The Raptors do not need any help to lose games.
But some asleep-at-the-wheel Atlanta scorekeepers mistakenly aided the losing cause, anyway.
The Raptors were reeling yesterday after news of scoreboard-gate broke. The scorekeepers working their road game against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night mistakenly withheld two points from Toronto on a T.J. Ford layup with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks ended up winning the game 97-93 and if the game played out the same way without the scoreboard screw-up, Atlanta still would have won 97-95. But the gaffe dramatically affected the sequence of events and if the score was right all along, the game would have been tied with 27 seconds left, giving Toronto a legitimate chance to win.
"Right now, I don't know how to feel. I don't know how to feel," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said in disbelief. "The scary thing is let's say we would have lost the game by one, then what? ... Let's say we lose the game by one point and then they go back and realize some kind of way they misplaced two points. Does the NBA come back and award you the win?"
The answer is probably not. But, nevertheless, the Raptors have to accept their share of the blame for not catching the error.
After the live televised scoresheet for reporters and broadcasters went out of commission for most of the fourth, the confusion began. Atlanta's Joe Johnson made a free throw with 4:42 left and the scorekeepers apparently awarded the point to the Raptors, making the score 85-79 instead of the correct 86-78.
Then, Ford raced down the court for his layup. At that point, the scorekeepers realized they had made a mistake on the Johnson free throw and took away the point from Toronto and gave it to Atlanta. But, subsequently, they didn't give Toronto the two points for Ford's layup. The eight-point lead on the scoreboard should have been six.
With 27 seconds left, Ford hit an improbable three to cut the Hawks' lead on the scoreboard to two. But it should have been tied. Instead, the Raptors had to foul and the Hawks held on. In a worst case scenario if the score was right, the Raps would have had a chance to tie or win on the final possession.
"We have no excuse for not picking it up at the time," said Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo, who was not at the game, "but obviously you rely upon professionals -- official scorekeepers, timekeepers and officials to make sure it is all done correctly."
At least one Raptors employee noticed a discrepancy. Assistant coach Jay Triano, Mitchell said, thought there was a problem during a timeout and approached athletic trainer Scott McCullough. But nothing more was done. Raptors radio play-by-play man Paul Jones also realized something was amiss and Mitchell wondered aloud why he didn't say anything at the time. But as Jones pointed out yesterday, he was calling the game from the top of the lower deck.
Interestingly, the play-by-play on NBA.com yesterday showed the score being 95-95 after Ford's three with 27 seconds left and showed the final score as 97-95. But that, unfortunately for the Raptors, wasn't the reality.
"We get stuff happen to us and I'm like, are we that special?" Mitchell said. "I don't know. It's tough man, it's tough.
The NBA is reviewing the incident. The Hawks will not comment until the review is complete.
But as Colangelo said yesterday, "I'm 99% sure there is no recourse."