Could be a bit of a letdown game for the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night as they make their final visit of the season to Atlanta. There also could be some players missing following the NBA trade deadline.
UPDATE: The Toronto Raptors traded for three-time all-star Marc Gasol in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, and a future second-round pick. Check out our full rundown of the NBA trade deadline with updated odds.
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Why could this be a bit of a letdown game for the Raptors? They have played three good teams in a row and are off a big win at Philadelphia on Tuesday. Plus, they visit the Knicks next up. Sure, the Knicks are putrid this season but it’s still a big deal for guys when they play at Madison Square Garden. Also, remember that Thursday is the trade deadline in the NBA, so some players on both sides could be out if dealt.
This closes the season series against the Hawks, who are also among the league’s worst teams and a sieve on defence. Toronto won in Atlanta on Nov. 21, 124-108, behind a 21-point, 17-assist, 12-rebound triple-double from Kyle Lowry, and 24 points and 13 rebounds from Jonas Valanciunas. Kawhi Leonard was out. Also notable that night was former Raptors great Vince Carter reaching 25,000 career points. Presuming he does retire after this season, this will be his last game against Toronto.
The Raptors beat the visiting Hawks 104-101 on Jan. 8 as Serge Ibaka hit the game-winning basket with 17 seconds left. Leonard had 31 points, while Atlanta turned it over a whopping 27 times. Hawks rookie point guard Trae Young has struggled in the two games vs. Toronto, averaging 12.5 points and shooting just 37 per cent overall and 16.7 per cent from deep.
Toronto has won six straight overall in the series. The Raptors are 6-2 ATS in their past eight trips to Atlanta.
We will have to assume that Lowry is on the team by Thursday night amid rumours he has been offered along with Valanciunas in a package deal for Memphis’ two best players, point guard Mike Conley and centre Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies are going to want more than that. Lowry is a fine player, but getting Conley and Gasol would make the Raptors better. It’s possible that Valanciunas returns from his long injury absence for this game if he’s still on the roster. Toronto was very impressive Tuesday in a 119-107 victory in Philadelphia. Lowry, a Philly native, returned after missing a game with a sore back and had 20 points and six assists. Ibaka had his seventh straight double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Sixers got much better on Wednesday with a trade for the Clippers’ Tobias Harris. Will that spur Toronto to do something?
The Hawks never should have traded Luka Doncic for Young at the 2018 draft. Young likely will be a good player, but Doncic looks like a transcendent talent and is the clear NBA Rookie of the Year favourite. Young is averaging 16.8 points and 7.4 assists but struggling from the field. At age 42, Carter only averages 15.8 minutes and 6.5 points per game but comes off a 16-point effort in Monday’s 137-129 upset in Washington. It was Atlanta’s second straight win – it has reached three in a row just once. John Collins, the team’s best player these days, had 15 points and 11 rebounds for his 21st double-double but left at halftime due to a cut on his face. He should be fine to play Thursday. The Hawks have a handful of guys (not Young or Collins) they might trade by Thursday afternoon. Atlanta has failed to cover its past six on Thursday.