I’ve always hated winning and losing in bunches; change needs to be balanced with consistency. Just like that, the team is 4-9 with 8 of the next 10 coming on the road. This team needs Bargnani and Bayless back at full capacity as soon as possible before it gets offensively ugly.

Bret Lagree from Hoopinion gave me his thoughts on a couple questions I had:

After that solid playoff run, and the hot start to the year, does losing Horford write-off the rest of the year; even if he gets back for the playoffs? Also, what’s the plan now, Zaza/trade?
Even without Horford, the Hawks should make the playoffs. His absence definitely diminishes the team’s chances of advancing in the post-season, but the team’s upside with Horford was the probably the second-round, yet again, anyway. His injury would have a had greater impact for a more ambitious, less risk-averse team.

I expect Zaza Pachulia will start (except when the Hawks play the Magic) and primarily split time at center with the undersized Ivan Johnson. Josh Smith might get some time as a nominal five in small lineups. It might work since Marvin Williams and Tracy McGrady (when healthy) are good rebounders for small forwards. If there’s a trade to be made, say Kirk Hinrich for a big man, the Hawks will surely consider it, but they might just as well off keeping Hinrich and doubling-down on perimeter defense.

McGrady’s renaissance has been a pleasant surprise after being brought in to replace some of the lost production from Crawford’s departure. He’s injured now, but can you see him being an important contributor to a team that can make deep playoff appearances?
McGrady was great for most of the first seven games but he’s already missed or been unable to contribute in six straight games since then. The Hawks can’t count on him every night, but he’s a difference-maker when healthy. They should do everything possible to have him available for the playoffs, regular season results be damned.

Are you guys regretting giving Joe Johnson that contract? Seems to me $20m should be able to buy you more than 18pts 4reb 4ast 16PER; is he an amnesty candidate if the Hawks aren’t contenders by next season?
Unfortunately, the only people who didn’t feel anticipatory regret for the Joe Johnson contract were those with the power to hand it to him. The organization has always overrated him on both ends of the floor and compounded that by assuming he’s not going to age. On the other hand, the amount the team has invested in Johnson ($75 million contract, $124 million contract, two first-round picks, Boris Diaw) has, at times, obscured that he’s been a pretty good player with the Hawks, even if he’ll do well to be an above-average player over the length of his current contract.

Injuries

Toronto
Aaron Gray
Jerryd Bayless
James Johnson
Andrea Bargnani

Atlanta
Al Horford
Tracy McGrady
Marvin Williams

Match-ups

Point Guard
You might be able to excuse Calderon’s performance against Rose all things considered. At least he somehow managed 8 assists. The Hawks don’t have the firepower at the point the Bulls do, but they are fairly deep; Kirk Hinrich is their 4th string quarterback. There is nothing about Jeff Teague, Jannero Pargo, some guy named Donald Sloan and Hinrich can do to scare me, but the Raptors are thin at the one. That said, the Hawks are great at sharing the ball, even with Josh Smith in the lineup, and that starts with the point.
Edge: Even

Shooting Guard
Joe Johnson is one of my man-crushes in the league, and even though he’s not producing anywhere close to what a $20m/year guy should be producing, he’s heads and shoulders better than DeRozan. He’s one of those guys who’s good at everything really. He defends, scores from all over the floor, rebounds, shares the ball and plays heavy minutes. To make matters worse for DeMar, who didn’t get to the foul line against the Bulls on Saturday, is that JJ wont be bailing him out with cheap fouls, since he has a low foul rate.
Edge: Atl

Small Forward
With Kleiza in the lineup, and if guys play within themselves, there’s no reason why the Raptors can’t be ok-to-good at the small forward. It all comes down to Butler and Johnson listening to me and not shooting the ball just because they have the room to let loose. The Hawks are great at the 3 either, but they are fairly deep with veteran savvy. Stackhouse is still alive and reasonably useful, while Radmanovic has found a home…doesn’t matter really…
Edge: Even

Power Forward
Looks like Bargnani is still out, which basically writes the game off. I find myself hoping the Raptors go small ball, and give Kleiza and Johnson (can’t believe I’m saying this) the bulk of the minutes at the four if Andrea can’t go. Davis needs Anthony Robbins or something…not sure, but what I do know is that Josh Smith will make him humble if he doesn’t come correct.
Edge: Atl

