NBA: Raptors invade Atlanta seeking playoff bid

NBA: Raptors invade Atlanta seeking playoff bid

NBA: Raptors invade Atlanta seeking playoff bid


2010-04-09

The Toronto Raptors find themselves in a difficult spot with just four games remaining in the NBA’s regular season. While tied with the Bulls for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as of this morning, Toronto needs a win in a city it has struggled, Atlanta, all the while hoping to avoid looking ahead to Sunday’s showdown with Chicago. Making matters worse, Raptors star Chris Bosh could be sidelined for the rest of the season. Sportsbook.com has installed the host Hawks as 9-point favorites for Friday’s contest.


Three weeks ago, Bosh helped the Toronto Raptors take advantage of the absence of Atlanta Hawks leading scorer Joe Johnson. While Johnson might be out again Friday night in Atlanta, the Raptors won’t be able to rely on Bosh this time. Attempting to close in on the Eastern Conference’s final playoff berth, Toronto will try to overcome the loss of its leading scorer and rebounder and win in Atlanta for the first time in nearly 2 1/2 years.


Bosh made a 16-foot jumper with 2.1 seconds left in a 106-105 home victory over the Hawks on March 17, while Johnson sat with a strained Achilles’. That shot is one of the reasons Toronto (38-40, 35-41-2 ATS) is still battling Chicago for the eighth playoff spot in the East.


The Raptors will have to beat out the Bulls without Bosh, who’s expected to be sidelined for “weeks” while recovering from surgery to repair a facial fracture. The All-Star forward, whose averaging career bests of 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds, suffered the injury when he took an inadvertent elbow from Cleveland forward Antawn Jamison in a 113-101 loss Tuesday.


The next night, Hedo Turkoglu bumped heads with Boston’s Tony Allen as Toronto dropped its third straight, 115-104. Turkoglu remains day-to-day after a CT scan showed no major injuries.


“When it rains it pours, I guess,” swingman Antoine Wright said. “We’re dropping like flies right now.” The spread losses are piling up as well with 4-14 ATS record after allowing 100 or more points.


Those injuries could hurt the Raptors, who are 6-13 ATS off SU loss, during a pivotal two-game stretch against the Hawks (49-29, 44-33-1 ATS) and Bulls, who visit Toronto on Sunday.


Heading to Atlanta doesn’t seem like a good way to begin as they’re winless in four trips (1-3 ATS) since a 100-88 victory Dec. 11, 2007. The Raptors, though, could have an opportunity to snap that skid if Johnson misses his fourth straight game with a sprained right thumb.


Before the loss in March, the Hawks had won four straight over Toronto with their leading scorer (21.2 ppg) in the lineup, including the first two meetings this season. In the previous matchup in Atlanta, they broke a Philips Arena scoring record with a 146-115 victory Dec. 2. Al Horford scored 24 points to lead nine Hawks players in double figures.


Atlanta, though, has scored 94.3 points per game - 7.3 below its season average - over its last nine contests, topping 100 just once. Despite those scoring struggles, the Hawks have won 10 straight at home (6-4 ATS), their longest streak since taking 20 straight from Nov. 12, 1996-Feb. 12, 1997.


Adding to that run would give Atlanta its first 50-win season since 1997-98 and also help in the race for the East’s No. 3 seed. The Hawks enter Friday tied with Boston with four games remaining for both clubs and they are 6-2 ATS if their opponent cracked the century mark in points in previous outing.


They’ll face a Raptors team that’s allowed at least 113 points in four straight games and an average of 108.7 during a 7-16 stretch. That could help the Hawks deliver a better performance than in Wednesday’s 90-88 loss at Detroit. Against a team that was missing five players, Atlanta blew a nine-point lead, getting outscored 25-16 in the fourth quarter.


Sportsbook.com released the Hawks as nine-point favorites with total of 202.5 in this battle of Eastern Conference clubs fighting for positioning in the playoffs. Atlanta is 14-4 ATS vs. Atlantic Division teams and 9-3 OVER off a spread loss.


Toronto is 4-1-1 ATS in last six road encounters, but 9-23 ATS if last outing was double digit loss. The Raptors are 7-3 OVER after a spread defeat.



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