Since the Raptors have been out of the playoff race for some time now, you might wonder if there is any reason at all to tune in to the tail end of what has proved to be an excruciating season.
Well, there’s a few things the Raptors are still playing for.
The Raptors are still trying to build an identity, and form some cohesiveness. At the same time, they’re trying to develop their young players.
Oh, and also pride – they’re still playing for pride.
Is Dwane Casey the right man to groom all of this successfully? It remains to be seen – but he does seem keen on doing it.
“What I would like to have is for (Gay) to be healthy and where we can get a rhythm and a style of play established with he and DeMar (DeRozan) and he and Kyle (Lowry) and that group,” Casey said. “That would be the only thing I would like to have is some continuity going into the end of the year. That way we kind of know what we have coming into next year.”
“We’re such a young team,’’ Casey told reporters. “Guys are going through this for the first time. We have to enjoy the ride, not fight it, not combat it, but enjoy it, playing, getting excited about playing every time we go out on the floor.”
Regarding Rudy Gay, there was some rumours that figured that the Raptors just might shut him down for the season. Apparently that’s all just hogwash.
“The only way I’m going to get shut down is if the doctors tell me I need to stop playing,” Gay told the National Post Tuesday. “I’ve been forced out before, and that’s not something I look forward to.”
The Raptors will be going up against a Hawks team tonight who still has much to play for. With a win tonight, they will officially clinch a playoff berth and edge themselves that much closer to home-court advantage.
The Hawks almost clinched their berth on Monday. However, they lost to the Indiana Pacers 100-94 and trailed by as many as 28 points in the loss.
The Raptors will be looking for revenge. In their last meeting with the Hawks – which happened to be the same day that Rudy Gay was officially signed – they lost 93-92 thanks to an Al Horford dunk with 22 seconds left.
It will be interesting to see how Dwane Casey decides to guard Josh Smith – who is a stretch 4. With Casey’s love for small ball, I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Gay or Fields playing the four spot to guard Smith on the perimeter.
Keys to the game
- Crash the glass. It’s Amir Johnson bobble-head night. That means he’s due for another monster rebounding performance. Rebounds will be key to give the Raptors second chance points, while limiting 2nd chance points for Atlanta.
- Limit turnovers. Against the Knicks on Saturday, the Raptors committed 18 turnovers – many of them unforced. They can’t repeat that tonight if they’re to have a chance.
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- Quincy Acy – who’s been recalled from the D-League – will not play due to a pulled groin
- Rudy Gay will be a game-time decision
- Telfair is listed as day-to-day with a sore back
- The Hawks have won 13 of the last 15 match-ups against the Raptors
Tip-off is at 7 pm Eastern.