Does anybody reading this article happen to be about 6’9” and available to hop on a quick flight to Atlanta, learn Nick Nurse’s defensive schemes and spot up for an open shot or two? No? Maybe? Please?
With that extremely long shot out of the way, the Toronto Raptors are going to be in tough against an Atlanta Hawks squad that, admittedly, is struggling. Struggling and healthy, though with the only player on their injury report for tonight being Bogdan Bodanovic, who hasn’t suited up at all this year, so, are they really missing anyone? The Raptors, on the other hand, happen to be without their best player, their starting SG and their 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th option off of the bench. Needless to say, this one could get ugly, quickly.
Or… perhaps there is another masterful performance from OG Anunoby in the waiting. OG posted a 32-point, 10-rebound double double while performing his usual high-wire defensive genius against the Heat on Thursday night. Or, maybe a vintage Steady Freddy game, where he plays 46-minutes and drops 40+. Maybe Thad Young produces a carbon copy of his game against Miami. The type of game that’s low-hum, high vibrational excellence; doing everything needed, while not doing too much. Spice in a couple of Juancho 3’s, 10 points and 6 rebounds from Khem Birch, 7 blocks or so from Koloko and a tidy triple double from Scottie Barnes. Maybe Ron Harper Jr., called up from the G League this morning, has a breakout game! Can you see it? Can you see the picture beginning to emerge where the Raptors could pull this one out? Vision 6’9” holds promise yet!
Something else that would be really, really helpful for the Raptors is if Trae Young continues to shoot like he has all season – poorly! Young is mired in the worst shooting slump of his young career, and though Dejounte Murray has been everything Atlanta could have hoped for, the Raptors did a tremendous job in limiting his effectiveness in their previous matchup that they took 139-109. Keep an eye on Jeff Dowtin Jr. getting some minutes tonight with the hopes of locking up one of the Hawks mentioned above.
Now, that’s quite a lot that has to break right for Toronto, but when four of your key roster pieces have missed a collective 15-games in 13-days, one could see how Toronto could begin to settle into cobbling together effective units regardless of availability. Or at least, that’s the hope.
Where to watch:
Sportsnet One, 6 PM ET
Toronto Raptors – Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Thad Young, Juancho Hernangomez
Atlanta Hawks – Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Clint Capela
Toronto Raptors – Dalano Banton (out – ankle), Chris Boucher (non-COVID illness – out), Otto Porter Jr. (toe – out), Gary Trent Jr. (non-COVID illness – out), Precious Achiuwa (ankle – out), Pascal Siakam (groin – out)
Atlanta Hawks – Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee – out)