It is bizarre to think that getting a win in the NBA could leave a sour taste but that is exactly what transpired on Wednesday for the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, the Hawks knocked off the Brooklyn Nets at home, but it took all 48 minutes to dispose of the NBA’s worst team and it was not exactly an inspired performance. With that as the backdrop, the Hawks will play host to the Toronto Raptors on Friday and, this time, a C-minus effort likely won’t be enough to grab a victory.
The Raptors enter this game without their best player, as point guard Kyle Lowry remains on the shelf with injury. Still, Toronto has sustained success without Lowry in the lineup, posting a 5-2 record since the All-Star break. In short, this is still a (very) dangerous team led by DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and others, to the point where Las Vegas installs the Hawks as only a two-point home favorite.
Containing DeRozan will be paramount and that will likely be the opening job for Thabo Sefolosha. The veteran swingman is one-of-a-kind in today’s NBA given his propensity for mid-range attempts but DeRozan can catch fire at any moment and Sefolosha’s length could be a deterrence to his scoring ability. Elsewhere, Dennis Schröder does not get the “break” that you might anticipate, with backup PG Cory Joseph serving as one of the best reserves in the league and a certified pest on the the defensive end.
The good folks at FiveThirtyEight make this essentially a coin-flip game, with the Hawks holding a 51 percent chance at victory. While this would not be an ugly loss on the surface, Atlanta could certainly use a victory at the outset of a back-to-back set with travel and this could be a potential playoff preview with the Hawks sitting in the No. 5 spot and Toronto landing at No. 4 right now.
Stay tuned throughout the day for updates from Philips Arena.
Game Date/Time: Friday, March 10, 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM