The Toronto Raptors are among a handful of teams with legitimate aspirations of winning the Eastern Conference this season and are trying to decide what they want to accomplish in front of Thursday's NBA trade deadline. The Raptors, who currently occupy the No. 2 spot in the East, will go for a third straight win when they visit the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday.
Toronto reportedly put point guard Kyle Lowry on the market in a potential deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, and the All-Star is taking it all in stride. "No, I haven't heard anything," Lowry told ESPN. "Reassurance would be great, but at the end of the day, they don't have to call me. My job is, as a player, to go out here and do my job. If they want to call me, that'd be great. I would appreciate it. But if they don't, I understand. It's a business. I know that's such a cliche, but if they wanted to call me, I'm sure they would. I've been here six years, and I've given a lot to this organization. I'm sure if they were going to trade me, they'd say, 'Hey, Kyle, this is what's on the table.'" The Hawks and the NBA gave the NFL some room by embarking on a seven-game road trip while the Super Bowl took over Atlanta and are returning home Thursday for the first time since Jan. 21. The Hawks went 4-3 on the trip, finishing it out with consecutive victories at Phoenix and Washington.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, TSN 1/4 (Toronto), FS Southeast (Atlanta) LINE: Raptors -8.5
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (39-16): Lowry collected 20 points and six assists in a 119-107 triumph at fellow East contender Philadelphia on Tuesday, hours before the 76ers improved themselves by trading for small forward Tobias Harris. Toronto is trying to prove it can contend while trying to entice small forward Kawhi Leonard to sign with the team long term, and Leonard managed 24 points on Tuesday despite going 3-of-11 from the floor. Leonard, who will join Lowry in the NBA All-Star Game, scored 20 or more points in 23 of the last 25 contests.
ABOUT THE HAWKS (18-35): Atlanta is at the start of a rebuild and is getting encouraging signs from multiple young players, but one of the few veterans on the team still finds time to make an impact occasionally. Vince Carter, 42, could find himself on a contender after the trade deadline but for now is thrilling his young teammates with performances like Monday, when he bounced back from three straight scoreless games by pouring in 16 points in as many minutes on 6-of-8 shooting at Washington. Carter knocked down four of the team's 20 3-pointers while rookies Kevin Huerter (5-of-6) and Omari Spellman (4-of-6) also had big games from beyond the arc.
1. Hawks rookie PG Trae Young went 2-of-13 from the floor on Monday, snapping a streak of five straight games with at least 23 points.
2. Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) has been out since Dec. 12 but could return Thursday.
3. Toronto is enjoying a six-game winning streak in the series, including a 124-108 victory at Atlanta on Nov. 21.
PREDICTION: Raptors 115, Hawks 103 Bet Now
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