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Raptors Dominate Hawks, Post Second Straight Upset Win

Ed Davis and the Raptors came ready to play at both ends of the court.  The Hawks, did not.
Ed Davis and the Raptors came ready to play at both ends of the court. The Hawks, did not.

A winning record for the Toronto Raptors in April? Yes, that's indeed been the case but the HQ notes that it's hard to find much fault in the Dinos. Their opponents simply are making it tough for Toronto to lose.

Just when you think you've seen everything this season, this is happening.

"This," as in the Raptors are suddenly 5 AND 4 IN APRIL.

Yep, when the team is supposed to be upping their chances at Anthony Davis, they're in fact doing the exact opposite in spite of what most folks would normally refer to as some "tankish behaviour."

I mean they traded away their top bench scorer, sat two of their biggest point getters for the rest of the season, and have been without their floor general for their last two games, both, wins over good teams. Last night's win came at the expense of the Hawks, who barely showed up in a 102 to 86 loss, as the Raps led wire to wire, despite being about as close to a D League squad personnel wise as possible.

And yet if you watched the game, you can hardly blame the Raptors.

Maybe at a larger philosophical level you can, as in "the Raps should be ensuring every game is a loss, even if that means having Dwane Casey take a leave of absence," but in reality, the club is simply playing some very good basketball, and their opponents are not.

Seriously, the Celtics looked disinterested Friday night but flicked the switch late to give Toronto a run.

The Hawks last night?


From SB Nation's "Peace Tree Hoops," which covers the Hawks:

Just how bad was this loss for the Hawks? Let's examine...

  • The Hawks never took the lead in this game.
  • They lost to a bad road team at home.
  • They lost to a team that was missing 3 key players.
  • They get blown out by a team that isn't playing for anything.
  • They most likely killed their chances for the 3rd seed.
  • They lost to a team that they had beaten the last 6 times.
  • They are now 3 games behind the Indiana Pacers.
  • They lose their current homecourt advantage vs. the Celtics.
  • They lose their 1 game lead they had on the Orlando Magic

Yeah, not good.

And that's what struck me as odd when watching this one last night. I mean, it's not like the Hawks had nothing to play for. This wasn't a team that was already locked into a playoff spot.

Add on the fact that the Raptors always have a tough time with the Hawks (they've lost their last ten matches against the Hawks when Joe Johnson starts) and it was a bit of a bizarre experience to sit and watch Toronto completely dismantle ATL.

The win always raises some inevitable and interesting questions.

  1. Does this club play better without Andrea Bargnani?
  2. Does DeMar DeRozan play better without Jose Calderon, able to play to more of his "non-half-court strengths?"
  3. Are superior clubs simply playing inferior basketball against the Raptors, assuming easy wins?
  4. Has Dwane Casey found an optimum mix in terms of current personnel rotations?
It's the last one that I want to touch on this morning as we look towards the rematch this evening.

Last night I thought Casey effectively managed his troops in terms of knowing when to go with whom, which ensured that even when Atlanta made their runs, the Raptors just kept coming. The best of example I thought was just after half as the Hawks outscored the Raps 15 to 6 during a stretch. It looked to be the inevitable "wait, we're playing the Raptors" response from a top club, one that many a time this season has then gone on to crush the Dinos.

But Casey simply called a time-out, got his troops reinvigorated, and the Raps made a big run of their own to close the quarter.

Even when Toronto's lead got as big as 20 points, Casey didn't let his troops take the pedal off the metal, replacing his starters. The bench promptly responded, and led by James Johnson's fourth quarter burst, finished the game strong.

So let's see what happens tonight.

In one of those rare "back-to-back, home-and-home" scenarios when the Raptors get to take on their opponent from the previous night, Toronto takes on Atlanta once more, here in TO however, and we'll see if the Dinos can replicate last night's results.

Part of me in fact is hoping Jose Calderon sits once more so we can do a bit of an A/B test, hopefully to lend more data in terms of answering the previous questions I laid out. We'll see if Atlanta comes back with a vengeance, after playing possibly their worst game of the season.

And we'll see too how Casey responds.

He did a masterful job prepping his team last night, and I'm betting he'll have them ready to go again, the difference likely being a more prepared Atlanta squad if anything. It's indeed a mixed bag for Raptors fans as much like the end of the 2008-2009 season, the Dinos are winning games at exactly the wrong time. It cost the team in the lottery that season, and as you'll see in this afternoon's latest edition of the NBA Power Tankings, it appears to be doing the same again.

But in the same vein as Friday's piece, it's hard to get too upset here.

At some point Toronto will start falling to more talented clubs again, and until that time, fans have no one to blame but Toronto's recent string of opponents.