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TORONTO - Its been a while since the Raptors could genuinely speak about a meaningful game in February but Dwane Casey is not just blowing smoke when he stresses the importance of Wednesdays showdown with Atlanta, his teams final game before All-Star weekend. "Its huge," Casey said of Torontos matchup with the fifth-place Hawks, who sit 1.5 games behind the Raptors for third place in the Eastern Conference. "Its not like in the past where games dont matter. In the past we were building, getting guys experience. Now the games matter." Toronto will go into the break with at least 27 wins for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign and could pad its cushion over Atlanta in the standings with a victory on Wednesday. TSN 1050s Josh Lewenberg and Duane Watson took a look at the importance of Wednesdays tilt at home to Atlanta and finishing the first half of the season strong in this weeks edition of the Raptors Report podcast. Generally, this is one of those games - the one just before All-Star - that coaches fear most, and for good reason. Its just one of 82 and its easy to look past if youre headed to New Orleans for this weekends festivities or eagerly awaiting time off with family and friends. NBA players are only human after all. Perhaps that would be the case against an inferior opponent, a trap game of sorts, but this years unofficial finale to the first half of the season has a different feel and the mentality going into it reflects a new level of focus. "(We have to) make sure we take care of business before we go on the break," Casey said following a light practice on Tuesday. "(Weve) been talking about that now for the last week or so and we didnt do a good job on the West Coast trip of closing out. Weve got one more game before the break and we dont want to take the break before it starts." His troops seem to have bought in. "Before anything else weve got to care of business (Wednesday) against a team were going back and forth with at our spot in the Eastern Conference," said DeMar DeRozan, Torontos representative in Sundays All-Star Game. "Weve got to take advantage of (Wednesdays) game on our home floor and go into the break feeling good." Despite dropping three of five games on the road last week, the Raptors have an opportunity to go into the five-day layoff with some momentum, coming off a 108-101 win over the Pelicans at home Monday. Meanwhile, the Hawks are backing into the break having lost four straight, most recently falling 100-85 to the Bulls, who leapfrogged them for fourth place with the win. Atlanta has failed to break 90 points in three of its last three games, scoring 86.5 over that stretch after averaging 116.5 in the previous four contests, winning three. "Theyre definitely a team of runs, that can get real streaky on you fast," said DeRozan, who scored 31 points in Torontos 102-95 road loss to the Hawks on Nov. 1, the second game of the season. "So weve got to take all that out the game from the start and not give them (any) hope and take care of business from the get go." Hawks centre Al Horford had 22 points and 16 rebounds in the first meeting but has since been lost for the season after undergoing surgery on a torn pectoral muscle. Paul Millsap - who will join DeRozan as a first-time all-star in the East this weekend - has stepped up in Horfords place, averaging a career-best 17.7 points to go along with 8.4 rebounds, already knocking down more threes this season (46) than he had in his previous seven combined. "Hes another example of a guy who has developed his game (and) brought something back to the table every year," Casey said of the Hawks forward. "Hes made some threes in his career in Utah but now hes a consistent three-point shooter. Hes self-made and thats what you respect about Millsap." Certainly you cannot talk about the Hawks and their three-point shooting without mentioning one of the most impressive, albeit under the radar streaks in professional sports right now. With two treys in Tuesdays loss, Kyle Korver extended his historic run of consecutive games with at least one made three-pointer to 119. He broke Dana Barros old record of 89 straight games back in December and is shooting the three-ball at a 46 per cent clip on the season, third best in the NBA. His accomplishment - and the threat it represents - has not gone unnoticed in the Raptors locker room. "Its crazy to do something like that," DeRozan said. "Especially when they know youre a three-point shooter and you scout a guy like that and your whole objective is to run him off the three-point line, make him shoot twos. Hes still knocking down threes, its definitely tough." "Hes a good athlete, its not like hes just a stand still guy," Casey added of Korver. "So were going to have to have a lot of energy to chase him around, to run with him, to move with him and we cant relax because if you lose site of him for a split second its a three-point shot." Three days before defending his Slam Dunk title at All-Star Saturday Night, Terrence Ross should draw the assignment of chasing down Korver, at least initially. As for Millsap, he should see more of a committee at the four-spot, especially if Amir Johnson cant go for the Raptors. Johnson has been nursing an injury to his right ankle since coming down on it in last months win over Orlando. Casey and the coaching staff opted to rest the Raptors ailing warrior in Mondays win - the first game hes missed due to injury in nearly two years - but havent determined his status for Wednesdays contest. Previously it would have made perfect sense to sit him again, extending his rest into and through the break but now, with higher stakes, the decision becomes more difficult. "Hes still sore but were going to see," Casey said. "Right now we need all hands on deck." Kemal Ishmael Jersey . PETERSBURG, Fla. Atlanta Falcons Jerseys . The Gatineau Olympiques head coach will