The Toronto Raptors visit Atlanta for the first of two road games in as many nights. The Hawks have retooled from last season, which ended in disappointment as so many have for the Georgia squad. The Hawks played and lost their first game of the season against the Mavericks. They could score the ball, but couldn’t defend Dallas’s 3-ball shooters.
The Raps, fresh off a nerve-wracking but ultimately successful opening night, can win this game, and here’s how:
- Win the battle against the Hawks’ second unit. The Raps’ bench is far from strong, but it should be able to handle this group. Sorry, Cartier Martin, you may have scored 17 in Dallas, but I’m not a believer. Elton Brand really should consider getting into coaching. Dennis Schroder, a smallish rookie guard, played over 18 minutes. All of the Hawks’ starters played at least 31 minutes in Dallas, indicating how little confidence their new coach, Mike Budenholzer, has in his backups. Let’s hope for extra minutes and open space for Terrence Ross and Steve Novak to hoist up, and make, some 3-balls.
- Shut down Jeff Teague, who can both score and assist. Atlanta’s starting point guard has been on an upward trajectory for several years, and looks ready to join the NBA’s elite. Kyle Lowry will have his hands full, but appears quicker to my eyes since he lost the extra tire he was carrying around his mid-section last season. If he stays in Teague’s face (which Kyle can almost do; he gives away only 2 inches), and gets help when Teague blows by him, the damage can be minimized. Teague will be looking to drive and kick to long-range bomber Kyle Korver, whom Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan can’t “lose” on the wing.
- Dominate the boards. The Hawks should be vulnerable to Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough giving the opposition one-and-done all game. The Hawks signed free agent Paul Millsap, who plays bigger than his size, to have at least one serious rebounder, but he’s it. Al Horford and DeMarre Carroll can be contained.
Tonight it will be the Raps’ turn to wait patiently for tipoff as Atlanta puts on its Opening Night fuss for the locals. I’d be surprised if the game were sold out; the Hawks have suffered poor crowds for years, and don’t get much of a home-court advantage as a result. The Raps haven’t been a visiting “draw” since Vince was shipped out of town. When the game finally starts, I think Toronto can keep the pressure on all night, and finally emerge with a 105-99 victory.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada. Remember, for the best deals on Toronto Raptors tickets for any game on the 2013-14 NBA schedule, visit our friends at TiqIQ.com.