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’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.

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5 Responses to “Gameday: Raptors @ Hawks, April 16”

  1. Leftovercrack

    While this hasn’t been the Raptors’s worst season, it certainly has been on of their more frustrating. Another losing record and we don’t feel any closer to being playoff contenders

  2. j bean

    32-35 wins was the consensus for a big part of the fan base at the beginning of the season until they exploded on the scene for an amazing pre-season that raised some hope for for a playoff run. As it turns out they are one of the only teams to have ever won so many pre-season games and miss the playoffs.

    To me, I see them on track to win at least another 10 games next year just with the internal development of the current roster. There are no guarantees but the core is young, athletic, getting better and there are a lot of teams in worse shape.

    Today the Hawks really want this one so missing JV is gonna hurt and make it tough to keep the winning ways going.

    • Tim W.

      A lot of Raptor fans, and DeRozan, ripped John Hollinger for predicting around 32 wins for the season. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that where they end up.


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