The Hawks sure didn't make it easy.
The Raptors' got their first road win of the season last night over the Atlanta Hawks but not before the Raptors gave up leads of upwards of 12 points at various stages in the game to keep this one a fight to the finish. The Raptors got clutch play however from Chris Bosh and Charlie Villanueva down the stretch and a little luck to close out the deal. With the Raptors up by a basket with seconds remaining, Joe Johnson stepped out of bounds on his open drive to the basket thus turning the ball over for Atlanta and perhaps costing the Hawks the game. Mo Pete was fouled on the ensuing possession and knocked down both free throws for a 4 point lead. Salim Stoudamire hit a 3 at the buzzer for Atlanta but it was too little too late and the Raptors won 102-101.
Charlie Villanueva - CV Smooth had his best game in a while for Toronto pitching in 22 points and 10 rebounds off the bench including 6 points in the last 3 minutes and the winning layup off a Jose Calderon pass on a beautifully drawn up play by coach Sam Mitchell. CV Smooth was a monster on the offence boards again and even when he didn't get his hands on the ball, he was fighting in the area. He still finds himself out of position at times on defence but as we've said before, this will come with experience.
Chris Bosh - CB4 was his steady self leading the Raptors with 23 points. He also had 9 rebounds and was vocal all night long in trying to keep his team focussed. He also went 7 for 7 from the free throw line and without his play this season, the Raptors wouldn't even be IN the majority of the games they've played.
The Raptors Offence - Toronto got one of its more balanced efforts of the season on offence with 6 players scoring in double figures. The Raps shot well from the field and even Jalen Rose had one of his best games of the season in limited minutes. Rose had 15 points, Calderon had 10, Mike James had 13 and Mo Pete had 15 and getting balanced scoring, especially from the bench, will be key in trying to beat the New Jersey Nets and their high powered offence tonight.
The Atlanta Hawks organization - As a Raptor fan, it's tough to see the team struggle like they have this season. However looking at last night's contest really should make Toronto fans feel a lot better about their team and its future. The Toronto press constantly bemoans the Raptors' attendance and that GM Rob Babcock does not have an actual plan for this franchise...seeing this Hawks franchise puts things into perspective. There MAY have been 4000 fans at the game last night. On top of this, watching Atlanta just makes you wonder what is going on in the front office. Joe Johnson had a career night against Toronto last night but is he really the leader this team needs? He seems to be more of a complimentary piece and the Hawks did give up a lot to acquire him regardless...especially considering that many of their recent acquisitions play the same position. And what about Marvin Williams? Yes, he may take some time to develop as he didn't even start for North Carolina...but was this the right choice to make at last year's draft? With the way Chris Paul is playing for the surprising New Orleans/OK Hornets, you can't help but wonder how much better this team would have been right now had they drafted him over Williams. And while the Raptors selection of Rafael Araujo has been much maligned, what about Atlanta taking Josh Childress 6th overall in that same draft? Childress has shown flashes at times much to the same extent that Hoffa has, but he just doesn't look like an NBA player. And with Marvin Williams, Al Harrington, Joe Smith and Josh Smith all capable of playing the same position, where does he fit on this team? I feel that Childress' game is similar to that of former Hoosier and current Wizard Jared Jefferies...a jack of all trades but master of none. And speaking of Josh Smith, yes he can dunk and is extremely quick and athletic...but was Jay Bilas right in saying that the kid needs to learn a jump shot after his selection in the 2004 draft? At one point last night he had a baseline attempt that missed the basket by a good foot! He simply hasn't rounded out any other elements of his game. However that being said, this team is even younger then Toronto on average and there is still lots of time for them to develop. But with only 4000 fans attending a game, you have to wonder how long some of them will stick around to complete this development.
Toronto's Defence - Had the Raptors lost this game it would have been due to the Raptors' complete lack of defense at times in the fourth quarter. Sam Mitchell must have been ready to shoot someone on a few occasions when the Hawks continuously got easy dunks and layups and at some point this season the rookies are going to HAVE to start playing better position basketball if the Raptors are going to secure some of these close games. Had we lost last night's match it would have been a crushing blow to the franchise for the remainder of the season. Now however the Raptors might be able to build on last night's win and go into New Jersey to steal one against their former mates Vince Carter and Lamond Murray. The Nets have been one of the league's more disappointing teams this season and already the New York press is wondering what happened to last season's Vince Carter...something all too familiar to Raptor fans. With Bosh and CV Smooth going at full tilt the Raptors should have an advantage inside and must do a good job on the boards to secure the win. Toronto outrebounded Atlanta and should be able to do the same thing tonight. The key though will be to contain Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson and get productivity from the bench to offset New Jersey's big 3.