With their surprise Friday the 13th victory, the Raptors head into Sam Mitchell's back yard for a home-and-home back-to-back series with the Hawks. Kinnon Yee looks at how the Raptors can get the tank train back on the rails.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Great win and all by the Raptors the other night.
After foretelling that the Raptors would almost have no way of beating the Celtics, the Raptors went out and well... Beat the Celtics.
No matter how enjoyable it might have been to take a bunch of D-leaguers and stuff it to the Celtics (and boy, it was pretty enjoyable) you have to wonder how many more games the Raptors could have won had their team been composed slightly differently.
I originally felt/feared that the Raptors would win 27 games this year, and while I was pretty far off, my logic is now being played through.
See when I made my prediction, I hadn't counted on one thing:
Rasual Butler wasn't going to be the equivalent of a retired Mo Pete.
I was wholly expecting Butler to knock down all the chances he would have in the Raptors offense since he was, traditionally, a pretty good three-point shooter. But after getting bitten by a virus seemingly only available here in Toronto (let's call it the Kapono-itis), Butler turned out to be a pretty ineffective and horrible shooter.
Now with Anderson doing at least a halfway decent job, and suddenly, the Raptors are winning games like the other night.
And down the stretch, this has me worried.
We're going to see more and more teams come in with the mindset that they just want to get to the playoffs without injury, and with this Raptors team, on any given night, you just might get some hot shooters who will suddenly "click" and give you a win.
In my books, that's a pretty dangerous combination.
So the question now becomes, how do we make sure this stops from happening again?
Because as much as I can tell you about Atlanta always being a thorn in the Raptors' side and Joe Johnson being a pretty streaky shooter himself, the threat will always be there. As long as the Raptors have players who can light it up beyond the arc, Dwane Casey will definitely have a chance to get a defensive minded team a win.
In any case, if you're on the side that's just simply looking for a win, here's how the Raptors need to perform to get it
1) DeMar DeRozan Getting to the Line - He didn't have a terribly great shooting night, but he figured it out as the night went a long thanks to some foul shots. In the two losses to Atlanta earlier this year, DeRozan only averaged 9.5 points in the losses. Atlanta's got the right set of players to keep up with him, but with this back-to-back, DeRozan needs to find a way past Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams
2) Hot Shooting - The Raptors got great 3 point shooting from both Alan Anderson and Linas Kleiza in their win, and if they continue to get hot 3 point shooting, it'll at least put them in contention against the Hawks. Just as important has been the restrained yet effective play of Ben Uzoh who understands his range and has been very efficient on the floor. If Jose Calderon makes it in tonight, that will continue to extend the Raptors' range of attack and gives them another offensive weapon.
3) Possessing Possessions - Rebounding and turnovers. Quite simply, the more chances the Raptors have at getting the rock in the hoop, the better. In their two losses earlier this year, the Raptors turned it over an average of 17 times, which really allows Atlanta to fully display their athleticism. For the Raptors, they have to control the ball and they have to keep up with the Hawks in rebounding, something they did quite well in both losses.