The best way to bounce back from a tough loss is to go out there and get another game under your belt, and that’s exactly what the Toronto Raptors are going to do tonight. Coming off an emotional and hard-fought loss to Kyle Lowry and the Miami Heat, the Raptors welcome the sizzling Atlanta Hawks, winners of five straight games, to Scotiabank Arena.
Hey, no one said the bouncing back would be easy, right?
The Raptors hope to get OG Anunoby back tonight; he missed Sundays’ game with a thigh contusion, but head coach Nick Nurse didn’t think it was serious, and he’s currently listed as questionable. As of this writing the Raptors are 4.5 point favourites, which is probably about right given how the Hawks are playing, and given Anunoby’s potential absence.
To me — someone who has never once wagered on a sporting event in his life — this doesn’t feel like a good bet, not for the Raptors anyway. Trae Young is always a problem, and coming down off that Lowry game, it’s gonna be a tough matchup.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:30 PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Khem Birch, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam
Atlanta – Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Clint Capela, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot
Toronto – OG Anunoby (thigh – questionable), Yuta Watanabe (quad – out)
Atlanta – Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee – questionable), John Collins (foot, finger – out), Danilo Gallinari (knee – questionable)
Hot hot Hawks
The Hawks have won five straight, as mentioned, and have climbed into the eight seed in the easy, ahead of the Charlotte Hornets and Brooklyn Nets (who the Hawks defeated on Saturday). And they’ve won those games, basically, by shooting the lights out.
The Hawks are shooting a blistering 41.4% from downtown over the stretch, on more than 38 attempts per game. Most of that damage is coming from Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter, who’ve combined to shoot 48% on 15 attempts per game over the win streak.
I don’t need to tell you that the Raptors are vulnerable to hot shooters; if you’re anything like me, you’re still having Max Strus and Victor Oladipo flashbacks from Sunday.
The Raptors will do their best to put the clamps on Trae Young tonight. But the other guys are just as dangerous.
We’re all aware of this Raptors team’s philosophy by now — get the dang ball! The Raptors force a lot of turnovers (second in the league in opponent turnovers) and crash the offensive glass like maniacs (second in the league in offensive rebounding rate).
The Hawks take care of the ball extremely well (second fewest TOs in the league; the last time these teams played, they only turned the ball over four times!), but they’re only (“only”) 10th in the league in defensive rebounding rate. With John Collins, the team’s second-best rebounder, on the shelf, there might be an opportunity here for the Raptors to get on the glass and win the second-chance points battle.
The Hawks won the possession battle the last time these two teams played; the Raptors won by shooting 17-for-27 from downtown. I don’t see that happening again tonight!
I guess we can just about kiss the dream of the fourth seed, and homecourt advantage in the first round, goodbye, eh? The Philadelphia 76ers have won two in a row and now sit a full three games up on the Raptors, with only four games to go. Now, the two teams play each other in one of those games, so it’s still possible... but unlikely.
No, the big battle to be fought is for the fifth seed, with the Chicago Bulls. Or is it? I wonder — does it really matter if the Raptors finish fifth or sixth? They’re starting on the road either way, and they’re playing one of Boston, Philly or Milwaukee (assuming Miami falls no further than second).
I guess all I’m saying here is — the Raptors don’t need to overexert themselves to get fifth, as long as they’ve got sixth locked up.
Of course, they don’t have that yet. But a win tonight, combined with a Cavs loss, will clinch sixth place or better for the Raptors.