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(notes), 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(notes), 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(notes), who is averaging a team-best 21.2 points, matched a season low with 11.
“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(notes), 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.”