This was another “Dwane Casey Special”. The Raptors played hard, kept it close going into the fourth quarter, and then inevitably bowed out to the superior team. Yeah, it was the Raptors’ fifth straight loss, but they only really had a realistic shot at winning two of those games. Plus, ping-pong balls and such.

Thoughts, I’ve got a few…

1. People love to criticize Josh Smith — particularly Hawks fans — but he’s one of my favorite NBA players, particularly in terms of value for the salary if we exclude rookie contracts. He’ll always exhibit a few boneheaded actions per game that drive his fans nuts, but he can wreak havoc at both ends of the court like only a handful of NBA players can. I’ve been lobbying for the Raptors to figure out a way to trade for him for years, but I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed.

2. My early excitement about DeMar DeRozan’s three-point range his been overshadowed by his regression in every other area of his game. As much as I’ve criticized Bargnani over the years, I never doubted that he had the potential to be a great player if he got his head right. I don’t doubt DeRozan’s work ethic and I’m well aware of his proclivity for sweet dunks, but what happened to that aggressive driver with impressive body control around the rim we saw in stretches last season? Over the past two games, he’s played 73 minutes and taken exactly zero free throws. If DeRozan doesn’t remember how to drive, he might have his NBA license revoked.

3. I won’t be the least bit surprised if Leandro Barbosa ends up leading the Raptors in field goal attempts this season. He has to know this team has no shot at making the playoffs and that he won’t be a Raptor next season, so why wouldn’t he jack it up at every opportunity? The sad thing is, he and Bargnani are the only two Raptors who can really create their own offense.

4. I’ve noticed a few people getting excited about Gary Forbes, but he clearly has Barbosa’s attitude with significantly fewer skills. If any of you are pumping him up while continuing to criticize Jerryd Bayless, I’m not even going to try to reason with you.

5. As long as I’ve been writing about the NBA, I’ve lashed out at Canadian sports reporters who compare NBA players to NHL players because they don’t have a better frame of reference. Having said that, Jamaal Magloire reminds me of an NHL player who has no hockey skills but he’s big and fearless and earns his paycheck through sheer physicality. I asked @robpizzola who his NHL counterpart was and he said Mike Komisarek. Does that make sense to any of you?

6. There is only one type of shot that Rasual Butler should be allowed to take, and that is the pump-fake.

Raptors Player of the Game: Leandro Barbosa — 30 MP, 22 Pts, 8-15 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 4-5 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Ast

Hawks Player of the Game: Josh Smith — 42 MP, 28 Pts, 13-19 FG, 2-4 FT, 15 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Blk