Well I did this game for The Score and after the Raptors had been crushed by the Hawks 96-78 the last time they hooked up. I don't think if I was being completely honest I expected a competitive game that would come down to the final minute. But that is what we got last night at the ACC. Here is how it went down live as it happened on The Score Live Blog last night.
The Raptors would hang around the entire night it was a slow and sloppy start for both teams starting shooting just 1 for 4 from the field. The bad shooting would continue for the first half of the first quarter as the Hawks had a 10-8 lead and were 5-13 from the field while the Raptors were 4-12. Raptors would get out on break and Calderon would hook up DeRozan for the slam tied at 12. Calderon would nail a 3 after the Hawks answered with 2 and Raps had a 15-14 lead. Jamal Crawford noted Raptor killer would come of the bench and nail a 3 ball. Hawks had a 19-18 lead with 2:33 to play in 1st Quarter. Raptors would regain the lead only to have Crawford strike again with another 3 ball and the Hawks led 22-20. Crawford would later get a basket and 1 to make it 9 points in just 3 minutes of the bench. He would add two more before the Quarter ended and he had 11 points and DeRozan lead the Raptors with 9. On the Scoreboard it was 27-21 Hawks with one in the books at the ACC.
The Hawks would maintain the lead and build on it slightly to 35-27. Raps would get things rolling and would go on a 7-0 run to close the gap and force the Hawks into a time out still leading 35-34. This was after back to back turnovers that the Raptors turned into points. Both teams were having trouble and neither could play any kind of consistent defence. Bargnani would emerge and DeRozan would fade in this quarter. Raptors were hanging around as a result of the effort now being led by Bargnani trailing 45-42 with five and change to play. Raptors were also getting a good performance by Barbosa off the bench and had a rare slam dunk off steal would light up the crowd and the Raptors were back to down just 1 with score 49-48. But as good as Barbosa was Crawford was better and he was hitting almost everything he shot. He had yet another 3 pointer and gave the Hawks a 56-50 lead. By the time the half was over he had 25 points and the Hawks had a 60-55 lead at the half. DeRozan was shut out in the 2nd quarter stuck on 9 points. Bargnani had 15 to lead the Raps and Barbosa had 13 off the bench.
The Raptors came out in the 2nd half and to their credit shut down Crawford in the 3rd Quarter where they would shut him out. It was a sloppy start to the 3rd quarter much like it was to start the game. But if one Raptor killer was finally being shut down it was ok because the Hawks had another. Mike Bibby hit a three pointer and the lead was 67-61 Hawks. The Raptors had been playing a lot of zone that was making the 3 point shot available to the Hawks. Risky business but it was working to a degree as the Raptors were still being able to hang around. They would do more than that in fact as they would take the lead 74-72 late in the 3rd. It was their first lead since 18-17 in the first quarter. Barbosa was driving the bus to lead the Raptors charge back and they would hang on to lead 79-77 entering the 4th quarter.
The Raptors would fight and scrap to keep their lead and would hold it till the score was 91-88 and a Joe Johnson three pointer would tie it at 91 with 4:20 left to play. Raptors a few times in this game broke a fundamental rule of defence in basketball fouling a 3 point shooter. Crawford was fouled went to the line and dropped all 3 to give the Hawks a 99-98 lead with under a minute to play. Raptors would respond, with an Amir Johnson basket plus a foul, and he would make that extra free throw too and Raptors led 101-99. Crawford missed a corner 3 to take the lead the Raps got the rebound and it looked like they were going to pull of the upset. But a moving screen on Amit Johnson who seconds earlier had appeared to ice the game. Cue Mike Bibby and he would fire it up from 3 and nail it but he did not wait till the buzzer leaving the Raptors some time for an answer. Out of a Triano time out the Raps would run a pick and roll with Amir and Jose and Calderon drove to the basket with Horford on him. There was not one moment that Jose looked like he had a chance to make the shot. He would not and it was blocked and after a video review overturned the call on the floor and it was Hawks ball with just two seconds left. Some may say Calderon was fouled but in my view he was clearly playing to be fouled and not to make the shot. You can debate about if Horford fouled him or not. But the fact was based on the play Calderon had zero chance to score, and why was the play not for Barbosa who had been on fire. Hawks would get fouled make two free throws that left Raptors a single second. Bargnani actually got a look at a 3 to tie but it only caught rim. The Hawks fly out of Toronto with a 104-101 win.
A tough way to lose but the Raptors just did not execute down the stretch. But this is what happens when you are a young team with a losing record down the stretch some times. Hopefully the Raptors can store away how they felt after this one and the next time they remember that feeling and play hard to avoid it.