Laptops were shut down. TVs were turned off and cookies were left on the table.
That's what happens in The Official HD Viewing Center when games slip away, leaving the Hawks losing their grip on the lead and the game as they did in the 106-105 late game loss in Toronto.
The Hawks had the lock down on the Toronto Raptors, they of the can't-play-defense reputation. Atlanta led 101-92 with under (4) minutes left on Jamal Crawford's amazing 32nd and 33rd points.
The Raptors, to that point, had played only temporary defense, allowing the Hawks to get open for plenty of open three point looks and trips to the rim. In the fourth quarter, Al Horford asserted himself on the perimeter focused Toronto front line and scored (10) fourth quarter points inside, the last of which gave the Hawks a (6) point lead with 1:37 left to play.
That, however, was the end of Crawford and Horford's scoring--and the Hawks as well.
The Hawks couldn't get the ball into Horford as Bosh overplayed well. They forgot that Josh Smith was effective in the high post, getting his 7th assist of the night the only time the ball ran through him in the final quarter. As stunned as we were watching the game, the Hawks seemed leg-locked as well that Toronto, who had struggled mightily lately, was playing with such desperation and precision down the stretch in this game--one the Hawks had seemed to have in hand.
Instead the Raptors took advantage of the Hawks sudden pause--Hedo Turkoglu had (6) points and a key assist in the final quarter, Chris Bosh scored (8) of his (14) points in money time, and Andrea Bargnani had (5) critical points late in the game that gave TOR their final hope.
Still, the Hawks had the game won if they could just have corralled Turkoglu's errant second free throw up by a point with (14) seconds left. No image typified the final two minutes of the game better than the look of discomfort Marvin Williams had when he found the ball chasing him out of bounds and trying to decide if he should touch it or not. There was no right choice to be made.
With Toronto retaining possession, all they needed was another reversal of fortune, which they got when Bosh, who had been more than adequately defended once again by Horford and Smith in this game, decided to step back and launch a long 2-pointer to take the lead. This time, unlike the 13 of 18 times previously, the ball swished through the net.
The Hawks final play was as hectic and disorganized as the rest of this muddled conclusion. Crawford's final attempt fell way short and the Raptors had the win they sorely needed---taking it right off the middle of the Hawks victory table.
Bright (and uglier) Spots on the Face of the White-Hot Burning Anguish Of Losing a Game That Was Won
Mo Evans was balls-out in this game. We noted in the recap the night before against NJN Evans' aggressive play and it continued in Toronto as he was strong scoring the ball, inside and out, providing (16) points in place of Joe Johnson.
Johnson may have been out of the lineup, but the Iso-Joe was in full effect for two terrible possessions late in the game. Johnson's understudy, Crawford, filled the role vacated by the Achilles-sore Joe. Crawford was high scorer on the night, going 14-25 to get his (33) points, but he missed on his last three shots.
Toronto's gaping 3-point defense allowed Mike Bibby to continue his return to effectiveness (17, 4, 5, 6-11/4-5). Wasting Bibby's (35) minutes of effective work was yet another regret of this outcome.
The Hawks lost their heads early as Bibby and Josh picked up technical fouls and the Hawks gave up (31) Raptor fast break points with some continued shaky transition defense.
Give the Raptors credit in that, in a game they were widely reported to need to win, they flipped the script in a couple of areas that have caused them problems all season. They have not been good all year in Turnover Margin and especially bad since March 1st, but they beat the Hawks 11-5 in that category tonight. This was also true in another sore spot for TOR, offensive rebounding. The Raptors, one of the Bottom 10 worst teams in Offensive Rebounding Margin, whipped the Hawks 12-7 in that category as well.