Game Preview: Raptors at Hawks

Holly MacKenzie -

The Raptors are in Atlanta to take on the Hawks following a gritty 94-87 victory in New Orleans against the Pelicans. Atlanta will wrap up a six-game homestand against the Raptors after defeating the Brooklyn Nets 110-105 on Wednesday.

Tip-off: 8:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast info: TSN2 / TSN1050


Valanciunas always ready

Jonas Valanciunas led Toronto in a Wednesday night victory against the New Orleans Pelicans. Playing 34 minutes, including the fourth quarter down the stretch where he has been observing from the bench in recent games, Valanciunas produced a 25-point, 13-rebound double-double and helped seal the win for the Raptors with a perfect fourth quarter.

"You know, I felt great," Valanciunas said. "As I said [in New Orleans], I'll just use my chance. I'm ready, I'm ready to play four quarters every night. Some match ups don't go my way. Sometimes other players are playing good, so I'm there every night and I'm ready to go."

Injuries not the issue

After practice in Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, Dwane Casey was asked about playing without Kyle Lowry and weathering adversity brought on by injuries. He didn't waste any time explaining that injuries and adjustments are part of the game.

"Every team has that adversity," Casey said. "Boston has had guys out all year. This team [in Atlanta] has had guys out. It's how you deal with it. For a stretch we didn't deal with it well, we lost five in a row, six in a row. Every team deals with it. I like the way we're going now. We've just got to get some consistency in how we're playing."

The Raptors got another scare in Milwaukee on Saturday when DeMarre Carroll sprained an ankle while going for an offensive rebound against the Bucks. Although he did not play against the Pelicans on Wednesday and his status is not known for Friday, the team's three-day break in Miami was welcomed as he tries to recover.

"It was big," he said. "We thought it was worse than what it was, but those days off, just relaxing and letting your body heal, I think that helped me."

Moving the ball

Although the Raptors recorded just 21 assists against the Pelicans, the ball was moving better than it had in recent games. DeMar DeRozan, aware that his shot was off the mark early, switched into facilitator mode recording a team-high six assists in the victory. Most important, the ball was finding the open man and on a night where Jonas Valanciunas was hot, the team went to him often.

"We were successful against New Orleans doing it and I think us watching it on film, seeing how easy it is to get shots, not only for DeMar, but also for JV, and those guys who normally don't shoot the ball as much, it provides opportunities for guys to score the ball and it's fun," Patrick Patterson said. "You have guys passing, cutting, moving, and then when you hit the shot it only makes you want to replicate it and do it more and more. Once we saw it on film today, hopefully guys will want keep doing what we're doing."

Dwane Casey was pleased with the ball and player moment against the Pelicans. He attributed some of it with the time off to go over things in Miami prior to arriving in New Orleans.

"Ball movement, man movement, [we] put a few more sets in that created that," Casey said.

If the playoffs were to kick off on Friday, the Raptors would face the Hawks as the (4) vs (5) seed match up. Casey and his team are not focused on seeding or potential playoff match ups, though. The race to the end of the season is all about peaking at the right time for Toronto.

"Every game is important," Casey said. "It's not just the Hawks, it's not just Washington. It's everybody. Every time we go out we've got to be ready to face it.

"We've got to come out and set the tone," he continued. "Not to prove anything, but to try to win the game. Not just the game, every possession, every quarter."