Scouting Report: Toronto Raptors
Two teams headed in opposite directions clash in what is an important Eastern Conference matchup for playoff standings going into the All-Star break.
The Toronto Raptors have been one of the hottest teams in the conference since trading Rudy Gay to Sacramento earlier this season. A big part of that has been athletic wingman Terrence Ross, who has filled in nicely as Toronto’s starting small forward. Ross has brought energy on both sides of the floor and is a difficult cover because of his ability to do it all on the offensive end. He can shoot (40% from three this season) and can also get to the rim and finish because of his length and size. Many thought the Raptors would take a tumble with him instead of Gay, but it’s been the opposite.
The Raptors’ backcourt is what makes the engine go, led by All-Star DeMar DeRozan’s 22 points per game. Like Ross, DeRozan can beat you in a number of ways offensively. He hasn’t been as good of an outside shooter, so the key is to make him get his points by taking contested perimeter shots rather than driving to get inside baskets or free throws.
Kyle Lowry, who had a good case for being an All-Star himself, has been one of the most improved point guards in basketball this season. He’s averaging almost 17 points and eight assists while starting all 51 games for Toronto, and he had a 19-point, 12-assist night in Monday’s win over New Orleans. The backcourt definitely does the scoring for this team, so that’s where the focus will have to start defensively for Atlanta.
One lineup note: Amir Johnson, Toronto’s regular starting power forward, sat out Monday because of an ankle injury. If he can’t go, Patrick Patterson, who the Raptors got as part of the Gay trade, will start.
This is a big game for the Hawks for a number of reasons. They’ve slipped to fifth in the standings and are now chasing down Toronto and Chicago to try to get home court positioning back. Having lost four in a row, it would be nice to get an important win to get back on track going into the All-Star break.
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