Instant Reaction: Hawks 104, Raptors 101

Quick Thought:  Whew. Thank goodness for instant replay.

Summary:

The problem with things coming easy is that if you set your course based on what has come so easy, you often have trouble changing course when the environment changes.

The Hawks built an early lead in Toronto by attacking their guards with Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, and there was much success, especially in the first half, when Crawford scored (25) first half points and the Hawks built their lead.

But the Raptors adjusted defensively (zone) and the Hawks struggled to continue to be aggressive on the offensive end, going from 11 assists and 5 turnovers in the first half to 8 assists and 9 turnovers in the second half. 

Meanwhile, the Raptors, after successfully stopping the bleeding that Jamal was causing, started to gash the Hawks with Leandro Barbosa. Barbosa attacked the Hawks furiously for the (30) minutes he was on the court, and the Hawks could not deter his scoring, allowing the former Sun to go 11-16, with many of those field goals coming on layups that even Al Horford and Josh Smith could not deter. 

The Hawks, who had led for most of the game and up 70-61 at one point in the third quarter, found themselves down two when the fourth quarter began. The Raptors held that slim margin for most of the fourth, and might have kept on holding save for the oddity of fouling the Hawks while shooting a three pointer not once, not twice, but three amazing times in the fourth quarter (Jamal twice, Joe once). 

Down the stretch, the Hawks and Raptors trades blows. Andrea Bargnani, who played a splendid offensive game, put the home team up by four with 2 minutes left on consecutive makes,  but then Crawford made a 30 footer to cut it to one. Then DeMar DeRozan coughed up the ball and a few seconds later, Horford was cashing it in to put the Hawks ahead.

Bargnani answered with a three of his own, but then Jamal calmly nailed all three free throws after DeRozan's second three point fouling offense of the quarter.

It was then Amir Johnson gave to the Raptors, and took it away. After converting a three point play, the Hawks missed consecutive shots and the Raptors had the ball, up two, with 30 seconds to play. The Hawks elected to play it straight, no fouls, and the Raptors ran their pick/roll again. This time, however, Amir put a little too much movement into his pick, committing an offensive foul that gave the Hawks a chance. When Mike Bibby curled off a pick at the top of the key, like his killer shots against the Magic earlier this season, and drained it with (8) seconds left, the Hawks held the one point lead. 

After watching Barbosa and Bargnani score fairly easily all night, it was odd to see Jose Calderon attempt to challenge Horford inside on a drive. If he was hoping for a foul, it didn't come, as Al snuffed out Calderon's shot, and two Joe free throws later, the Hawks escaped.

The Stars:

Admit it, you were thinking of (40) when Jamal Crawford suddenly had 25 first half points. Crawford was definitely on against the Raptors (12-23, 36 points), getting to the hoop and cashing in those pleasing three pointers. And it was a good thing he was that hot, too, as he needed every point just to maintain a positive +/- on a night where Barbosa was giving it to Jamal as good as Jamal was dishing it out himself.

Continuing on the theme, Joe Johnson took advantage offensively, too, at least as well as he was getting hurt defensively. Joe ended up with a 10-20 (26 points) night.

Also:

Want to know how big those (3) three point fouls were in the lining of the Hawks win? The Hawks were outshot in the second half, 13-34 versus 19-38 by Toronto. In the fourth quarter alone, the Hawks gave up two more baskets than they scored (10-8). But the combination of a couple of extra threes (3-1) and those key free throws (10-12 vs. 3-3) made just enough of a difference.

I would take some space to rail against Al Horford getting only (7) shots in a game where he played 37.2 minutes (5-7, 10 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks), but until he stops thinking he's got Reggie Evans' game out there and passes up open lanes and open shots with less than (7) seconds left on the shot clock, he's officially taken the keyboard out of my hands. His passive play may be costing him a second All-Star game appearance. 

If Al could just have some of Josh Smith's lack of conscience (3-15, 0-3, 3-4), the Hawks would be better off for it.

It all started so well for Jeff Teague.....he, too, was attacking the weak Raptor defensive guard play and getting to the line with a couple of quick, decisive takes. But then he did the amazing, allowing Jarred Bayless to steal the ball as he was running to half court to call a time out and was yanked from the game.

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