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Raptors take on depleted Hawks: Preview, Start time, and more

The Raptors look to stay hot as they face a struggling Atlanta Hawks team

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

With the toughest part of the early schedule behind them, the Raptors are enjoying the benefits of playing at home. Their current winning streak is now up to five, dating back to the win in Houston. The much-maligned defence has taken a step forward and is now up to 17th in efficiency, after holding three of their last four opponents to under 100 points. Things are looking good as they enter game four of the six-game home-stand.

The Hawks got off to a fine start this season, racking up a 9-2 record, and looked like a serious threat for the 2-seed in the East. However, they’ve fallen on some hard times as of late, losing eight of their last nine games and five straight. They got whooped last night by the also-undermanned Detroit Pistons by almost FORTY points. While their vaunted defence remains as impressive as ever, losing Jeff Teague and replacing Al Horford with Dwight Howard hasn’t been as smooth as they’d hoped. Most importantly for the Raptors though, Paul Millsap will miss tonight’s game with a hip injury.

Here are some things to look for:

Kyle Lowry is red hot

When Kyle Lowry’s deep ball is falling at the rate it currently is, the Raptors offence opens up for everyone else too. Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson are all also enjoying their best stretch of the season, but the main weapon for the Raptors has been Kyle Lowry. Over the last five games, Lowry is averaging 22.6 points on 58% from the field and 62% from three. He has mad 22 of his last 35 three-point attempts. He has been absolutely lights out. It’s one of the main reasons for this stat:

DeMarre Carroll returns

Even though he can’t yet play double headers just yet (he sat out against the Lakers last night), DeMarre Carroll might be playing the best basketball of his Raptors career. The defence is still a work in progress as he works through some injuries, but his intelligence and ability to play off-ball effectively have been a welcome sign for the Raptors. One of the reasons that DeMar DeRozan’s assist numbers have perked up is that guys like Carroll are now hitting shots when he drives and kicks. In the win-streak, he’s averaging 16 points on 59% from the field and 48% from three.

Who is the Hawks’ main threat?

The Hawks are a struggling offensive unit, and the troubles are only exacerbated Millsap out. Sitting 26th in offensive efficiency, it’s unclear who they’ll really rely on to dominate their matchups with the ball. Schroder is a work in progress, Dwight Howard is no longer as dominant as he once was, Kyle Korver is not the threat he once was, etc. If the Hawks are going to win this game, they’re going to stifle the Raptors defensively. Howard can still be an effective presence in the paint, Schroder is a pest, and you can do a lot worse than throw Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore on DeRozan. The Hawks can win this game if they choke the Raptors’ offensive output. It’s still a big ask.

Start time: 7:30 PM EST, Sportsnet ONE