Friday night wasn't a lot of fun at Philips Arena. The Atlanta Hawks were competitive for one half, despite scuffling visibly throughout, but the ability to stick close evaporated after the halftime break, and the home team was smashed by the Toronto Raptors by a final score of 105-80.
The NBA is a "game of runs" and while that is one of the great cliches of the sport, it was beautifully true in the first quarter. The visiting Raptors raced to a 14-7 lead to begin the evening, but that was just the beginning, as Atlanta followed with an 8-0 run to take the lead. From there, the teams traded spurts, with Toronto scoring 9 straight and the Hawks countering with 11 straight, and when the dust settled, it was (fittingly) a 26-26 score after 12 minutes.
Following that comical lack of symmetry, the second quarter wasn't quite as uneven, but the Hawks struggled to find their way offensively. In the first half, the Hawks shot just 38% from the floor and 29% from 3-point range, and with 11 turnovers on top of that (against just 11 assists), it was the moral opposite of much of the season's success.
Still, Al Horford (7 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) and the duo of Kyle Korver and Kent Bazemore (10 points each despite messy shooting from Korver) kept the Hawks afloat. Atlanta out-rebounded Toronto in the first 24 minutes, and that was enough to stay within striking distance at a 4-point deficit as both teams headed into the halftime break.
Things flew off the rails in a hurry, however, as the Hawks simply couldn't generate anything resembling quality offense in the third quarter. The Raptors sprinted to a 23-4 run that extended their lead to 77-54 late in the quarter, and at that point in the game, the home team was shooting 32% from the floor and 21% from deep with 19 (!) turnovers. All told, Atlanta scored just 13 points (a season-low for a quarter) on 3-19 FG and 0-8 3-PT while turning the ball over nine times in the third quarter, and the score was 77-58 with just 12 minutes remaining.
In saving you the somewhat embarrassing details, things did not improve in the fourth quarter. That is kind, to be honest, as the Raptors led by as many as 35 points while Atlanta utterly surrendered. On the bright side, this gave floor time to the likes of Shelvin Mack (who had 9 points in spot duty), Mike Muscala and John Jenkins, but that was the only positive takeaway.
Ugly stats were numerous in this one. Kyle Korver finished the night with a highly uncharacteristic 3-for-13 from the field and 2-for-11 from three, while the Hawks made just 8 of their 38 three-point attempts as a team. Atlanta also turned the ball over 23 times in total, with a team-wide shooting atrocity at just 33% on the evening.
Nights like this happen in the NBA, but that doesn't make it any more pleasurable. The Atlanta Hawks played arguably their worst game of the season from top to bottom on Friday night, but let's all just remember that this is a team in the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference for a reason.