Date: March 18, 2014
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
Suddenly, the Atlanta Hawks are in a grove, after losing six in a row the Hawks have countered by winning four games in a row including last night in Charlotte, beating the Bobcats 97–83 snapping their four game winning streak. The Hawks, 30-35 will play their second game in as many nights as they host the 37-28 Toronto Raptors. With just 17 games left the Hawks are still in the playoff hunt, in fact if the season ended today they would be the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference and take on the Indiana Pacers. The Hawks have actually played three fewer games than the 7th seeded Bobcats, and are tied with them in the loss column so there is still time to make up ground. The Hawks will not have it easy down the stretch as 10 of their last 17 games will be played against teams with winning records.
Paul Millsap was huge for the Hawks last night, scoring 28 points and spending a good portion of the night battling with newly named Eastern Conference player of the week, Al Jefferson. The Hawks also received double-digit scoring outputs from Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Pero Antic, and Mike Scott, but none of them scored more than 11.
During the Hawks four game winning streak, they are holding their opponents to just 95 points per game and have held their opponents to just 41% shooting from the field in those four games. The Hawks have been dangerous from beyond the three-point line all season long, leading the league in made three pointers with 631 on the season and they boast the leagues 5th best percentage at 38%, Korver is still the leagues best at 48.8% from long range. It might be a little unfair to say the Hawks live and die by the three-pointer, but they certainly look at a lot better on nights when their shots are falling. The Hawks are still doing a good job of sharing the ball, 1643 assists on the season is the third most in the entire league.
The Raptors are in first place in the Atlantic Division and are three games up on the Brooklyn Nets. First time all-star Demar Derozan has really come into his own this season. Derozan has posted a career best in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, and has posted his best 3 point percentage of his career. Derozan sees the bulk of the offense with a 28% usage rate, and has made the most of his oppourtunities this year averaging 22.6 points per game and has a career best PER of 18.3. Kyle Lowry is another name to look out for. Much like Derozan, Lowry is having a career year and his 17 points per game and 7.8 assists per game, are once again career bests.
Outside of having two really good players on the perimeter, the Raptors are fairly stout defensively. The Raptors are in the top 10 of nearly every defensive and rebounding category including fourth in total points allowed.
The two teams have split their two match-ups this year. Back on November 1st, just the third game of the year the Hawks beat the Raptors 102-95 in Atlanta. Al Horford was the big man that night for the Hawks with 22 points and 16 rebounds, the Hawks also got huge contributions from Korver (17 points) and Teague (18 points and 12 assists.) Derozan killed the Hawks that night to a tune of 31 points. More recently and perhaps more of a stepping stone of what tonight will look like as the Hawks will not have the services if Horford as they haven’t for much of the year; the Raptors took down the Hawks 104-83 on February 12th. Once again, Derozan dropped in 31 points on the Hawks defense, this time he did it with DeMarre Carroll out with a left hamstring strain. Millsap had 17 points on just eight shots, so perhaps there is a favorable matchup there.
The “experts” in Las Vegas have listed the Hawks as 3-point underdogs in tonight’s match-up. The spread my seem a little light considering the Hawks are coming off a back-to-back after beating the Bobcats last night in Charlotte, and the Raptors at 37-28 seem to have the edge in many categories, but the Hawks have been much better at home (19-11) than they have been on the road (11-24).
Be sure to follow us on twitter (@ATLBeatBlog) and stop by tonight after the game for a full recap.