Four games to go. Welcome to the final week of the regular season!
The Hawks (41-37, 8th in East) and Raptors (45-33, 6th in East) meet for the fourth time this season. Toronto won the first two games but were blown out by 27 in the last contest during the mini struggle after the all-star break. The Raptors magic number to clinch a playoff spot is at two (combined wins or Cavs losses). Cleveland plays in Orlando tonight so asking for help there might be a stretch. Chicago hosts Milwaukee in the race for fifth which is bad news for the Bulls because they have been historically bad vs top three seeds this season. The dream scenario by the end of the night would be the Raptors moving back up to five, and officially stamping their playoff ticket.
ATL rolls into this game extremely dangerous with arguably more on the line. The Hawks are a game ahead of the Nets (who have the tiebreaker) and Hornets (2-2 season series). Atlanta will be in the play-in tournament but the difference between eighth and ninth is massive. If the Hawks stay where they are, they only need to win one of potentially two play-in games to make the playoffs. Atlanta won the season series against Cleveland, so moving up to seventh and hosting the first play-in game is still a possibility. The Hawks have made this all happen by winning their last five games.
Player to Watch
Trae Young completely dissected the Raptors in the last meeting with 41 points (17-24 FG) and 11 assists. Nick Nurse had no answers to how Trae operated in the pick and roll for midrange jumpers and floaters galore. Young only made one three in that game. When he wasn’t torching the Raptors with his own shot, he was busy finding bigs for lobs and open shooters when too much attention was being paid.
Two things work in the Raptors favour this time around. They are much more cohesive defensively now than six weeks ago. Also, Fred VanVleet’s knee has been showing signs of progress. Fred forced 21 turnovers by the Timberwolves and Magic combined in Toronto’s last two wins so he should have a better time sticking with Young. FVV will be better equipped to make Trae work guarding him too. VanVleet’s 29 points against Miami on Sunday were the most he has scored in nearly three months (32 vs Pelicans on January 9th).
Tip-Off: 7:30pm EDT | TV: TSN 1, also 3 after curling | Radio: TSN 1050
Atlanta Hawks Results, Lineups & Injuries
Toronto Raptors Results, Lineups & Injuries
My over/under prediction (17-13 this season): The Hawks averaging 128.4 points per game during their five game win streak, which is wild. The Raptors defence will definitely be tested. Is it as simple as if OG Anunoby plays or not? Toronto is 14-17 without OG this season. Both wins vs Atlanta came with Anunoby in the lineup; he was sidelined in the blowout. It’s unknown if Anunoby will play tonight. I’m taking the over, hoping to extend my personal streak to five games. No clear OG status, no score prediction sorry. He’s too crucial in defending a team like the Hawks.