The Raptors came into Friday’s game against the Hawks needing a win to close out a 4 game home stand at 2 – 2 after losing to the Celtics and the Nets. A victory over the Bobcats on Wednesday gave them a better frame of mind against a team that had beaten them once this season. With Jermaine O’Neal on the bench, the Raptors needed to find a way to contain the Hawks on the boards and control the perimeter after being torched by Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson. The Hawks were looking to return to the form that had gotten them off to a 6 – 0 start before losing to the Celtics. Since that loss they were 3 – 5 bringing a 9 – 5 record to Toronto and looking to turn the momentum early in the season.
Averaging 27.6 points per game coming in, Chris Bosh has been hot lately with 2 40+ point games and a 39 in the past week. He has been one of the top players in the league so far being 2nd in scoring behind LeBron James and just ahead of Dwyane Wade so far this season. After being stuck in his apartment’s elevator for about an hour, he arrived late to the game and missed the warm up. That is probably a very good thing for the Hawks as he opened a bit cold shooting but had 5 assists in the first half before he scored 20 in the second half ending up with 30 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks for a solid all around game providing yet another example of why he should be considered an elite player in this league.
One of the biggest ingredients this team has been missing thus far this season has been bench play on both offense and defense. Tonight, on a night where Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon struggled offensively, combining for only 11 points, Joey Graham, Jason Kapono, Kris Humphries and Will Solomon combined for 31 points and 13 rebounds. Anthony Parker not only provided 7 points and 2 steals, but he kept Joe Johnson quiet in the first half and held him to 18 points overall. Jamario Moon had perhaps his most solid start of the year adding 10 points and trying hard to contain Mike Bibby who finished with 20 points, but had 15 at the half. Our defense looked solid though at times it still gave up easy inside shots or runners in the lane, over all, most shots, even from outside the arc were contested and that was enough to turn the game around as the Raptors had to fight back from a half time deficit.
Overall, the Raptors must be pleased with the ball control they exhibited down the stretch after the Vince Carter debacle with the Nets last week. I am sure most Raptors fans held their breath as the Raptors held on with solid defense and timely offensive boards and some well executed in-bounds plays. The team showed some character coming up with huge stops when they needed them and some outstanding rebounding at both ends. After some goofy shots on about 7 possessions in a row, the guys got it back together and held off the Hawks.
Let’s hope this can build some momentum going into Sunday’s game in Los Angeles and the Lakers. With a lineup of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, who is not playing and is questionable for the game, and Vladimir Radmanovic and Dereck Fisher, this team is going into Friday night’s game against the Dirk Nowitzki led Mavericks with a 12 – 1 record. This game will be a challenging game as the Raptors will again have a test of their resolve. The next few games for the Raptors will be played against some of the top teams in the league. With the Jazz and the Nuggets up next, it could be a difficult week for the Raptors.