Hawks top Raptors in home opener, 102-95


Nov 1, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Toronto Raptors small forward Rudy Gay (22) drives to the basket past Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
It was a more than successful home opener at Philips Arena on Friday night, as the hometown Atlanta Hawks slipped past the Toronto Raptors by a final score of 102-95.

As is customary, Al Horford played the role of “best player on the floor” in his home arena, scoring 22 points (on 9 of 14 shooting) with a game-high 16 rebounds to lead Atlanta, and sharpshooter Kyle Korver knocked down 5 threes (on 8 attempts) to add 17 points while Jeff Teague also tallied 17 points along with 12 assists. It is an utterly encouraging sign to see the trio of stalwarts from last season taking up the mantle under the new regime, and even Paul Millsap got into the act with 15 points, despite making just 1 of 5 from the free throw line.

On the side of the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan continued to facilitate fears about the team defense against shooting guards. The former USC product scored a game-high 31 points (on 14 of 23 shooting) and he utterly torched Atlanta’s defense throughout. Fortunately, he was the only member of the Toronto squad to have an above-average night, as his wing counterpart Rudy Gay struggled to a 6 for 23 shooting night and the bench fell flat for the Raptors (as predicted in our preview earlier in the day).

The win wasn’t short of troubling observations, however, as the team rebounding and defense isn’t quite “there” yet. Toronto won the rebounding battle 42 to 37, and while Atlanta did hold them under 50% shooting (45.5% to be specific), that was mostly a product of poor shooting by the Raptors. Additionally, Jeff Teague did play a strong game (as evidenced by his double-double) but Kyle Lowry (a stronger player physically) seemed to get whatever he wanted at times, and it was rather fortunate to see Toronto shy away from him in favor of the ill-conceived shooting of Rudy Gay and company.

The recently locked-up John Jenkins received his 2nd consecutive “DNP – Coach’s Decision”, but the rest of the bench was rather productive despite every starter playing 30+ minutes in the game. Cartier Martin produced his second consecutive positive night with 8 points (on 2 of 4 shooting) in 23 minutes, and Dennis Schröder looked fairly comfortable despite committing 2 turnovers (and garnering 0 assists) in 15 minutes. Better days will be ahead for the bench (and hopefully, Jenkins), but it wasn’t a bad start.

Either way, however, this was a productive day at the office for the Hawks. Al Horford was Al Horford, and that was encouraging to see as he picks up the slack as the absolute, undeniable #1 option this season. Winning games on a night where DeMarre Carroll shot 1 of 7 and Paul Millsap relatively struggled (at least from the line) is a positive, and the only “real” negative is the ongoing concern about wing defense. It wasn’t a flawless start, but the Hawks are 1-1, and 1-0 at Philips Arena.