Quick Thought: The Hawks are a better team and they played like it for 48 minutes.
The Hawks came out and though the scoreboard indicates the first quarter was somewhat close, but Atlanta was getting to any spot on the floor that they wanted to, it was just that they turned the ball over by trying to be unselfish. The extra pass seemed to keep just missing, but the style of play was sound -- move the ball and get a good look. The Hawks were there.
Defensively, Atlanta held the Raptors to long jump shots, it was just that Toronto made a few in the first quarter. The Hawks showed good movement all around the floor, contested everything and generally kept Toronto off the offensive glass when the game was in doubt, which wasn't long.
Then, after the initially close beginning, Joe Johnson got hot and couldn't stop. What started gently with close shots turned into a one-up contest with himself, gradually moving further and further out and making them over and over. Finally, as the second quarter was coming to an end, Joe got the ball with four seconds left. Soon, a 30-footer was drifting up towards the hoop and a split second later Joe had 24 first half points and the Hawks a 19 point lead at the half.
Everytime Toronto would make a run -- or rather, made some of their outside shots -- the Hawks would be patient and answer. One particular possession Toronto was trying to get the lead down to ten but Tracy McGrady got into the lane, drew the foul, and took some free throws to stop the run and give the Hawks breathing room again.
Atlanta played "U Can't Touch This" basketball for 48 minutes and while the Raptors were a game bunch, they couldn't do anything to stop the Hawks or force them to do things they didn't already want to do.
As indicated, ummm, Joe Johnson was post-toasty in Toronto tonight. Joe had 30 points in 30 minutes on 13-18 shooting. Toronto could do nothing with him, but they weren't necessarily double teaming him either. Toronto has been going with a three-guard starting lineup, but with Johnson being matched up on a smaller guard, there was little hope for the Raptors. After the first quarter, Kenny Gattison told Jerome that 'when Joe shoots and gets no iron right off the bat, it'll be a long night for a Raptor.' Try all of them tonight, coach.
Zaza Pachulia seemed to be in the middle of a few of those early extra passes that became turnovers for the Hawks, but Pachulia shot 5-6 for 10 points a six rebounds in his 26 minutes. He also had the play of the night when he took a pass and got turned around. Before heading out of bounds, Pachulia flipped the ball up backwards off the glass and it went in.
More than most game, Jeff Teague had control of the team tonight. When things got a little crazy, Teague was there to call for the ball and set things up. When the clock was short, Teague quickly got the Hawks into a play and gave the Hawks a good chance in every possession. 5-10, 10 points, five assists and a couple of nice early steals that turned into quick transition baskets and Teague helped Joe Johnson keep the Hawks way out in front.
He was booed as soon as he touched the ball, but Tracy McGrady flashed some of the versatility in scoring and overall game that made him an All-Star. He had a few turnovers, but showed excellent elevation as his went 5-7 from the field and his length clearly bothered his matchup on both ends.
A note on Johnson -- again, it didn't matter who Toronto had out there on the wing, they couldn't shoot against Johnson and the Hawks. DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa combined for 13-41 (32 percent) as they struggled to shoot over the Hawks' collective length.
The Hawks went four out of five on a road trip for the first time since the '68-'69 season. If I give you the point that the winning percentage of Milwaukee, Detroit, New Orleans and Toronto isn't stellar, then you have to give me that surely there have been similar roadies in the past and yet it was 43 years since it happened.
This team is better disciplined mentally to handle the ebb and flow of the NBA game and when a lead gets cut, they've been pushing it back out. Few lapses on either end and they usually don't last too long. Enjoy it, Hawks fans.
UPDATE: Here is the RaptorsHQ recap from the game as well. Here is the tease line: