It's startling to remember that the Atlanta Hawks won 60 games last year. But there it is, quite a milestone. For a franchise that's been in Atlanta since 1968--and other cities since 1949--it's a mark that stands alone in the Hawks' record books. That's it, one 60 win season in the entire history of the name "Hawks," going back 66 years.
We all remember the team from last year--the Spurs-lite offensive system, the 19-game win streak, the goofy "Player of the Month" award. The 2014-15 Hawks worked their way to the Eastern Conference Finals, before having their wonder run cruelly snuffed out by LeBron James and the Cavaliers. I'm not sure there were many who truly expected them to win the title. But I am sure it was the closest anyone got to looking at the Hawks and expecting greatness.
The Raptors know a thing or two about that feeling. Part of what made the team's signing of former Hawk DeMarre Carroll feel so right--beyond the obvious benefits of having an awesome perimeter defender and three-point shooter on the roster--is this precise transitive notion: The disregarded Hawks become great, Carroll is considered valuable, the Raptors want to be great, Toronto signs DeMarre. That's pure, almost like a type of basketball science.
Tonight's game will likely not revolve around how well DeMarre plays (though it'll help if he does well). For the Raptors, the team with the better record, the outcome will be determined by the play of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, as per usual. For the Hawks, a team with very much the same roster as last year--minus a Carroll-sized hole--their fight against history will continue.
Now, some pre-game reading:
Hey, remember that time John Gaudes interviewed DeMarre Carroll? You should.
Then, check out steven lebron's game preview.
AND THEN, get to the comments. Let's go Raptors.