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Tip-In: The Rudy Gay Bowl

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Apathy.

I figure that is the best word to describe the city of Atlanta's attitude towards their Hawks.

Which, in a way, is suprising, considering that they came out in droves to see the overrated Michael Vick and the Falcons mail it in on Sunday against the Panthers. But enough about the fans of Atlanta....

On a night with many other options on the menu of televised sports, only the most diehard of fans would tune in to watch this bad boy in real time. (Disclaimer: I actually watched the Game in an Hour Wednesday morning, choosing instead to watch Canada trounce Finland in the World Juniors. Sue me.)

After falling behind by double digits in the third, much like the Indiana game, the Raptors outscored Atlanta 35-17 in the fourth quarter, en route to a 108-97 victory.

The hero was Darrick Martin, alumunus of the greatest college basketball program of all time, UCLA. Martin, pressed into action with Jose Calderon out, shook off a 1-for-5 start (and a 22% start to the season) to knock down two clutch treys late in the fourth quarter to secure the Raptors ninth victory of the season.

Mr. Space Mountain, Mike James, led the Raps with 28 points, while Chris Bosh, whose season-long All Star worthy performance has him singing "Texas is the home of the playas and pimps", chipped in 27 points and 12 boards. Joe Johnson, Al Harrington and Zaza Pachulia each had 18 to lead the Hawks.

Franchise's Breakdown

I feel sorry for Atlanta's coach Mike Woodson. The Raptors played about as poorly defensively as they could for 3 full quarters and still won this game. Somehow Hawks' management has assembled a cast of athletic and talented players who all play the same position and who have no idea how to play a team game and Woodson is stuck coaching them. This was the big difference last night. Instead of sharing the ball, dishing and cutting and running their offence, players settled for out of control drives, air ball jump shots and 1 on 1 play. By doing this, Atlanta turned the ball over time and time again and took ill advised shots thus allowing the Raptors to get back in the game and eventually come away with the win.

Some blame falls on Woodson, however, as his substitution patterns were downright bizarre at times. Josh Smith had a great first half and his rebounding and athleticsm was giving the Raps fits. However he played much less in the second half. Even more puzzling was sitting center Zaza Pachulia for a very long period into the fourth quarter when the Hawks desperately needed his size and rebounding. Chris Bosh had no rebounds at half and a good reason for this was Zaza's inside presence. Finally, and most puzzling, was sitting point guard Tyronn Lue until almost the end of the game. Lue did appear to injure himself on a play at one point but two thoughts then; if this was a serious injury then Lue shouldn't have returned at all...and since he did return, then this WASN'T too serious an injury and therefore can someone explain to me why Woodson opted to sit Lue and allow Salim Stoudamire to kill Atlanta's offence with his point guard "skills?" Sure Salim can drain the 3 with the best of them, but at a crucial juncture of the contest, the Hawks should have had their best distributor and ball handler in the game...or AT LEAST Royal Ivey! Salim promptly allowed Mike James to steal the ball from him while he lazily brought it up court (a high school error) and made bad decisions with the ball on the next two possessions. If I were one of the 18 Hawks fans in attendance last night, I would have been crying for blood.

All in all the Raps did not deserve to win this game but the difference came down to team play. Mo Pete had a great fourth quarter, Matt Bonner did a great job on the boards before fouling out, Chris Bosh and Mike James continued to torch the Hawks and even Darrick Martin got in on the action with his clutch 3's. However for the Raps to beat an Orlando team that gave Detroit all it could handle last night, Toronto is going to have to bring forth a MUCH better defensive effort.

Chapman's Random Thoughts

- Mike Woodson starts Royal Ivey at point guard? Last time I saw Ivey, Hakim Warrick was giving him a teabag at the Final Four in 2002.

- Because you're curious now, Warrick's stats this season: 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game. He's also ranked #4 in the NBA in turnovers per 48 minutes.

- After the Indiana game, the talk in the Toronto papers surrounded Charlie Villanueva being more consistent. Well, after a great 25 and 10 performance against the Pacers, CV Smooth was invisible against the Hawks: 2 points and 2 rebounds in 22 minutes. Worse yet, he was clearly beaten by Josh Smith twice for rebounds that were converted into easy points and his non-chalant pass in the third was stolen by Joe Johnson, who promptly crammed it. I realize that rookies have problems with consistency, but this is really frustrating, especially coming from a player who had consistency issues coming out of college.

- Jalen had a decent (for him) shooting night, contributing 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting. But can he stop jacking 3-balls with no rebounding help?

- It's great to finally see a Raptors coach who can implement the zone defense, even just in spurts. It confused the heck out of Indiana on Friday and Atlanta seemed lost last night.

- Great to see the Big Kitchen, John Thomas, back in the NBA. Gophers fans are proud.

- Gotta say that I love the Steve Nash commercial with Ali G.

- Gotta say that I am sick of the Sidney Crosby RBK commercial.

- By the way, when did Reebok get shortened to RBK? Was Reebok too tough to spell?

- If I'm a Knicks fan, my biggest headache isn't that they wasted money on Jerome James or that they've traded their first round pick for 2006 when it could be a Top 3 selection. No, my biggest headache would be that Maurice Taylor is a member of the rotation. Could someone please put Taylor out of his misery? Please?

Howland's Thoughts

I just have one thought....ok, two:

1. Play some defense....PLEASE.

2. Sign Mike James. If there was a petition I would be the first to sign.