Game Preview: Raptors vs. Hawks

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Atlanta Hawks are in Toronto for the second time this season and they’d like to avoid a repeat of their last game on the Air Canada Centre court. Two weeks ago, the Raptors defeated the Hawks 128-84 in a win that set that franchise record for margin of victory. Atlanta was without All-Star Paul Millsap, who is expected to be in the lineup on Friday night.

Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: TSN / SN590

TALKING POINTS

Raptors enjoying the journey

NBA fans were treated to a glimpse of Toronto’s camaraderie after the team’s victory in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Thanks to a series of snapchat videos posted by Patrick Patterson, fans witnessed a team singalong on the flight home. For Patterson, the decision to snap and share was easy.

“When Kyle [Lowry] is singing like that and Deebo [DeMar DeRozan] is dancing, it’s definitely a no brainer,” Patterson said. “Moments like that you have to post because the fans don’t get to see that all the time.”

Patterson described DeRozan and Lowry great leaders who embrace the younger players on the team. With so many returning guys on the roster this season, the familiarity means lots of enjoyable time when they hit the road.

“[It's] a pretty fun, close-knit family,” Patterson said. “We all enjoy having fun with each other whether it’s on the court or off the court. Moments like that on the plane just happen naturally and the next thing you know everyone has their phones out. Happens all the time.”

Forget last game, focus on challenge at hand

It’s always important to take each game as it comes and not look too far ahead. It’s equally important to not get caught up in looking in the rearview at a previous matchup against a specific opponent. With Toronto having such a dominating victory against the Hawks in the previous game, Dwane Casey wants his team to leave that game in the past and be prepared to face a Hawks team at full-strength.

They’ll remember it and I hope we forget it,” Casey said. “They’re going to be a different team, they’re 2-2 in in their last four [games] and they’re going to be coming in here ready to play, ready to attack us.

“They have Millsap back whose playing well for them and has always been a problem for us, whether he’s at the four or the five.”

Shots falling

With a 123-114 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, the Raptors topped 100 points for the 12th straight game. Offensively, things have never been better. While many are looking for answers and reasons, Dwane Casey’s take is simple:

“Moving the basketball,” he said. “I know it’s simplistic but we have quite a few guys now in an offensive rhythm, making shots. There’s nothing like making shots and guys are on a tear now. Knock on wood, hope it continues.”

Patterson agreed with Casey, while mentioning how much easier everything is when you’re having fun on the court and not caring who is taking — or making — the shots.

“I see us making shots, the same shots we missed earlier in the year,” Patterson said. “Kyle and DeMar are extremely hot right now so they are going to get theirs. The rest of us are just being consistent, from Terrence [Ross] to myself, to anyone else on the bench or the starting unit. We just make sure we capitalize on whatever opportunities are given to us. And then just having fun. When you are having fun the game is a lot easier than what it looks like. We look for each other and make the extra pass and when you see a teammate make a shot, that only makes you want to get them the ball more.”

Despite the hot shooting and high-scoring games, Casey hasn’t abandoned his defence-first principles. During a Thursday film session going over game tape from the team’s victory in Philadelphia there were plenty of mistakes to go over on the defensive end. Although Patterson acknowledged hat it can be hard to shy away from the high-scoring ways when it’s coming easily, he hopes the team will dial up the defence sooner than later.

“I’m hoping it happens before, knock on wood, a bad loss,” Patterson said. “Hopefully we realize we need to stop dribble penetration, stop people getting to the paint, help each other on the defensive end by talking and communicating and finish plays with rebounds. All those things we used to do we have to get back to. I’m hoping we find a way to get back to that and still have that offensive side as well.