The Toronto Raptors end the longest All-Star break in NBA history, and start it off with a challenge against the Eastern conference’s best Atlanta Hawks. The Raptors (36-17) went into the break on an excellent note, beating three of the league’s best it has to offer. On the other hand, the Hawks (43-11) are off to a best record in franchise history, and were able to rout the Raptors in their last meeting. It’s not going to be easy for either team, with likely rust, and some slippage in their play due to the long time off of intensive basketball. This will be a test for either team to prove whether or not they’ve prepared themselves well enough prior to the break.
Five all-stars present in the game tonight, along with DeMar DeRozan who should have been an all-star if it wasn’t for injury. The match-up to watch out for this evening will be between all-star point guards Kyle Lowry and Jeff Teague. It will also be a bang match-up to watch between Al Horford and Jonas Valanciunas in the paint.
Raptors Cage’s Keys To The Game
1. Find A Way
Both teams coming off an extended period of time off will result in sloppy play, and rustiness. Turnovers, bad shots, missed shots, and missed communication will all be present this evening; despite all of these things, the Raptors have to find a way to stay sharp and stay persistent, as the Hawks are a team that will capitalize and cash in on errors.
2. Attack the Paint
The Raptors have had serious success in the past three games due to getting into the paint, feeding the men in the post, putting opposing players into foul trouble and getting to the free-throw line. As the game progresses, teams will start to adjust, which will open up a lot more perimeter opportunities for the Raptors. They love their threes, but they will get better, and more rhythmic shots as they attack the paint. More importantly, getting their bigs and defenders into foul trouble will limit what Atlanta does on both ends of the floor.
3. Force Someone To Score
The Hawks are a copy-cat version of the San Antonio Spurs, who the Raptors beat in the last week. What the Raptors were able to do so successfully was defend at a high level, limiting their ball movement. That resulted in forcing the Spurs to play a little more isolation and pick-&-roll than they usually do. This time around, defend the paint, and make somebody beat you, because if the Hawks are getting all five guys to run a clinic, this game is over before it even started.
Against his old team, Lou Williams is tonight’s x-factor. Atlanta’s bench, more specifically on the perimeter, isn’t the strongest when speaking about depth and ability to affect a game instantly; the Raptors have all of that, and Lou leads that group. Lou Williams will be the man to watch, as he can change the outlook of the entire game by bringing you back, holding you steady, or get you in a winning position.