Josh Smith vs. Chris Bosh
Next to Kevin Garnett, no player gives the Raptors' franchise player more problems than the baller known as J-Smooth. Smith has both the athleticism and the length to keep Bosh at bay. He has all the physical tools, but Smith's mental toughness has always been an issue. The key for Bosh is to attack Smith and avoid quick jumpers. Bosh has to get back in transition because Smith likes to score on run outs and loves dunking the basketball. With Joe Johnson unavailable (Achilles tendon), the Hawks offence is likely to run through Smith more often, or at least more than if Johnson were healthy.
The Raptors can use some breaks as they try to end a five-game losing streak. They'll catch one Wednesday because Atlanta played Tuesday in New Jersey. Not having Johnson is an even bigger break. The Hawks are athletic, like to get out in transition and have scorers. For obvious reasons, they are not as explosive in half-court sets. Mike Bibby is nursing a sore back and was expected to fill in for Johnson at shooting guard against the Nets with Jeff Teague starting. Teague is quick and Atlanta felt he was a better matchup for Devin Harris. The Hawks don't have to worry about defending a quick point guard in Toronto, which opens the door for Maurice Evans to get the start alongside Bibby, a noted Raptors killer.
DID YOU KNOW
Jamal Crawford continues to be the leading candidate for sixth-man honours. He torched the Raptors for 50 points when he played for the Bulls. No player in NBA history has produced more four-point plays than Crawford, who has scored 50 or more points for three different teams ... When Atlanta pasted the Raps 146-115 on Dec. 2, nine players reached double figures ... In two lopsided wins this season, the Hawks have a plus-16 rebounding edge over Toronto.