Gameday – Hawks @ Raptors, April 16

Why keep improving your draft odds when you can play spoiler in the “Race for Home-Court Advantage in the East”?

New TANKING picture.

Where do these guys get off? When I wrote my Tools for Tanking piece last week, it never even crossed my mind that the Raptors would beat the Celtics at home and the Hawks on the road this past weekend. Beating two playoff teams, with three major contributors on the bench, in a span of less than 48 hours? With ping pong balls on the line, no less? Utterly ridiculous.

I apologize for re-using the awesome picture above, but the Raptors really did take a torch to Tank Nation over the weekend. They entered the weekend 5th last overall, the Playoff Odds had them finishing 6th last, and I gave them a 40% chance of finishing 5th last, with a 20% chance of finishing lower and a 40% chance of finishing higher (higher here being bad). If I were to re-write that article today, they’d now be sitting in a tie for 6th/7th last, the Playoff Odds would peg them for a tie for 8th/9th, and I’d put their chances of finishing in the bottom-5 somewhere around 10%. It was a disastrous weekend in terms of tanking.

Really, DeMar, 24 free throws over the weekend? Ben Uzoh, you really need a job for 2012-13 that badly? Alan Anderson, you had to take your NBA chances off of life support? C’mon Son.

Of course, you’ve gotta love the effort, especially defensively. They held the Celtics under 40% shooting and kept the Hawks right at that marker, an impressive feat considering they shoot 46% and 45%, respectively. The team, down to a player, is still putting in 100% effort despite the season winding down, and you have to respect that Casey has the team playing wire-to-wire, on a game and season basis.

Yes, this is counterporductive in the short-term, as every win decreases the chances at Anthony Davis and decreases the options available in the June draft. I don’t want to incite a class-war between Tank Nation and Real Basketball Nation in the comments, but as I’ve said before there is value in fostering a winning culture, having the young players work to keep their roles for next season, and creating a level of expectations that is to be maintained at all times. It doesn’t help get Anthony Davis, of course, but it can certainly help improve the team for next year in the event the Draft Lottery doesn’t work out in a way that gives us all single-browed wet dreams. (And I know the ping-pong balls aren’t just about Davis, but other players as well, and the number of options available, etc, but it is a lot easier to write sentences like this last one when you just focus on a single entity, however few eyebrows he may have.)

Anyway, here we are, game 2 of a home-and-home with the Hawks, this time in Toronto. You’d think the Hawks would be itching for revenge in this one, the Raptors would be worn out and maybe riding too high from their “successful” weekend, and that Joe Johnson couldn’t possibly disappear for 48 minutes again, but after this past weekend all bets are off. The Hawks still have a shot at home court advantage in the first round (although they may be doing a mini-tank to avoid Boston and land against Indiana instead), while the Raptors are hell-bent on playing their way out of a top-10 pick, so it’s anybody’s game.

The tale of the tape is below, and I’ll end things there to allow for the Good vs. Evil debate to rage on in the comments. I’m honestly torn…I’d like every game to be a hard-fought one that ends with a narrow defeat, but the Basketball Gods don’t seem to have that in the plans.

Hawks @ Raptors
Record 35-25 22-39
Power Rtg 102.2 (11th) 97.1 (22nd)
Off Rtg 17th 24th
Def Rtg 6th 15th
Reb Rate 22nd 10th
Ast Rate 9th 11th
TO Rate 10th 25th
Pace 23rd 27th

I’ll take the Hawks by 7, as the Raptors just don’t have the juice for a third straight upset. We’ve won the same number of games as last year in far fewer opportunities…point proven, already.

By the way, I think if the Raptors and Nets are still within a game of each other on April 26, the last game of the year, we should all wear camouflage to the game to promote Tanking. The team would even think we’re just supporting the Camo jerseys…but I’m talking combat boots and helmets and all. I kid…kinda.

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