Raptors not underestimating plucky Hawks
The Toronto Raptors and the Atlanta Hawks are far apart in the standings, but it would be hard to determine going by the last time they met.
The Raptors eked out a 104-101 victory over the visiting Hawks Jan. 8 with former Raptor Vince Carter missing a 3-pointer at the end that would have tied the game.
The Raptors are the visitors Thursday night when they play the Hawks in the third meeting between the teams this season and the second in Atlanta. The Hawks will try to reverse a trend in which the Raptors have won six in a row from them, including three in Atlanta.
That nearly changed in the game last month, and Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce was pleased with his team's performance.
"I don't know how many times I can say I'm proud of our guys," he said after the game. "We squeezed as much out of every person that stepped on the court, so to be down one, with an opportunity and the ball to walk out of here with a victory, that's all you ask for."
"Well, we pulled one out," Toronto coach Nick Nurse said at the time. "We were trying to get away from them, and we never really could, and we were down late there and had a make a couple stops and a couple scores, and we did both of those things. ... Lucky we got the win, it wasn't easy out there tonight."
The Hawks (18-35) are an improved team, having gone 12-12 since Dec. 18. They are 6-7 since the loss in Toronto, but have won two in a row.
The Raptors (39-16) are 8-4 since they beat Atlanta.
Both teams are coming off impressive road wins. The Hawks defeated the Washington Wizards 137-129 on Monday
Carter, 42, scored 16 points in as many minutes, all in the second half, for Atlanta, which finished a seven-game trip with four wins.
The Raptors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 119-107 on Tuesday to complete the season series with a 3-1 advantage over a team that could be a playoff opponent.
Carter became a factor in the Hawks' win Monday after center John Collins left the game at halftime with a cut face. Carter entered the game in the middle of the third quarter and made his first three shots.
"He knew John was out," Pierce said. "He knew we needed every boost that we could get from another guy, and he was that guy (Monday). It's just a lot of fun as a fan. I think the fans here started rooting for Vince regardless of who they were really rooting for."
Taurean Prince scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter for the Hawks, with Kevin Huerter adding 19. Each had five 3-pointers, accounting for half of Atlanta's total of 20.
The Raptors, meanwhile, improved their road record to 17-11 this season on Tuesday against the 76ers, who are 21-6 at home.
"We played really good," Nurse said. "They had some flurries there. I thought the start of the third was a little wild but we hung in there. We had another one at the start of the fourth but we hung in."
Serge Ibaka scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds despite early foul trouble, and has posted a double-double in a career-high seven consecutive games (Jan. 22 - Feb. 5). Ibaka is just the fourth player in Raptors history to register a double-double in seven straight games, joining Damon Stoudamire, Donyell Marshall and Chris Bosh (who did it six times). Bosh had the most recent streak of eight games in November 2009.
Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas (dislocated left thumb) is close to returning but is listed a questionable for the game Thursday. Valanciunas has missed the past 25 games with the injury sustained Dec. 12 at Golden State. He needs one block to tie Amir Johnson (480) for second on the Raptors' all-time list, behind Bosh (600).
Nurse will appreciated the return of Valanciunas.
"Obviously, when we face these big guys, there are matchup issues, it's really important," Nurse said. "I also just think that it gives us such a different feel. All of a sudden we're big and strong, and then we're a little bit more fluid and spacey and there's more space. I like that feel."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 6, 2019