Center
The only exciting aspect of this match-up is being able to say Zaza with some flare. Amir/Magloire can probably keep their heads up in this one, but it doesn’t matter. The Raptors caught a break with Horford going down for 3-4 months with an injury, otherwise this would have gotten ugly, fast.
Edge: Even

Keys to the Game

  • Get to the foul line; as a team on Saturday against the Bulls, the Raptors went to the foul line seven times (made 1 of them); no wonder they were only able to muster 64 points. The Hawks have a few good defenders, so you have to get as many easy/cheap points as possible
  • Perimeter defense; the Hawks like to throw the ball around and stick jumpers. It kills them in the playoffs, but wins them games in the regular season. The Raptors have done a great job of giving teams nice looks from the perimeter; seems like a match made in heaven. need to tighten things up
  • Let Josh Smith shoot as much as he wants

The Line

The Hawks are at home and haven’t lost to the Raptors in over two years; there’s a reason they are 11 point favourites.

  • Brian B

    sad sad sad when you can’t give the Raps the edge over Radmonovic/Stackhouse at the 3…but hey, we have lots of 4s! With Atlanta still getting the advantage there too…

    At least with Horford out, Atlanta can’t destroy the Raps with the Zaza/Horford/Smoove front line which creates mismatches galore (and since Raps have no serviceable true 5, Zaza is not bad either).

    • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

      Marvin Williams may start at the SF for ATL today as he played in their last game and is day to day according to reports.

      Radmonovic is someone I see potentially hitting alot of (wide open?) 3s against the Raptors today.

      ATL is a better more talented  team up & down than BC’s Raptors- currently.

  • Core2man

    when is bargs coming back?he is definetly not playing today?

    • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

      AB can’t make though 66 games seemingly playing hard on both ends (his games played total last season was 66) what will happen during an 82 game schedule?

      Same calf injury as last season yet AB should be in top shape since he was playing competitive basketball during the NBA lockout & then working out in the TDot on his own accord for weeks.

      I see AB missing at least 5 games (this is game # 3) and maybe even more.

      • Craig

        Injuries happen to everyone, it doesn’t matter what kind of shape you’re in. Dwayne Wade currently has a strained calf as well, in addition to other injuries. 

  • Theswirsky

    “the Hawks are great at sharing the ball, even with Josh Smith in the lineup, and that starts with the point”

    is this trying to infer that Smith is a ball stopper?  He has averaged 4.2, 3.3 and 3.1 assists per game for his last 3 years. (3.0 for his career).  That translates into a 19, 17.1 and 16.8 assist % over that same time period.  Just for reference, Garnett has had a % of 15.7, 13.5 and 14.5 over that same time.  Bosh 11.9, 8.5 and 8.1.  Kevin Love 12.9, 11.8 and 8.7.  Bargnani 5.4, 8.8, 11.8.  Pau 15, 15.1, 11.1

    Josh Smith may be the most underrated player in the league, and has been highly underrated as a passer (as a big man ofcourse).

    • sleepz

      +1

      His ft shooting has dipped considerably this year thus far but he gives you solid production in various areas and he is definitely a willing passer.

      • 2damkule

        he’s also willing to foist bad jumpers at inopportune times, as alluded to by sam (i.e. let him shoot as much as he wants).  of course, this’ll be the game he finds his stroke…

    • Sam Holako

      Not inferring he’s a ball stopper; just that he takes questionable shots considering his freakish ability to get to the rack. He is clearly a good passer, I was just trying to find some silver lining.

  • Nilanka15

    Goddamn 4pm start!  I forgot to set my PVR before leaving for work 😐

    • cesco

      Yesterday morning I posted in the A-Dub article that the game was at 4.0 P.M. to-day because I knew some would forget the time of the game . Pay attention next time .

    • 2damkule

      not sure who you’re with in terms of providers for your cell/smart phone & cable/satelite, but there may be an app you can download that allows you to set your PVR remotely (you will need your account info to sign in though).  i’m with telus on an android SP, and with bell (satelite), and i’ve been able to do this…a bit of a life-saver (well, if something as trivial as recording a television even could ever be categorized thusly).  which reminds me…off to set it.

      • Nilanka15

        I’d be all over that if I was stealing/splitting my father-in-law’s satellite signal, lol.

