Pardon the lame pre-game, but it’s Persian new years, and between lunch here and dinner there…I’m so full I need Oliver Miller’s couch-guy to roll me into typing position.
The Raptors play the Hawks for the second time in a week, and after that devestating loss to the Thunder on Friday where folks were clearing out their fridges and pantries out of aimless spite, the Raptors have a real chance at falling victim to a lesser team in the Hawks, again, if they don’t focus and get back to playing with purpose.
The reality of this recent “lack of focus” is that if they hadn’t lost to the Hawks earlier this week, the loss to the Thunder wouldn’t have been so alarming. It was a perfect storm of many things, that had they just did one right, they would be 7-3 in their last 10 and we’d just be annoyed at Durant’s 51 (??? bad grammar, I know…don’t care). Say what you want about the collapse, but the Thunder are championship contenders, and as we all know, it takes a little luck to be great.
So with that in mind, the Raptors just need to play their game, and make the following adjustments (not even all of them, just pick a couple) from Wednesday’s loss:
- Control the defensive boards; without Horford, the Hawks are gawdawful at rebounding, much less offensive rebounding. We saw good things happen the last time out when the Raptors controlled the glass and hit the outlet. A defensive rebound will usually result in some sort of helter skelter result in transition, which could lead to a highlight reel dunk for Ross, and perpetuate the T-Mac and Paul George comparisons to flourish
- The rotation needs to be crisp and tight; with Patterson out, Ross and JV day-to-day (expected to play), and Fields the most hated man on the team, Casey needs to be creative, and not sit the Raptors core wings (Lowry, DeRozan, and Ross) long enough for the Hawks bench to figure things out enough to lunge and attack
- Speaking of Patterson; isn’t there a shot or pill he can take to get back on the court? I can’t remember the last time we’ve held our breath for so long for a 6th man to get back into the mix
- More layups than jumpers; the Hawks have no one to defend the paint and protect the rim with Horford resting his boobs. DeRozan mostly, but everyone on the wing should be looking to slash and attack more then pulling up for 18 footers
- Stupid fouls; this one’s for Jonas. One of the advantages the Raptors need to exploit is in the front court, which means defense needs to be played with footwork and positioning and not hands, which means anticipation and scouting and not falling for weak pump fakes…you get the picture. Your recent run has been a nice surprise, let’s keep that momentum going
- Know who the real threat is; sure Millsap put up a triple-double, but without Teague, Millsap is playing Shareef Abdur-Rahim and collecting checks (not discounting Millsap’s performance, but the dude took 16 shots to total 19 points)
It looks like even the gamblers realize the Raptors will be looking for blood after the Thunder game, and have them down as 6.5 point favourites; I’d be surprised if it’s that close.