Pre-Game

Gameday: Raptors @ Hawks, Jan. 24

We’ve got some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the bad. Your Toronto Raptors are in a bit of a rough patch and need to start picking it up. The good news? They’ve got one of the worst teams in the NBA in their sight.

The Raptors travel to The Big Peach to take on one of the league’s minnows, the lowly Atlanta Hawks. This is the third meeting between the teams, with Toronto winning by a combined 47 points in their last two contests (34 in the first meeting, 13 in the last). In surprising news, Atlanta is 4-2 in their last six games, compiling signature wins over the Spurs, Pelicans and Utah Jazz. On the other side of the fence, the Raptors are 3-3 in their last six, coming off a gut-wrenching loss on January 20th to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Hawks are in an interesting spot. They’re a clear rebuilding franchise aiming to construct their foundation with core players Dennis Schröder (Aliexpress TJ Ford), Taurean Prince (No Frills OG Anunoby) and John Collins (AOL Jamario Moon). I’m not exactly sure this is the group to galvanize the Hawks fanbase, but there are worse roster situations in the league.

In all seriousness, there’s no excuse whatsoever for this game. Toronto is coming off four full days of rest where they could purge their minds of the uninspiring recent performances plaguing the team. With the most possible respect given to the Hawks and their fans, this game must be a convincing win for Toronto.

The game tips off at 7:30pm ET on Sportsnet One and TSN Radio 1050.

Raptors updates

If you haven’t already heard the news, Kyle Lowry (who’s coming off a 40-point explosion) was officially named an All Star reserve for the 2018 NBA All Star Game. This gives the Raptors two players named to this year’s festivities, as Lowry joins DeMar DeRozan (who was named a starter last week).

All Raptors seem to be healthy for this showdown, with Van Vleet returning to the Minnesota game on Saturday night. Surprisingly in a first this season, Norman Powell was given 0 minutes on the floor versus the Wolves. Powell’s been struggling like no other Raptor this season, with his on-court confidence at an all-time low. This would be a great opportunity for Norm to find his stride on both the ends of the floor.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Alfonzo McKinnie
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: None
905: Bruno Caboclo, Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller

Hawks updates

DeAndre Bembry will sit out this game with a groin injury he suffered from earlier in the month. Save for Bembry, the Atlanta Hawks are fully healthy. Recently, Atlanta has been scrutinized by the NBA media at large for questionable roster decisions pertaining to their starting lineup. Head coach Mike Budenholzer decided in his last several games that he’d start journeyman (and a guy who’s in the NBA solely due to his last name), Miles Plumlee at center while benching Dewayne Dedmon, a center who had a significant role in last year’s San Antonio Spurs rotation. Budenholzer has also chosen to start Ersan Ilyasova over rookie John Collins in what is a totally lost year for the Hawks franchise. Does Budenholzer know something we don’t know? The answer is no. It’s a wildly foolish decision from a coach who I believe gets showered with praise far too often relative to a coach like… say, Dwane Casey.

PG: Dennis Schroder, Malcolm Delaney, Isaiah Taylor
SG: Kent Bazemore, Marco Belinelli, Tyler Dorsey
SF: Taurean Prince, Andrew White III
PF: Ersan Ilysaova, John Collins, Luke Babbitt, Tyler Cavanaugh
C: Miles Plumlee, Mike Muscala
OUT: DeAndre’ Bembry
TBD: None
Erie: Josh Magette

The line
The Raptors are six-point favorites with a massive 215.5 over-under.

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