Game Preview: Raptors vs Hawks
Atlanta Hawks (12-27) @ Toronto Raptors (30-12)
When: Tuesday, January 8th, 7:30 P.M.
Where: Scotiabank Arena
Leading into tonight’s game:
- Injury Report: For the Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas is out with a dislocated left thumb. For the Hawks, Dewayne Deadmon (left ankle sprain) and Kevin Hurter (left calf sprain) are listed as probable. Kent Bazemore (right ankle sprain), Miles Plumlee (left knee pain) and Taurean Prince (left ankle sprain) are out.
- Chasing and breaking records: The Raptors tied their franchise record set last season with 29 victories in their first 41 games. The team reached 29 victories in Saturday’s 123-116 road win in Milwaukee against the Bucks, then picked up their 30th win the next day in a 121-105 victory against the Pacers. The Raptors are the only team in the league with 30 victories, despite Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard playing just 21 games together so far this season.
- Recent history: This will be the second meeting between the Raptors and Hawks this season. The Raptors last saw the Hawks on the road in Atlanta, where they picked up a 124-108 victory behind a triple-double performance from Kyle Lowry who finished with 21 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds. Jonas Valanciunas had 24 points and 13 rebounds and Pascal Siakam added 22 points. Former Raptors player Vince Carter reached 25,000 points scored in his career in the game, with a putback dunk in the final second of the game, and the game concluded with players from both teams congratulating him. The Hawks are in Toronto following a 106-82 win against the Miami Heat where rookie Trae Young scored a game-high 19 points.
- Lowry returns: The most exciting part of Toronto’s 121-105 win against the Pacers on Sunday was the return of point guard Kyle Lowry to the lineup after missing 10 of the last 11 games managing a sore lower back and thigh contusion. His impact was on display immediately. “The heartbeat of the team,” Fred VanVleet said of Lowry. “He’s our leader. The pace, energy, aggressiveness, switching, rebounding, finding guys, making shots, he does it all.” Though Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said before the game that the team wanted to ease Lowry back into his return, the point guard reminded everyone once again that he only has one intensity level when he is on the floor. Lowry played 32 minutes in the win and finished with 12 points, eight assists, three rebounds, three steals, a blocked shot, and, of course, two charges drawn. Lowry is now just one steal away from becoming the first player in franchise history with 700 career steals. He has 1,109 steals in his NBA career.
- Understand the grind: Norman Powell led the Raptors in their win against the Pacers, exploding for 23 points off the bench in 32 minutes of action. He was all but unstoppable on the offensive end of the floor, shooting a ridiculous 10-for-12 from the floor and 3-for-3 from beyond the three-point line. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was impressed with more than just his offence, though. “He was 10-for-12, forget that,” Nurse said. “To me, he was guarding. Noticeably guarding and making life difficult for [Bojan] Bogdanovic, [Victor] Oladipo, all those guys. I liked what he was doing defensively. It was nice that he chipped in 23, but he's been playing [well and] just looks fast and fresh and athletic and strong and [is] playing the right way.” Powell led the team in scoring, but he also led the reserves, who chipped in 52 points in Sunday's victory.
- Impressive Ibaka: Serge Ibaka put in a huge back-to-back for the Raptors this weekend, finishing with 18 points (7-for-9 field goals), six rebounds and two blocked shots on Saturday. The day before in Milwaukee, he had 25 points and nine rebounds. Ibaka is averaging 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in 28 games as a starter this season. He is also shooting 54 percent from the floor, his highest percentage since the 2013-14 season when he was in Oklahoma City.