It’s the result of some horrible circumstances, but the Raptors will play their first nationally televised game south of the border since 2008 when they take on the Hawks in Atlanta tonight.
Start time: 8:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2 (TNT in the U.S.)
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas
Atlanta: Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, Josh Smith, Johan Petro
Toronto: Andrea Bargnani is out
Atlanta: Al Horford, DeShawn Stevenson, Zaza Pachulia and Lou Williams are out
- While the Raptors as a franchise have been on national TV in the States before, many of the team’s current players haven’t been in their pro careers, so it will be interesting to see if nerves get the better of Toronto’s young players to start the game. Amir Johnson was a bit player on the Pistons teams that would have had national television exposure and DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross had some brief experience as part of dunk competitions, but for the most part, the only players on the roster who probably see this as no big deal are Rudy Gay and John Lucas.
- It sounds like Jonas Valanciunas will start tonight. Hopefully the Raptors’ rookie and most prized possession is healthy enough to log heavy minutes and turn some heads around the league, if he hasn’t already.
- The last time these two teams met in Atlanta, the Raptors were hours removed from completing the Rudy Gay trade and were robbed by a blown officiating call in the dying seconds.
- The Raptors are playing their final road game of the season and will finish their 2012-13 away schedule at either 12-29 or 13-28. Either way, their consistency on the road is one of many factors that will have to improve next season if this team is to have any shot at the playoffs in 2014.
- The Hawks are either going to play the Pacers or Nets in the first round of the playoffs, but Atlanta still has some seeding of their own to determine which could decide what their post-season ceiling is. If we assume that the Bulls will beat the Wizards in Chicago on Wednesday night, then the Hawks will have to win both of their reamaining games (vs. Toronto and New York) to hold onto the fifth seed in the East. If Chicago loses on Wednesday, then the Hawks just need a split of their final two games to avoid falling to sixth. Of course, finishing fifth would mean that a potential second round matchup with Miami awaits should the Hawks upset the No. 4 seed, whereas a sixth-place finish would see them avoid Miami until the East Finals. Having said all of that, I only give Atlanta a chance at the second round if they draw Brooklyn in the first round.
- As for the Raptors, the only thing left to decide is what their chances of keeping their 2013 first round draft pick will be as opposed to their chances of forfeiting it to the Thunder. Toronto will finish ninth or 10th in the East and will finish between 19th-to-21st in the overall standings, meaning they will have between the 10th and 12th best lottery odds. Finishing in 21st place will give them a 4% chance of keeping their pick, finishing 20th will give them a 2.9% chance and finishing 19th will give them a 2.5% chance.Regardless, I maintain that losing the pick this year in a very weak draft remains the best option, as the team can then move forward with its own first rounder in deeper, upcoming draft years.
- Is this the last time that the Raptors will play a Hawks team that features Josh Smith?