The Toronto Raptors are 1-1 on the season, after a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, 102-95. Though some positives can be taken away from this game, they proved to be not enough for a win at Philips Arena. After trailing by double digits for the majority of the game, the Raps clawed back but it wasn’t enough.
If not for the heroics of DeMar DeRozan in the second half, this game may have turned into a blowout. Again, the Raptors offence looked stagnant in many instances tonight; finishing with only 15 assists on 40 made field goals. The Raptors took care of the ball as they ended the night with only 12 turnovers, but nonetheless, the team struggled to score for most of the game. Rudy Gay began the game on an aggressive note, but everything went downhill later on— he finished with 14 points, on 6 of 23 shooting. Gay elected to settle for the mid-range jumpers that simply were not falling tonight, rather than mixing his offense up with post moves and cuts to the basket.
Kyle Lowry looked much better than he did in the season opener, shooting 5 of 7 from the field for 16 points (with 3 of 5 looks falling from beyond the arc). Amir Johnson also continued his efforts from downtown tonight, shooting 1 for 3 from there as well (putting 13 points on the board), all while Jonas Valanciunas had a very quiet outing, putting up 4 for the Raptors.
DeRozan put up 31 points tonight for Toronto, and worked his mid-range and post-up skills to perfection. One could really see the work that he’s done during the summer coming to light versus Atlanta. Toronto needed this in order to have any chance at getting a win since they only made 8 of 14 free throws and the bench only contributed a total of 17 points.
Though the Raptors tightened things up late in the game, not much good can be said about how they defended against Atlanta tonight. Kyle Korver continuously burned the Raptors from three-point range, and made incredible passes to Hawks cutting to the hoop. Though DeRozan was excellent offensively, it took him a bit too long to make the necessary adjustments to slow down his man. Atlanta finished 10 of 23 from downtown tonight, and this proved to be a major factor in dictating this game’s outcome. Al Horford bullied the Raptors on the inside with his 22 points and 16 rebounds, and Jeff Teague also put up a double-double with 17 points and 12 assists. Had Dwane Casey decided to put more pressure on Atlanta’s shooters, the Raptors would have given themselves a much better opportunity to leave tonight with a 2-0 record. The coach needs to do a better job in making his adjustments early enough to cope with the momentum swings of the game.
Toronto pulled down 42 rebounds tonight in comparison to Atlanta’s 37. It was more of a team rebounding effort than it was in the season opener, as no Raptor finished with more rebounds than Landry Fields did with his 9 in the loss. The Raptors allowed just 7 offensive rebounds for the Hawks, and this was instrumental in them managing to keep the game close in its later stages.
DeRozan simply imposed his will tonight. In a game where the team was struggling to put the ball in the basket, he took and made good looks (14/23 FGA, 2/5 from three). The Kobe-esque post moves are looking great. The next step is to find his teammates when the opposition increases defensive pressure and brings out double-teams to slow him down.