Two of the NBA's bottom feeders went at it last night at the Air Canada Centre, with the Raptors falling just a little deeper into the abyss.
Neither the Atlanta nor Toronto organizations will be printing playoff tickets any time soon, but they did put on a highly entertaining show last night, the visiting side escaping with a 113-111 overtime victory in front of an announced crowd of 15,137. The loss was the fifth in a row for Toronto and sixth in seven overtime games this season.
The Raptors did give it the old college try, fighting back from a six-point deficit with 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 105-105 and send it into the extra frame, courtesy of three consecutive Morris Peterson free throws.
Peterson, who played a solid game for the Raptors with 21 points, four rebounds and two steals, also had a chance to tie the game in overtime, but missed a 17-foot jump shot with less than a second remaining.
"I think I would hit that shot eight times out of 10," Peterson said. "But I don't think that's where the game was lost, though. It was our effort."
The Hawks did show more hustle than the Raps, particularly under the boards, as Atlanta out-rebounded Toronto 49-36, pulling down 18 off the offensive glass.
"We got position, you got to be aggressive, you can't play tentative," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said of his club's problems on the boards. "We have guys that are tentative."
Sitting in the stands watching his team for the first time was newly signed president and general manager Bryan Colangelo, who couldn't have been overly impressed. Colangelo said this week that Mitchell has a clean slate in terms of his future with the team. However, if the game last night is any indication of what to expect for the rest of the season from the 20-37 Raptors, Mitchell better hope they're not playing for his job.
Just prior to Peterson's final shot, Toronto point guard Mike James launched a three-point attempt with 15 seconds left and missed. But the rebound was knocked out of bounds and the home side was given possession.
After Chris Bosh lost the handle and the ball, a diving James regained control and smartly called a time-out with 4.8 seconds on the clock. On the next play, rookie forward Charlie Villanueva inbounded to Peterson, who charged to the basket on the left side but missed, effectively ending the game. The 19-37 Hawks avoided a season sweep with the win.
The Raptors bench has struggled since Villanueva was inserted into the starting lineup and last night was no exception. As a unit, the Toronto bench had nine total points. Atlanta's bench had 35.
James also finished with 21 points, while Villanueva had 25. Joe Johnson and Al Harrington posted 26 points apiece for the Hawks.
Centre Antonio Davis, who went down hard in Miami on Monday, did not dress for the game because of a lower back sprain, nor did forward Eric Williams because of right- knee inflammation.