Archive for the ‘Atlanta Hawks’ Category

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Nearly every Getty image from Wednesday's game is of a Raptors player driving

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.

Twelve.

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.

Zaza Pachulia

I’m creating this game thread in the throes of a debilitating stomach virus that caused me to chunder like I’ve never chundered before about 15 minutes ago. So why am I doing this instead of lying in bed, moaning softly? Because I care, that’s why.

No bells and whistles on this one, though. I’m skipping the five questions (that’s usually the toughest part of these posts to come up with) and going right to the injuries. OK, I will take the time to point out that the Hawks have won four in a row and they’re red hot from deep during that streak, shooting .494 from beyond the arc.

Injury report

Toronto: Sonny Weems is listed as questionable for tonight, which I guess you could see as an upgrade on his recent condition.

Atlanta: Marvin Williams and Jeff Teague are both listed as questionable.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Atlanta: Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford

I can feel my next hurl coming so no pregame song tonight. Oh boy…

The Atlanta Hawks have had the Toronto Raptors’ number since last season — Atlanta won the 2009-10 season series 3-1 but the Raptors’ win was by one point while the Hawks’ average margin of victory in their three wins was 19.7 points. So yesterday’s 18-point loss was pretty much par for the course. The Raptors got blown out when they stopped hitting their shots in the second half and the Hawks had a comfortable 20-point lead after three quarters.

Three-point shooting was the primary differentiator in this matchup as the Hawks went 8-for-18 from that range while the Raptors only made one of their 12 trey attempts. Poor outside shooting has been an ongoing problem for this team and it shows in their 29th-ranked .308 three-point percentage. It’s tough to compete in the NBA these days if you can’t hit the long ball. Maybe we need Peja Stojakovic for more than just his expiring contract.

Marvin Williams sank a critical dagger with three minutes to go in the third quarter when his three-pointer gave the Hawks an 18-point lead. I know he’s not a renowned long bomber, but that doesn’t mean that Linas Kleiza should simply ignore him on the perimeter as he did here. Credit goes to Josh Smith for setting Williams up with one of his 10 assists that give him a triple double of 12, 13 and 10 on the day.

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Ron Turenne/Getty Images

Josh Smith and the Hawks had their way with the lethargic Raptors

The Raptors came in looking for a fourth straight home win and another Sunday afternoon stunner. The Hawks were less than 24 hours removed from a solid win at Madison Square Garden. Toronto was not expected to get the W, but was at least expected to compete, given the way the season has gone thus far.

So much for that.

The Raptors came out with adequate energy in the first quarter, and traded blows with the Hawks in a high-scoring opening 12 minutes. In the second quarter, Atlanta began to pull away, and the Raps showed signs of settling for poor shots. Toronto ended the half down by only six and were still in a game they didn’t deserve to be in, setting themselves up for a chance to steal one in the second half.

That’s where all hope died.

The Raptors shot a disastrous 3-of-17 from the field in the third quarter, netting just 11 points. Atlanta’s lead stretched and stretched as the quarter wore on, and the Hawks opened up a 20-point advantage to take into the fourth.

It was the Raptors who looked like a team coming off of a back-to-back, as they seemed to stop running and got noticeably lazy on the offensive end.

If someone had told you at halftime that the Hawks would only have 44 second-half points, you probably would have assumed that the Raptors had a good chance for the win. Too bad the Raps responded with only 32.

There was a stretch in the third when the Hawks went scoreless on five straight possessions, opening up an opportunity for the Raptors to chip away. Toronto came away with a measly two points during that stretch.

From an individual standpoint, there wasn’t much to like either. Andrea Bargnani had 12 and five after one half, and looked unstoppable again on the offensive end. He finished with just 14 and 6 after getting into foul trouble.

Joey Dorsey posted a solid line of nine points and six rebounds in just 20 minutes of action as a starter, but his hustle didn’t seem to have the same infectious effect as Reggie’s.

DeMar DeRozan’s game remained questionable, to say the least. DeMar refused to get involved until the game had already been decided. Don’t let his 13 points fool you; 10 came in a meaningless fourth quarter. If DeRozan wants to become a consistent contributor this season, he needs to stay aggressive and earn his teammates’ trust with the ball.

