Grab the Opening Tip PDF here.

3-1 to start the season? I’ll take it. Dropping a tough one to the Pistons is palatable when 2 of the first 3 wins came on the road (and one of them was on the second night of a back to back).

It’s been a while since we’ve said a game against the Hawks will be a tough one. Last season, they manhandled us and single-handedly decided the fate of TJ Ford in Toronto when Horford raped him on a layup attempt. Then Calderon got elbowed in the back of the neck by…I wanna say Anthony Carter for some reason, can’t remember…dirty birds they are.

Even without Josh Childress, who is ripping up the Greek league, the Hawks are still one of 4 undefeated teams in the league. Remember, this is the same team that took Boston to 7 games in the 1st round last year.

They are long, athletic and finally have a point guard who has been nothing but a Raptor killer. 38 rebounds wont get the job done against these guys, as everyone but Bibby crashes the boards.

I expect Mitchell to ride Bosh for major minutes AND production. Last weeks player of the week has really stepped up this season. I’m starting to think I’m the first to admit when I’m wrong, and it looks like I have been wrong about Bosh. His Olympic gold medal has transformed him into the vocal leader this team has been missing since Oakley/Davis were in town.

O’Neal is due to show up, and put up a $20mil performance. As athletic as the Hawks are, O’Neal should be able to impose some physical play on Horford and Pachulia. I’m hoping O’Neal drops Horford on his ass when he gets in the paint. TJ may not be a Raptor anymore, but the scar is still there, for me anyways.

Starting Lineup

Calderon / Bibby
The Edge: Raptors
– Bibby is coming off a bad games against the Hornets. Paul abused him, and I see no reason why Calderon can’t. The key to Bibby is to make him run around on defense. If there is a point guard in the league weaker on D then Calderon, my vote is for Bibby. Calderon has been a stud to start the season, and I so no reason why he can’t win this battle. Bibby will get his on offense, but if his points come at the expense of Johnson, it will be a long night for Atlanta

Parker / Johnson
The Edge: Hawks
– Johnson is a fantasy dream. The guy is a tough player, who has a knack for scoring at will. Raise your hands if you saw what he did to the Celtics in the playoffs. Masterful. Sadly his defense is a tad weak, and if Parker can tired him out running around high/low picks, his jumper might not fall as much. I’m not looking for Parker to outscore Johnson, just make Johnson work on every single possession.

Moon / Williams
The Edge: Hawks
– Prince gave Moon a diploma last night. Actually he gave every Raptor one. Marvin isn’t quite the player Prince is, but he has a solid 15 foot game, and will make Moon pay for his defensive gambles. The key for Moon will be to keep Williams in front of him, and force a drive into Bosh or O’Neal. Swatting Williams will prove difficult, as he is just as athletic as Moon. I’ve lost all faith in Moon so far this season, so I’m not expecting a whole lot out of him tonight.

Bosh / Smith
The Edge: Raptors
– This is the must see battle of the game. Both these guys are match up nightmares for the opposing team: long, athletic, tough, good jumpers, great rebounders, solid defenders. They will each get theirs on the boards, in the hoop and out on the floor, but Bosh gets the edge because he is a better player. The key in this match up is to out-do the other player IMHO.

O’Neal / Horford
The Edge: Raptors
– Simply put, O’neal is due. He has had a couple sub-par games, and HAS to pick it up. I’d look to establish him in the paint off the bat, and let him go to work against Horford. It was accepted that it will take O’Neal 15 or so games to get back his feel, but he has to start showing some progress, so at the 15 game mark, the team will be gunning on all cylinders. It’s games like this, when the opposing player isn’t a Wallace/Biedrins/Bogut that O’Neal will have the opportunity to pick it up.

The Line

Vegas.com has the spread at -3 for the Hawks.

Prediction

Tough call really. The Hawks are due to lose, and the Raptors will be looking to win one of those games that will go a long way in determining where they stand in the Eastern Conference. This is one of those character games against a team hovering around the same spot as the Raptors. Historically, the Raptors have lost these battles, but this isn’t a run of the mill Raptor squad. I wouldn’t bet on this game, but my gut is telling me the Raptors grind out a tough one, and extend their road winning streak to 3.

So far this season, I am 4-0 on my predictions, take that with a grain of salt.

There wont be live chat for tonights game, as we will hosting another Raptor Fan Friday at Philthy McNasty’s. Arse has a thing for one of the girls who works there, so a pint to the guy who picks her up in front of him ;)

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