The Atlanta Hawks are a victory away from 40 wins on the season.
A win tonight would push their record to 40 and 32, and would represent their 13th victory in 15 meetings with the Toronto Raptors, in a series they've absolutely dominated for the past few seasons.
The win would also allow the Hawks to clinch a sixth consecutive playoff appearance for the team, which has essentially switched places with the Dinos over the past half a decade. Between 1999 and 2000, ATL failed to make a single trip to the post-season, occupying the NBA's basement for the bulk of that time, while the Raps, made three straight playoff trips to start that era.
However as we know, things soon changed and of late, it's indeed Atlanta that's been by far the more successful franchise on the court.
But would you call Hawks' fans happy with their team?
It's a question that popped into my mind as I prepped this preview because for all their playoff appearances of late, Atlanta hasn't exactly challenged for an Eastern Conference title, let alone an NBA Championship. The best the team has done is losing in the East semis a couple times, and overall, their record over the past six seasons is 260 and 205, equating to a .560 winning percentage.
Winning 56 per cent of your matches over the past six seasons is good, hell, it's amazing compared to Toronto's pithy .396 mark over that same time period, but it's all sort of relative isn't it? Winning about fifty per cent of your matches is actually a bit on the mediocre side isn't it? I can recall those seasons when Toronto posted .500ish marks with Chris Bosh, and fans were more of the "not good enough" frame of mind then "we rock."
It's a funny thing.
So here's a question for the readers instead of three keys to frankly, what's a fairly meaningless game for Toronto. (Unless you're still riding the tank like myself I suppose.)
"Would you trade the current Raptors' roster for that of the Hawks?"
We did an entire series of this type last off-season and we'll likely do it again this year, but we didn't get around to Atlanta in the end, so I'm curious to see what the response in the comments is like. On one hand you've got a Hawks team with some solid young pieces like Al Horford, but on the other, not exactly a team that's a threat to the Heat or Thunder.
As for tonight's game, well, it sounds like Rudy Gay is a game-time decision and the Raps will be looking to play spoiler. From Dwane Casey:
"We have to do what we have to do to get our motivation. Major motivation is our pride. We're playing for pride"
Yep, think us fans have heard that a few times in the past few seasons.
Atlanta has won five of its last eight and Rudy Gay or no Rudy Gay, should be another difficult foe for Toronto, who has struggled in nearly every way of late. The club is turning the ball over at a much higher clip than they had been earlier in the season, aren't getting the job done on D (giving up 102 points per game over their last 10 contests) and the offense has really struggled too. The team's hit only 23 per cent of long-range attempts over the last six games and for a club relying on shots of this sort for their offence...
I'm expecting an Atlanta win tonight, but who knows, maybe the call-up of Quincy Acy (out however with a groin injury) has the club firing on all cylinders and sees them pulling off the upset.