On the heels of a disappointing loss in Detroit, the Atlanta Hawks return home to play the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night, with the New York Knicks due in town on Friday. What’s the proper reaction to losing on the road to a team you should have beaten? Why, you go home and take it out on the next team! Since the Hawks have yet to play the Raptors this season, we’ll go through the usual motions, while the Knicks will get less of a mention.
HAWKS VS RAPTORS
What you might remember
Game 4 of the 2008-2009 season was the fateful game in which Josh Smith incurred that high ankle sprain, which kept him out twelve games, and helped derail a good start for the Hawks. Yet, the Hawks won that game, and two more of the four games in which they played Toronto. I’ll tell you what Toronto remembers (besides losing three of four to the Hawks): Mike Bibby. Why? Well, Bibby averaged over 20 points against the Raptors in the first three meetings. In the fourth one, he managed a “paltry” 13 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds. On the other hand, the Hawks remember Chris Bosh quite well. Bosh is a 20 and 10 waiting to happen on most nights, and it hasn’t been much different against the Hawks. At any rate, both teams come into this game having lost in their last contest. For the Hawks, it was a loss to a lesser team, right after beating a team on the road. For the Raptors, it’s the opportunity to break a four game losing streak and beat a quality opponent, something they have done arguably only once this season (against Miami, November 20th).
Both teams will presenting somewhat new looks than they did last year, though Toronto has made more significant changes. But who will show up hungrier?
These Guys Might Be Trouble
Let’s see if I can get this without accidentally naming people who are on the IR….
Toronto lacks seriously in the categories of defense and toughness. Losing trade acquisition Reggie Evans to injury only made that worse. What they DO have in abundance however, is tall guys that can shoot.
Hedo Turkoglu has been less impressive in Toronto than he was in Orlando, but that tells you how important fit is, and how long chemistry can take to form properly. Nevertheless, Turkoglu can handle the ball and facilitate any time it’s needed. In addition, he can shoot the long ball. Tall players who have long distance range are always a problem for the Hawks. Turkoglu is no exception. If the Hawks let him get hot or simply give him too many open looks, he is going to hurt them.
Andrea Bargnani is no stranger to the arc himself, and like Turkoglu, he’s shooting better than 40% from deep. The 7-foot pivot man prefers to do more of his damage from the outside than the inside, but he can make a couple of moves towards the basket. He’s averaging over 17 points a game, and shoots a healthy 48% from the field, despite all of those 3-pointers. Never to be confused with a “true” post player (particularly with a middling 6.4 rpg), Bargnani does get a tad more than a block a game, and is automatic at the free throw line.
Finally, there is Bosh, who appears to have worked on his body this offseason. Bosh looks stronger than I’ve ever seen him. As it stands right now, he is leading the league in double-doubles. You can never ignore a guy who brings 25 and 12 to the table, and despite all the losing, the Raptor forward is playing as well (if not better) than anybody who belongs to the heralded free agent class of 2010. If Bosh starts strong and his teammates begin to play well off of him, the Hawks could be in for a long night.
There’s always one guy that you forget about. It’s that one guy who either comes in and has a really big game against you, or simply just makes enough of the right plays, at the right times, to throw you off your gameplan. That guy, in THIS contest, could be Marco Belinelli. He’s not another 6′10 or taller shooter, but he IS another guy who is doing better than 40% from 3-point range. He’s a backup that plays just shy of 20 minutes per game, and yet another guy who can get hot from deep.
HAWKS VS KNICKS
Last Time Out…
Al Horford and Josh Smith pounded the Knicks for a combined 47 points and 21 rebounds enroute to a 13-point victory in Madison Square Garden. Nate Robinson and Darko Milicic were out with injury, and Jeff Teague had the same amount of playing time as New York rookie Jordan Hill (1:34). Meanwhile Toney Douglas made us look silly, and Al Harrington showed out like it was his birthday. Long story short, the game was closer than the score stated, and closer than it should have been.
What about this time?
Should the Hawks pound the ball inside against the Knicks like they did before? Will the Knicks make a game of it, or will the Hawks beat them like the inferior team that they are? Who are the key guys in this game for both teams? Is Toney Douglas for real, and what about lottery pick Jordan Hill? Can Jeff Teague get some quality minutes in this contest?
See ya around 7 p.m. tomorrow evening, if you’re not at the game with a laptop!