronto is also dealing with some other injuries suddenly as Saturday night James Johnson rolled his ankle running down the court. He joined a growing list of inactive players and the mounting list is fast becoming a major headache for Dwane Casey.

The Dinos will be looking to bounce back from their fourth straight loss and here are some things they have to do to right the ship. These keys are predictably associated with scoring the ball, something the team's had major issues doing this season. While I'd love to see them break out of their funk tonight, it's hard to be overly optimistic and after last time out can you blame me?

1) Get to the Line:

The Raptors only attempted a pathetic 11 free throws against the Bulls. That's somewhat understandable given how great of a defensive team they are. The bad part? The team only made 1 of those 7 attempts. Andrea Bargnani was leading the team in FTA and a team that was already terrible in that department has regressed even further. In order to beat the Hawks the Raptors need to do a better job of getting and converting easy scoring opportunities and that starts by getting to the charity stripe.

2) Move the Ball:

The Raptors have been at their best in recent years when moving the ball on offense and turning good scoring chances into great scoring chances. The Raps are near the bottom of the league in team assists per game and no player outside of Jose Calderon is averaging over 2 assists per match. Scoring against an athletic team like the Hawks will require the team to manufacture easy looks, especially if the jump shots aren't falling. Also, here's hoping that Casey runs Gary Forbes at the back-up PG spot some more as his play helped facilitate motion with the second group. Even if it WAS only motion to Leandro Barbosa before he chucked it up.

3) Defend the Long Ball:

As a team the Hawks shoot 38.6% from deep, good enough for 5th in the league. Guys like Joe Johnson, Jeff Teague, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and the token "I didn't know he was still in the NBA" player that someone ends up on every team, Vladmir Radmanovic, can all stroke it from long rage. Closing out on shooters is going to be crucial when defending the Hawks potent offense and it could end up being the difference in the game as it so often has when these clubs meet.

Sasha Kalra