lead Canada in its quest to end its gold medal drought at the 2015 world junior hockey championship held in Montreal and Toronto at the end of this year. http://www.thefaclonsshoponline.com/You ... ns-Jersey/. - Even with a new coach, the Denver Nuggets still love to push the basketball. Alex Mack Jersey .The law passed on Friday, in a 128-62 vote in the lower chamber of parliament, was prompted by FIFA bribery scandals in recent years.Switzerland-based sports leaders such as FIFA President Sepp Blatter and IOC President Thomas Bach are now classed as politically exposed persons in wider legislation covering money-laundering. Devonta Freeman Jersey . Hamels threw seven sharp innings to earn his 100th career victory, Domonic Brown had a career-best five RBIs and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Cincinnati Reds 12-1 on Saturday night to end a four-game losing streak.VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks hit the road for crucial back-to-back games this week knowing full well that their season likely hangs in the balance. With just nine contests left on the schedule and the club sitting four points adrift in the Western Conference playoff race, the Canucks have no margin for error. "Everybodys looking at the standings. We are too," head coach John Tortorella said after Tuesdays practice at Rogers Arena. "All we can do is control what we have. "Were going to keep on trying to battle away here and find points." That begins Wednesday in Minnesota against the Wild before another tough test the following night against the Colorado Avalanche. Both teams are all but locked into playoff positions, something the Canucks can only dream of at this point. While the standings dont look all that daunting at first glance — the eighth-place Phoenix Coyotes were four points up with a game in hand on Vancouver heading into Tuesday — the math tells a different story. The website http://www.sportsclubstats.com, which calculates teams playoff chances, currently gives the Canucks just a 2.3 per cent shot at making this years post-season. Its a stunning slide for a club that has become accustomed to battling for division titles in recent years, not its playoff life. Vancouver has won its last two games over the punchless Nashville Predators and the Buffalo Sabres to stay above water, but the Wild and Avalanche should pose a much tougher test in what could be two season-defining contests. "Weve been a very resilient group. Weve been on the outside looking in for a while now and weve climbed right back up there," said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. "Weve had some tough losses for sure. Theres no hiding that, but we keeping fighting. "Were still here. Were still standing." They might not be after this week. Apart from the Coyotes, the Dallas Stars also stand in the way of the Canucks playoff hopes. Dallas was three points up on Vancouver with two games in hand heading into Tuesday. But if Vancouver can survive the trip to Minnesota and Colorado, the club could have some life with six of its final seven games coming at home. "Im just trying to take it day by day here," said goaltender Eddie Lack, who is expected to make his 14th straight start Wednesday. "I know (Phoenix and Dallas) have a really tough schedule left. We have a lot of home games too so hopefully we can take advantage of that and just do our part here and well see if its enough or not.dddddddddddd." Canucks forward Zack Kassian said the players are aware of the out-of-town scoreboard each night, but added that the daunting task makes his preparation easier. "We know theres only nine and we know that every one of those games is going to be very important for our hockey team," he said. "You definitely look (at the scores) as a team when youre not playing and youre seeing how other teams are doing that youre trying to chase. "At the end of the day if we dont take care of our business and win hockey games it has no effect on us." Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said he cant help but pay attention to other teams results when every point is so critical. "I think you have to right now. We need those two teams to lose a few games," he said. "I think you keep an eye on that, but on game day youre so focused on your own games you dont really worry too much about the other scores." Tortorella and his players both refuse to use injuries as an excuse, but the Canucks have rarely had a chance to ice their full lineup since the end of December. Daniel Sedin returned on Sunday against Buffalo, but the club lost Henrik Sedin the same night, while fellow forward Alexandre Burrows was hurt against Nashville. Neither will make the two-game road trip. "It cant be deflating. Weve been going through this all year long. You get a couple back, another one goes out," said Tortorella. "Its been most of our top guys ... but it cant be deflating at this time of year. We just need to stay upbeat." While refusing to use injuries as a crutch to explain his teams predicament, the fiery coach who preaches pressure in all three zones added that the crowded sick bay has left him hamstrung at times. "The lineup when we were healthy, I think we were a different team. I think it allowed us to play a little bit differently, too," said Tortorella. "When we started getting banged up there ... we had to make some adjustments within our play and it changes things." Bieksa said that despite the injuries and long odds, a belief remains in the Canucks locker-room that the playoffs are still attainable. "Weve set ourselves up to make a push at least," he said. "Were fighting to the end. Were not going to give up." Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter Wholesale Jerseys Free Shipping Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Free Shipping Jerseys Wholesale Cheap Jerseys 2020 Cheap Authentic Jerseys China Jerseys Cheap ' ' '


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