The Toronto Raptors are hosting the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, and they’ll look to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season. The first two games out of the holiday mini-break have been a little disappointing and cause for at least a modicum of concern. The Raptors are trying to find the lessons in defeat at the hands of a red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder team in hopes of making sure it doesn’t happen next time out.
“The biggest thing is us as a unit understanding the things we have to do to be where we want to be and continue to be a top tier team in this league,” C.J. Miles said Friday. “Winning in their building with them playing extremely well, with a lot of talent, and not shooting the ball well, not playing the best that we could and still having stretches where we could have took control of the game. You look at some of the positive – I’m not a moral victory guy, I don’t like to lose – but at the same time, afterwards you look at the film and you see these are the things you can build on.
The game tips off at 7:30 on TSN 2 and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
The big news before the game was that the Raptors have suspended Serge Ibaka one game for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He will be inactive against Atlanta on Friday. A release from the Raptors indicates that the suspension stemmed from an altercation between Ibaka and a Raptors staff member following Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma City.
“Both parties have apologized. We’ve discussed this internally as a team, and we won’t be discussing it any further,”Masai Ujiri said in the release. “Now we’re focused on moving forward together, and we look forward to having Serge back in the lineup.”
It’s unlikely that the Raptors will say any more about this. Ibaka probably won’t comment, and Dwane Casey will probably echo Ujiri’s comments before tip-off. It’s an internal matter, and while I’ll ask for details, I’m skeptical they’ll come.
Here’s Dwane Casey’s statement on the Ibaka situation. As you’d expect. pic.twitter.com/wU24M2dKZx
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 29, 2017
For Friday, this means that the Raptors will have to juggle their starters again. They’ve tried Pascal Siakam and C.J. Miles in Ibaka’s place in the past, and the guess here is that they go with a smaller look with Miles at the three and OG Anunoby at the four. You could make a case for Siakam, but the two units balance a little better with an extra small starting. I guess this resolves the over-full rotation for another night. If you’re looking for a minutes breakdown, the Dec. 17 game is probably instructive.
UPDATE: Miles starts, as anticipated.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: C.J. Miles, Bruno Caboclo
PF: OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: Serge Ibaka
905: Alfonzo McKinnie, Malcolm Miller
As outlined in the preview, the Hawks are without Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala, which not only thins out the frontcourt rotation but also takes away some of the team’s most commonly used lineup. Outside of the projected starters and that same group with Luke Babbitt in place of Miles Plumlee, Mike Budenholzer doesn’t have an option to go to that’s played even three quarters together. Such is life for a young, rebuilding team that’s dealt with injuries. There’s probably more turnover to come, as the Hawks figure to be sellers in the weeks between now and the trade deadline.
For the time being, the starting unit isn’t bad, and there are some intriguing bench pieces. The key for the Raptors will be preventing Dennis Schroder from getting downhill against their bigs, meaning the team’s defense at the point of attack will need to be better than it has been of late. He only scored 14 points with four assists the last time the teams met, so there’s evidence the Raptors can do it.
“He’s, like, very fast. Explosive guy,” Jakob Poeltl said at shootaround. “He’s the kind of guy you want to take away the drive first, maybe be back a little bit more, force him to shoot jump shots but then you’ve still got to be able to contest those, you don’t want to just give him open shots all night. So it’s tough. You’ve got to fake at him a little but I’d say take away the rim first.”
PG: Dennis Schroder, Malcolm Delaney, Isaiah Taylor
SG: Kent Bazemore, Marco Belinelli
SF: Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry
PF: Ersan Ilysaova, Luke Babbitt, Tyler Cavanaugh
C: Miles Plumlee, John Collins
OUT: Dewayne Dedmon, Mike Muscala
Erie: Josh Magette, Tyler Dorsey
- Voting for the NBA All-Star Game is now open. You can refresh yourself on the voting procedures here. Make sure to hit that hashtag #NBAVote for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (separately – double-player tweets don’t count).
- Bruno Caboclo and Lorenzo Brown are up with the Raptors for this one, and there would seem to be a potential opportunity to get minutes against Atlanta. Raptors 905 have home games Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday, a nice opportunity for their assignees and two-ways to get some consistent work in while still being near the parent team. Alfonzo McKinnie remain on assignment and Malcolm Miller is also with the 905, and any of the four could conceivably get the call-up-and-send-down treatment through Tuesday.
- I overheard someone roasting Miles Plumlee at the ACC before the game (not a Raptors player or staff member), and the person he was talking to needed clarification in which Plumlee he was talking about. I can’t believe they’d talk like this in front of me, a Plumlee.
The Raptors have held as 11-point favorites all day, and the sky-high over-under of 216 hasn’t moved since reaching that point. All offense everything.