In truth, this was a highly entertaining basketball game from start to finish. Both teams traded blows, there was never a lead larger than nine and the game came down to the final possessions.
I’d like to be able to recap what a great finish we were in store for. Unfortunately, this game was not decided by the multi-million dollar athletes on the floor, but rather by the incompetent officials assigned to them for the night.
If you’ve read any of my recaps over the last few months, you know that I have no problem ripping this young Raptors team when they look awful. You also know that I will sometimes cite officiating as a reason a game was closer than it should have been, or as a small story in the overall landscape of a game. On this occasion, I don’t know if there was any other deciding factor.
I could go through every call the refs blew, but then what is supposed to be a “Mini Recap” would turn into a mega rant.
So we’ll stick to the most glaring mistakes.
Despite not calling anything while the Raptors relentlessly attacked the basket, Joe Johnson was given a three-shot foul because he simply flailed his arms while standing behind the arc.
With less than a minute left, and the Raptors up two, Amir Johnson was called for an illegal screen on Jamal Crawford as Jose Calderon drove to the basket. Not only was the call questionable at best, but the official standing two feet from the bodies in question didn’t blow the whistle. The ref on the other side of the floor, looking through a maze of players, decided he was in good enough position to make the game-changing call.
After that atrocious call, Mike Bibby hit a go-ahead three for the Hawks with about eight seconds left. On what should have been the final drive of the game, Jose Calderon drew contact in the paint. Had it been Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson or any other “star” player driving, you would have heard a whistle. Instead Calderon fell, with no call, knocking the ball out of bounds. The Hawks ended up with the ball and subsequently, two free throws.
There are other things you can look at in the fourth quarter.
Jamal Crawford hit a ridiculously deep three-pointer with the shot clock expiring that seemed to turn the tide in the dying minutes. Mike Bibby was able to create space for himself to catch and shoot the eventual game-winning shot. Andrea Bargnani missed a desperation three at the buzzer that could have sent the game to overtime. The refs had nothing to do with these plays, obviously. But the fact of the matter is that this game should never have come down to those plays.
The Raptors played above their heads for most of the night, fought hard against a clearly superior opponent, and deserved the upset win. I lost count of how many times DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Leandro Barbosa and others were fouled around the basket with no call.
Perhaps instead of ranting and raving about all of this, I should just reveal the most telling stat of the night: The Hawks attempted 31 free throws, while the Raps were rewarded with just 12 trips to the charity stripe.
And if you foolishly believe that the Hawks deserved that advantage because they were more aggressive inside, then consider this next stat. Toronto outscored Atlanta 60-38 in the paint. You don’t dominate the paint like that unless you are taking it to the hole on most of your possessions.
This isn’t even about a win or a loss. In the grand scheme of things, this might be the difference between the 10th and 11th spot in the East for the Raptors. But it’s about the principle of the matter, and that is that officiating has become the biggest flaw in the NBA.
While the players union and owners engage in a back and forth battle over salaries, basketball-related income, caps and other business-related jargon, perhaps they should find a way to fix the officiating, which has become a black cloud hanging over the game.
From an individual standpoint, Barbosa looked better than he has at any point this season. He knocked down some contested jumpers, but scored most of his points by getting to the basket with ease. Andrea Bargnani didn’t look his best, but still poured in 26 points on 12-of-22 shooting.
Lastly, I’d like to mention DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan scored all nine of his points in the first quarter, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Aside from Barbosa, DeMar attacked the basket like no other Raptor. Despite drawing heavy contact on nearly every drive, he was given one measly free throw attempt.
So before this post comes full circle and I begin to rant again, I’ll end it here.
Raptors Player of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 30 Min, 26 Pts, 11-16 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 3-3 FT, 4 Reb, 5 Ast, 3 Stl
Hawks Player of the Game: Jamal Crawford – 34 Min, 36 Pts, 12-23 FG, 4-11 3Pt, 8-8 FT, 3 Reb, 2 Ast
Goat of the Game: Anyone who stepped on the floor wearing black pants and a grey shirt.