  • Mile_High

    Toronto (1-4): You lose to Washington and Sacramento on successive nights, that’s weak. You average 84 a game over five games — including 64 on Saturday against the bone-tired Bulls — that’s weak. Part of that is playing without Andrea Bargnani, I know, but still … weak. 

    • Mile_High

      Courtesy NBA.com

  • Filantis24

    bargnani?

    • cesco

      Day-to-day , but perhaps he will play . We need his leadership badly .

  • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

    I don’t see the Raptors sans AB beating Atlanta sans Horford on MLK Day in the US- Toronto is about to be sacrificed on a NBA alter today.lol

    The 6’8 barefoot Horford could teach Bargnani a thing or two about manning up and being a NBA center- sacrificing personally for the betterment of the team.

    Both teams had a day of rest and should be relatively fresh for the game.

    One name to remember- Ivan Johnson, he is a man on the court.

    TO PG = ATL PG (Another waterbug pg for Jose to guard)

    TO SG < ATL SG (JJohnson will have size advantage all game)

    TO SF Raps SF)

    TO PF < ATL PF (will Ed ever get out of Casey's doghouse?)

    TO C = ATL C (Zaza one of the coolest names ever!)

    TO Bench = ATL Bench (Bosa time!)

    ATL 107 TO 96

    • Sam Holako

      The Raptors will have a tough time scoring 97 unless Bargnani is playing; otherwise we’re on the same page.

      • p00ka

        You think Bargnani should be a centre, isn’t manning up, and needs to sacrifice more for the betterment of the team?

        • Sam Holako

          I think Bargnani is an offensive power forward and a defensive center. There is a difference between sacrifice/manning up, and ability.

          • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

            That’s it a nutshell………..

            I know Amir (his body) would be very thankful even though he won’t say anything being a warrior on the court. 

          • p00ka

            What do you feel defines him as a “defensive center” rather than a PF? Surely you don’t mean merely his height?
            I’m fully aware that ability has nothing to do with sacrifice/manning up, but that doesn’t answer the question. My question was do you feel he’s currently not manning up and sacrificing for the betterment of the team. I believe that’s what you said you were on the same page with, n’est pas?

            • p00ka_is_a_fish

              How about his 7″0 260 pound frame, you should not be having your 6″9 220 pound PF defending the likes of Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, etc.

              • p00ka

                It’s obvious you’re a pathetic troll getting his jollies doing so, but are you also that much of an idiot to not realize the coach defines defensive responsibilities, not the player?

                • Nilanka15

                  Perhaps what he’s saying is that Casey is left with no other choice but to have Amir guard the bigger post player because Bargnani isn’t reliable/skilled enough to use his size effectively.

                • p00ka

                  Actually what he’s saying is that he supports his other alter-ego in saying AB isn’t manning up. Besides what he says isn’t based on any knowledge of what Casey feels about the choice he’s making, nor why he’s making it. His name and what he says is based on his goals as a troll. 

        • p00ka_is_a_fish

          With your insight in the NBA you should’ve already known that Bargnani is a center defensively and offensively is a PF, but I guess some fanboys are just blinded by scorers. 

          • cesco

            Next year he will be a PF defensively and offensively (at least for the minutes he spend on the floor with JV because that will become the set-up for the next 5-6 years (of course they will have to convince Andrea to stay a little bit longer in the NBA and help them win a championship a la Dirk ) .

            • p00ka_is_a_fish

              As a rookie J.V isn’t going to immediately play 30+ minutes so Amir, Ed, Bargs will probably be playing the same positions next year. Changes might not be actually seen till year 2 of J.V

              • Scottbbaird

                No, JV will immediately make an impact, in my opinion. He’s gonna be like Demar and play big minutes as a rookie.

                • Lorenzo

                  I agree, i think he’s gonna have a shaky first 3 or 4 games and then go HAM

          • p00ka

            Thank you 5 tag troll hiding behind his coward one, for your valuable input.

            • p00ka_is_a_fish

              Ignoring everything before the comma.. your very welcome

  • Pecofresh

    any live streaming links for the game today?

  • tonious35

    Unless the Hawks play to our level like they did when Miami had only Bosh playing….Raps will be molested by 25 pts.

    • tonious35

      Hurrah, another “moral” victory, they didn’t get blown out, they just lost it in the 4th quarter as always when down by 2 …

  • RapsM

    4th quarter=losing time