The Raptors would be another man down as the entered Atlanta for a special MLK Day Matinee. James Johnson joins Jerryd Bayless, Aaron Gray and of course Andrea Bargnani. The writing was on the wall it seemed heading into this one. Demar DeRozan day started out the day on the right foot with the Raptors opening score in this game driving to bucket and getting an easy two points. But by the end of the afternoon DeRozan would be as frustrated as the fans watching the game likely were. He would get a rare technically foul and end up on the bench cooling his jets with 4 fouls. Amir Johnson would also have his issues with foul trouble as well on this afternoon. He quickly had to make an exit in the 3rd quarter with about 9 minutes left. For an undermanned Raptors squad that made it an even rougher afternoon.
It did start somewhat well though with an 11-5 lead in early going in the first. But Josh Smith would be big all afternoon and it started with 8 points of a 10-0 run that brought the Hawks back to take the lead. This would set a pattern for most of the afternoon. The Hawks would seem to turn it on and off proving that they are, both good enough to be good, but why they never will be great. They were the like a cat playing with a mouse before they killed it. Raptors fought back to get the lead down to 4 with the score 22-18 only to see the Hawks pull away again before the end of the first with a 26-18 advantage after one.
In the second despite many foolish and silly turnovers by the Raptors, the Hawks were letting their foot off the gas pedal, especially at the end of the half. After letting a 34-22 lead be trimmed to 36-30, only to go on another 7-0 run and have their largest lead of the game at 13 points. But again they let things slide and only led 50-45. It was a gift the Raptors were still in this game.
The Hawks continued to feed Raptor fans hope and their own fans concern. The Raptors with a less than full roster, and having a few folks in form of Young Onez as spectators were able to hang around. Barbosa was the main offensive weapon, his 22 points off the bench led the Raptors on the afternoon. The Raptors would be just down 2, heading to the fourth quarter with the score 73-71 Hawks. But as often been the theme for the Raptors of late, the 4th quarter was an epic disaster. They would take over 5 and half minutes to even register a field goal. Hawks did enough to close the door outscoring the Raptors 20-13 and finish off the Raptors 93-84.
Raptors 5th loss in a row as they head next to Boston to conclude this 3 game road swing. Josh Smith had the line of the game with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Joe Johnson was not shabby either with 27 points 5 rebounds and 6 assists with a couple steals. Compare that to the Raptors future as Demar DeRozan had just 10 points and was 5-17 from the field. Ed Davis did have a season high 11 rebounds but only 7 points as he was forced to play 40 minutes in part because of Amir Johnson's foul trouble. Johnson did have 13 points and 10 rebounds in just 25 minutes of action. Calderon had 13 points and 11 assists but also 4 turnovers. You can certainly understand why the Raptors are struggling with injuries mounting combined with the schedule that has been challenging. But, if you are not starting to have some deep concerns about this young core that Raptors have claimed they are building, then you must not be paying attention. Is it a product of the new system? Is it a product of having to play harder with a focus on the defensive end of the floor? Is it the fact the Raptors were handcuffed by the lockout and had no control of there young players for the entire lockout? It could be all of the above. But for the Raptors ultimate game plan to work they need a lot more from their young core. That begins with Demar DeRozan and Ed Davis.