Before we get to your regularly scheduled preview of the Raptors vs Hawks; a little left over Halloween fun with Amir Johnson. We mentioned on This Week In Raptorland about Johnson being a part of the zombie walk for the second year last Saturday. He stepped up his game this year though with a complete set of Zombies and a choreographed dance number with the help of Amberley who runs the Raptors Dance Pak. Check out the video of the behind the scenes:
Now on to business, as the Raptors play their first road game of the season against the Hawks. It is the first half of a back to back as the Raptors will be in Milwaukee tomorrow.The Hawks will be without Lou Williams re-rehabilitating a right knee injury and Gustavo Ayon is out with a right shoulder injury.
The Hawks in recent years have said so long to some long time fixtures on their roster like Joe Johnson and now this season Josh Smith who is with the Pistons. Who the Hawks still have is Al Horford who should be a great challenge for Jonas Valancuinas to deal with on both ends of the floor. The Hawks also added Paul Millsap from Utah in the off-season and should make it an interesting battle in the paint all night long.
Where the Raptors should have a clear advantage in this game is at the wings where DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay will be matched up with Kyle Korver and Demarre Carroll. Both Gay and DeRozan were at less than their best against Boston in the opener on Wednesday.
The Hawks come in after dropping their season debut to the Mavericks 118-109. While all signs would suggest the Raptors should win this game beware of the Raptors strange past in the ATL. This is the place where scorekeepers and timekeepers have cost the Raptors games. It is also the place where Al Horford took out T.J Ford and created the point guard controversy that would rage after Ford's injury.
Atlanta is not the luckiest place for the Raptors is safe to say. Also the Raptors did not exactly look like world beaters in their win over the Celtics. Playing on the road is a different animal. Usually that includes a crowd rooting against you but the Hawks arena on most nights sounds like a library. Still you don't have the encouragement of a home crowd to help you rally. Calls that you might get at home might not happen on the road. Basically winning on the road is about battling adversity and still executing through it.
The Hawks are one of those teams that will be in the fight for those final few playoff spots in the East. Raptors if they are able to follow though and compete for the playoffs it will take beating teams like this. The Raptors will need to win the games they are suppose to win. That is really the first and what seems easiest step to becoming a playoff team. Easy it is not though, as winning the games you are suppose to win is all about consistency. Something the Raptors couldn't show on Wednesday against Boston.
For the Raptors to win it will take Gay and DeRozan exploiting their match-ups and a great effort down in the paint from the Raptors big men. The one other thing to be concern about is close outs on three point shooters. The Hawks if they get rolling from deep could make it a very long night.
Leading that charge you can expect would be Kyle Korver who has made at least one three in 74 straight NBA games which ranks fourth all-time. The record is 89 games held by former Supersonic Dana Barros. Korver has been a late round fantasy basketball pick for years based on his ability to make the three point shot.
The Raptors have their own sharpshooter in Novak but they need to be careful in not getting drawn into a three point shooting contest with the Hawks.