The Optimism Tour continues tonight in Atlanta.
The Toronto Raptors are in the midst of a good run to close out the season and it’s the best way to sell out hope for the 2013-14 campaign.
Since April 3, Toronto has won five-of-six contests. Their last three wins came in succession and against playoff opponents. The Raps defeated the Chicago Bulls twice and most recently the Brooklyn Nets on April 14 at the Air Canada Centre.
During the string of victories, DeMar DeRozan has been averaging 22.8 points per game on 53.4 percent field goal shooting. He’s received some assistance from Rudy Gay, whose produced 17.3 points on 41.9 percent shooting from the field.
But let’s be honest here, those numbers aren’t quite jaw dropping. They are somewhere between decent and good, but obviously not the biggest aspect in these victories.
That in actuality would be their defense. Indeed, since April 3, Toronto’s been surrendering 97.9 points per 100 possessions according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
That would be the third best defense in the league over that period of time, right behind the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat.
Consequently, the Atlanta Hawks might have a tougher contest than initially anticipated tonight. On their end, they just recently bounced back from a three-game losing streak with back-to-back wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.
It’s worth noting Atlanta has already been victorious twice against Toronto this season thanks in large part to their frontline play.
Al Horford has simply been a beast against the Raptors this year, averaging 24 points, 11 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on 60.6 percent field goal shooting.
Matching up with the former Gator will be an incredibly tough matchup. He’s hurt the Raps this year both on the block and in the mid-range game with his jumpers. Every time Dwane Casey has called for his team to rotate off him to contain drives, he’s made them pay.
In addition, his synergy with Josh Smith has simply been impressive. They have a knack for finding each other in a fun set they love to run. They typically both start at the elbows and one of them catches the ball and runs a pick-and-roll with the other.
The action usually results in a smooth big-to-big alley oop.
If the Raptors can contain Atlanta’s big man tandem, they should have an opportunity to slay another playoff team on the Optimism Tour.
On national television no less.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.