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Hawks vs Raptors preview: Atlanta looks for answers in Toronto

The Hawks look to get their Friday-Saturday back-to-back off to a good start in Toronto.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks once again look to right the ship Friday night when they travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors. Atlanta’s first trip to Canada this season didn’t end well with a 44-point loss back on December 3. The Hawks have lost 11 of 14 since their 9-2 start including a ridiculous 131-120 setback on Wednesday at home against Orlando.

Somewhere along this losing skid, Atlanta has lost its identity. Coming into the season it was apparent that they might struggle on the offensive end of the floor. Theoretically that would be offset by a team that should be one of the league’s best on the defensive end. That is the way things looked early on but the Hawks have regressed big time over the last 14 games.

Atlanta enters Friday’s game sixth in the league in defensive efficiency allowing 101.7 per 100 possessions. However, since November 18, they are 22nd allowing 107. The offense has been predictably bad as well but their defensive struggles are concerning.

Injuries certainly haven’t helped the situation, nor has a series of lineup changes. Atlanta was victimized in Wednesday’s loss by a series of blown assignments. Situations where they either over helped or the help never came at all. Sometimes that is the result when players are thrust into new roles and the team has to adjust on the fly.

Toronto on the other hand seems to be hitting their stride. They have won four straight and 10 of their last 11 and boast the league’s top offense averaging 115.3 points per 100 possessions.

The Raptors are coming off of a 123-114 win over Philadelphia Wednesday night. DeMar DeRozan led the way with 31 points and is averaging a career-best 28 points per game on 48 percent shooting.

In the first meeting, Atlanta gave a lot of defensive attention to DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry and were burned by Toronto’s supporting cast as eight different players finished in double figures. It will be interesting to see how Mike Budenholzer elects to play it in the rematch.

Game Date/Time: Friday, December 16, 7:30 p.m. ET

Location: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

TV: Fox Sports Southeast

Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM