Toronto Raptors can win the Atlantic division after impressive opening night

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The Toronto Raptors began their season with a thrilling 109-102 home win against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night. The Raptors are hoping to build on their incredible 48 win season last year.

The organization has done a wonderful job re-signing several of the team’s core players. Amir Johnson, Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross proved their worth on opening night in a big way.

Solid Performance

All the Raptors starters fed off the energy from the home crowd and relentlessly attacked the Hawks. Johnson led the way with 16 points, converted rebounds and protected the baseline on the defensive end.

Lowry tallied eight points and 10 assists in the game. Ross went 3-5 from three point range and ended with 13 points. The Raptors led by as much as 10 points late in the first half. However, Jonas Valanciunas got into foul trouble and as a result the Hawks were able to fight back.

Atlanta’s Kyle Korver went 6-7 from three point range and Jeff Teague’s 20 points allowed the Hawks to launch a comeback in the second half. However, a critical timeout late in the second half allowed head Coach Dwayne Casey to get his team back on track to win the game. The Hawks ability to almost complete the comeback speaks to the need for the Raptors to continue working on strengthening their defense. The Raptors had their 15 point lead cut to just seven late in the game.

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Moving Forward

The Raptors must find a way to keep up the defensive intensity throughout the entire game. Johnson and DeRozan did a wonderful job blocking shots and forcing turnovers in the first quarter. But the defense wavered as the game went on. The Hawks got way too many clean looks from the three point position. I’m sure that’ll be the first thing Casey points to and looks to improve on as the season progresses. 

Jonas Valanciunas needs to smarten up and learn to keep his composure. His two early fouls could’ve cost the Raptors the game. The Raptors need him to be a front runner this season and they can’t afford to accumulate early fouls against the stronger teams in the Eastern Conference. Regardless, the home side Raptors got the job done, and Valanciunas made up for his mistakes, ending the game with 17 points to his name.

Overall, this was a fantastic opening night for the Raptors. Everybody stepped up and found ways to contribute. When the starters struggled, James Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough and Greivis Vasquez provided some secondary scoring options.

This is still a very young team, but the players did show some improvement defensively against the Hawks. If they can build on this win and continue to find creative ways to accumulate points, the Raptors will challenge for a division title again this season.

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