The only Raptor who did set his mind to attack mode was Jerryd Bayless, but he was given just 18 minutes of burn in what was one of Jay Triano’s numerous questionable decisions.

Jose didn’t have it today and it was evident early. Barbosa wasn’t much better. Sounds like a perfect game to see what Jerryd can give you, no? Not according to Triano. The most frustrating sequence came early in the fourth quarter. Bayless is attacking the basket on every possession and at least trying to make things happen. The Raptors are down 22 with only nine minutes left. And Triano goes back to Jose for the next six minutes.

I guess it’s not like Bayless could use those minutes, right? So much for letting Jerryd play.

Another head-scratcher came in the third quarter. Kleiza isn’t doing much offensively, so you figure he has to play well on the other end to warrant staying on the floor. Then, Josh Smith absolutely abuses Linas on three or four straight possessions. Fans are moaning, Smith is laughing and the very next play, Kleiza is still on the floor, guarding Josh again. A young boy beside me, maybe around 12-years-old, looks at his Dad and asks, “why don’t they bench no. 11 and try someone else on Smith?”

Jay, you’ve done a great job getting the best out of your guys this year, but today, you could have taken suggestions from children in attendance.

Lastly, I realized today that most Raptors fans do understand what this year is about. If today’s effort was on display last season, or in a season with any expectations at all, the Raptors would have been booed off the floor, and rightfully so.  But there was a sense of  “this will happen sometimes this season” in the crowd, and other than a few hecklers here and there, the fans were rather forgiving.

Raptors Player of the Game: Joey Dorsey – 20 Min, 9 Pts, 4-6 FG, 1-2 FT, 6 Reb, 2 Ast

Hawks Player of the Game: Josh Smith – 37 Min, 12 Pts, 4-10 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 4-6 FT, 13 Reb, 10 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk

Goat of the Game: Jose Calderon – 30 Min, 3 Pts, 1-7 FG, 1-1 FT, 5 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 TO (Most of the Raptors could have filled this spot today)

Atlanta Hawks

When I think of the Atlanta Hawks, I think of two things: entertaining basketball and kicking the crap out of the Raptors. Toronto did manage to win one of their four games against Atlanta last season, but they also lost one game by 31 points and another one by 22 points. This season, the Hawks are exactly where you’d expect them to be in the standings: in fourth place in the East behind Boston, Orlando and Chicago. Good thing they signed Joe Johnson to that max contract so they can lose in the second round of the playoffs again. I know I shouldn’t throw stones as a Raptors fan, but giving $123 million to Johnson was a really atrocious move.

Reggie Evans broke his foot against the Celtics on Friday and I feel a little bad for him because he was having the best season of his career and he’s in a contract year. On the other hand, this is Amir Johnson’s chance to shine since he’s going to start today and he has an opportunity to start every game at least until Reggie’s return if he can avoid picking up quick, silly fouls. Josh Smith provides a very interesting matchup for Amir and I’m looking forward to seeing who will come out ahead.

Injury report

Toronto: What is it with Reggie Evans and broken feet? It’s not even the same foot as the one he broke last year. Maybe the downside to his rebounding success is that he lands harder than most ballers.

Atlanta: Pape Sy is apparently out indefinitely with a strained lower back. No, not Pape Sow. Pape Sy. No, I’d never heard of him before today, either. I wonder if he strained his back running from a security guard while trying to steal a hat.

Five questions

1. Is the Hawks’ 10-7 record artificially inflated by their easy schedule up to this point? None of their 10 wins came against a team that is currently over .500.

2. Is Al Horford more deserving of an All-Star Game selection than Andrea Bargnani based on their performance up to this point?

3. Will Peja Stojakovic move into third place for career three-pointers today? He’s one trey behind Dale Ellis in the record books going into this game.

4. Have you been impressed by what you’ve seen from Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless so far and should they get more playing time?

5. Is it just me, or do the Hawks seem like the kind of team that might enjoy “White Vegas” a little too much on Saturday night and come out sluggish for an early Sunday afternoon game?

Start time: 1:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Atlanta: Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford

Your pregame is song is “Stand Up” by Ludacris. There’s a pretty good chance I’m going to use a Ludacris song for every Hawks game because he’s from Atlanta and he has a lot of great tracks. Any objections?