The Atlanta Hawks continue to be one of the most inconsistent
teams in the NBA, but surprisingly, have found success on the road
early in the season.
The Hawks look to improve their Eastern Conference-leading road
record Sunday when they travel to take on the Toronto Raptors.
Atlanta (10-7) opened the season 6-0, but then lost seven of
nine. The Hawks, though, have a chance to win three straight after
defeating New York 99-90 on Saturday and improve to 7-2 on the
road, a drastic improvement from their 19-22 mark last season.
Coach Larry Drew knows that his team is going to experience both
highs and lows, but wants his players to give it their all when
they step on the court.
“It’s called corrective criticism. I’m going to challenge our
team every single game we play,” Drew said. “We’re going to have
some nights when we can’t put it in the ocean, can’t make a shot.
(But) there should never be an excuse why we can’t come out every
single night and play with a high level of energy.”
Joe Johnson, who signed a six-year, $119 million deal to stay
with the Hawks during the offseason, is averaging 17.1 points – his
lowest total since joining the team in 2005-06 – and has been
limited to 12.7 over his previous seven games.
Johnson was held to seven points against New York, but could be
in line for a bounce-back game against the Raptors, against whom he
has scored 23.0 per game while with Atlanta.
Al Horford, who had 17 points and nine rebounds versus the
Knicks, has picked up some of the scoring slack during Johnson’s
recent funk. He is averaging a career-high 16.4 points and will try
for his third straight double-double against Toronto.
Unlike the Hawks, whose 48.5 percent shooting on the road is
fourth in the league, the Raptors (6-10) have fared much better at
home, where they have won three straight.
Toronto had its season-long four-game winning streak snapped
with a 110-101 loss in Boston on Friday night as Andrea Bargnani,
who is averaging a team-best 21.2 points, matched a season low with
Peja Stojakovic, playing in his second game with the team since
he was acquired via trade Nov. 20, went 3 for 4 from three-point
range en route to 13 points off the bench.
“I just play simple basketball, pass, shoot, cut to the basket,
and (at times) we were successful,” said Stojakovic, who has
recorded 19.8 points while connecting on 18 of 34 from long
distance (52.9 percent) in his last four games versus Atlanta.
The three-time All-Star could be in line for more playing time
after Reggie Evans, who is among the league leaders in rebounds
with 12.1 per game, left in the third quarter of Friday night’s
loss with a broken right foot.
“I feel bad for Reggie cause he’s been playing very well, but as
a team we’ve got guys that are ready and able to fill in for him,”
Raptors coach Jay Triano said. “That’s the one positive that we’ve
talked about all year is our depth, and we got to have those guys
step up and play now.”
Jose Calderon distributed a season-high 15 assists against the
Celtics, and has at least 10 in six of his previous 12 games versus