It was another wacky Hawks game that wasn’t without a physical element. We all kinda expected Al Horford to get a “warm” Torontonian reception, but for the Raptors to more or less ignore it. Then, in the second quarter, Jose Calderon and Anthony Johnson began to exchange words before AJ threw a forearm-elbow smash into the back of the head of Jose, throwing his hands up like he was going, “Who, me??!?” I almost fell over laughing at the ridiculousness of his sell. Looking back on it though, I’m not all that ticked off by the play but he does deserve at least a one game suspension. It was just too outrageous of a scene to ignore especially since it was against Calderon of all people. Granted, it’s not the first time Calderon and another point guard have had some words, but that kind of play has no place in basketball.
However, I’d say that this game was yet another good example of the Raptors finally closing out games and exerting some of their force on other teams. In particular, it was interesting to watch the Raptors start to make some threes in the third before finally pulling away in the fourth thanks to some defensive intensity. It was pretty scary for a moment. The Raptors were out shooting the Hawks by almost 10% at one point, yet still only had a lead of two or three points! Considering that we believed that if this team could continue its scoring from last year and improve their defense, we would have a San Antonio-esque team which we saw towards the end of last season. Just looking at the final stats, the Raptors had to shoot 47% in order to get 89 points!
Nevertheless, it was a fairly hotly contested game as Josh Smith took over scoring duties for the entire Hawks team in the first half, before Joe Johnson finally started to head up in the second. It was the scoring of these two that kept the Hawks from shooting way, way under 40% for the night and you could see Atlanta’s need for a true ball distributor has the game wore on. Hot hands like Josh Smith and Joe Johnson were summarily passed up for others. At the same time, a true point guard would probably have cut down on Josh Smith’s turnovers for the game as well.
The Raptors, though, didn’t really fare all that much better. With the majority of the scoring once again done by Parker, Bosh and Calderon, there has to be some questions if this team will ever get back its balanced scoring touch before TJ Ford’s return. In particular, Bosh has been relied on to pour in over 30 points in every Raptor win for the past week and a half, and one has to wonder how long he can keep such a torrid pace. Tonight, the Raptors have to play the 76ers who have an extremely strong inside presence, but Bosh has already played 40 minutes a game for almost every game this week. However, it’s the presence of an x-factor like Jamario Moon who really turned around the game for the club. With his consistent defensive presence and aggressive play, Moon managed to get five steals and three blocks which accounted for almost half of Atlanta’s turnovers. With the bench being pretty abysmal yet again, it was Moon’s presence that managed to push the Raptors over for the win.
Unfortunately, there’s no time for rest as the Raptors traveled to Philly to face the 76ers tonight. In what may be a very tough game for the Raptors, it’ll be up to guys like Bosh and Moon to get inside and rack up some fouls on Samuel Dalembert. By taking him out of the game, the Raptors should have a fairly easy time. Aggressive defense on a turnover-prone Philly team should also help the Raptors come up with a back-to-back win.
Next Game: Toronto @ Philadelphia
Side Note – I’d like to take some time to make sure that everyone takes a moment of remembrance for the tragic incident in New Brunswick a week ago. We at hoopsaddict.com would like to offer our condolences to the families over this accident, and support Basketball Ontario in their effort to raise funds for the families of the victims.