As things stand in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks currently sit at the No. 8 seed and by a slim margin lead the New York Knicks. The Knicks are three games behind Atlanta, and face some pretty easy opponents down the stretch. This means that the Hawks cannot afford to lose many games, such as the one coming up against the Toronto Raptors.
Atlanta has beaten this team twice before, but that was on their home floor. When the Hawks faced off against the Raptors on the road earlier this season, Toronto took care of business 104-83. However, a few key players sat out for Atlanta in this game. DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic, who are both starters, were unavailable to play due to injuries and it really impacted the outcome. Hopefully, their inclusion in the starting lineup is the difference-maker come Sunday.
With Antic and Carroll both on the floor, Atlanta is a force to be reckoned with as illustrated by their recent five-game win streak that just ended at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans last night. However, when one struggles like Carroll did in the Hawks’ defeat to the Pelicans, the team struggles to come out victorious. He performed well on the defensive end, but it was his offense that Atlanta needed.
The small forward finished with only seven points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field, which included going 0-for-4 from three. Atlanta is a team that relies on the three-ball in order to beat opponents, but with Kyle Korver unavailable to play, this means Carroll has to pick up the production. Besides Korver, he is really the only other three-point specialist on the team, and to beat the Raptors, he has to step it up offensively. His teammates, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague in particular, are in a groove on the offensive end, but now it’s his time to help.
Carroll is far too valuable to Atlanta’s success this season to not show up as the year comes to a close. Beating Toronto on the road won’t be easy, but Atlanta can get the job done without Korver once again as long as Carroll and the rest of the team are up to the challenge.