The Toronto Raptors (16-29) are back on the road again tonight to matchup against the Atlanta Hawks (25-19) for the first time this season. The Raptors have now lost 2 straight games. This follows a game where the Raptors saw another late game meltdown seal their fate against the Golden State Warriors on Monday. The Hawks head into this game winners of 3 of their last four contests, having lost a close game to the Raptors division rival, the New York Knicks. The Rudy Gay trade rumours are potentially a reality at this moment, so this could very well be the last we see of Jose Calderon and “Big Boss” Ed Davis in a Raptors uniform. It’s quite an emotional day!
The Cage’s 5 Key’s to the game
1. Protect the Rock
Time and time again this seems to be a key for the Raptors to win games. When they fail to do this…they tend to lose. The Raptors face a gritty Atlanta squad who relies on their defence to help fuel their offence. The Hawks are 10th in the league in steals, so the Raptors must be weary of Atlanta’s active hands on D.
2. Get Big
I hope Aaron Gray can pull out another 22point and 12rebound game because big men for the Hawks always seems to give the Raptors trouble. Zaza Pachulia is a workhorse down-low and Al Horford is an all around beast in and around the paint from every aspect. The Raptors may be undermanned with the Rudy Gay trade being unofficial at the moment. It’s questionable whether Ed Davis will suit up tonight…I really hope he does.
3. Feed DeMar DeRozan
The Hawks are a team that DeMar DeRozan as an offensive player can feast on. He’s easily the most talented wing player in today’s game, unless you put Josh Smith in that conversation. With questions surrounding the future of this roster, look for DeMar to step up tonight and assert himself as a leader on this team.
4. Don’t Sleep on Korver
Kyle Korver, who has been known as a spot-up 3point shooter for most of his career…has game. Since hooking up with the Hawks, Korver has seen his game revert back to his days as a Sixer when his production was at its highest. He’s been averaging just over 20 points for his last three games, and has been known to be a perennial Raptor killer.
5. Use Our Depth*
What the Raptors lack for in star power heading into tonight’s contest, they can make up for in depth. After the Hawks starting 5, the rest of the roster looks pretty bleak from there. If the Raptors can keep their energy levels high, and get production out of John Lucas and Alan Anderson we should have an interesting ball game. *Status pending depending on the trade
Tonight’s X-Factor is Raptors rookie and BBVA Rising Stars game snub, Terrence Ross. If the Raptors are short-manned tonight due to the trade, expect minutes to be spread out tonight. Ross brings a consistent defensive effort night-in and night-out, so he continues to see floor time. If his effort on defence can translate into some steals, the “Highlight Factory” better get ready for T-ROSS to take flight.
Photo Cred: (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)