ATLANTA - Had the Raptors brought the same energy and sense of urgency against Golden State, a golden opportunity would not have gone to waste.
Had they played together on nights when they were disjointed, their current plight would have been avoided.
Perhaps the way they refused to quit Friday night in Dixie will help the Raptors as they ready themselves for the biggest three-game stretch of the season.
Perhaps the way they rallied around Antoine Wright after he sprained his left ankle late in the third quarter shows much-needed unity.
All that’s at stake is a spot in the post-season and a chance to salvage a season.
Toronto wasn’t expected to beat the host Hawks and it didn’t, succumbing 107-101.
A second-quarter domination was all Atlanta needed, but there was resistance and a resolve with the Raptors for most of the night.
The Raptors just aren’t as good as the Hawks, bottom line.
The loss, Toronto’s fourth in a row, dropped the Raptors one-half game behind the Bulls, who played Friday night in New Jersey, for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
The Bulls pay a visit to the Air Canada Centre Sunday night in what is shaping up as a must-win for the reeling Raptors, who hold the tiebreaker in the event of a tie.
Friday’s game could not have started worse for the Raptors.
Two possessions became two turnovers and a quick early deficit, but the opening quarter could not have ended better for the visitors.
The early errant passes were replaced by passion and cohesion, good ball movement and execution.
It helped that Atlanta was cold from the floor, but to cite the Hawks’ inability to make shots would be to dismiss Toronto’s defence, which was good for a change.
The quarter ended on a 9-0 run and a 25-14 Raptors lead.
With so many injuries, it was anyone’s guess what group Jay Triano would trot out against the high-flying Hawks.
Triano started Sonny Weems, who picked up two quick fouls, at shooting guard and the offence actually ran through his hands.
Jose Calderon was at the point, while the frontcourt consisted of Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson and Hedo Turkoglu.
Turkoglu, who broke his nose Wednesday night against Boston, was wearing a protective device conceived by the same Indianapolis-based company that fitted the Turkish-born baller earlier in the season to shield an orbital bone injury.
At first, it was believed Turkoglu would don a contraption he wore two years ago when he initially broke his nose as a member of the Magic.
In fact, the Raptors received an overnight delivery from Orlando, where officials had in storage the original mask worn by Turkoglu.
Regardless, Turkoglu looked good, as far as handling the ball and making decisions.
What happened to the Raptors after the first quarter was a case of too much Jamal Crawford, a byproduct of a superior team imposing its will against an inferior foe.
When players of Crawford’s ilk get it going, teams are helpless.
Crawford was lighting it up, even when a hand was in his face, from every spot on the floor.
He was in such a rhythm and in such a zone, it’s surprising he even missed.
Crawford capped a 45-point quarter, the most the Raptors have ever yielded in a second quarter, for the Hawks by completing a four-point play.
Just as quickly as Crawford releases the rock, the Raptors went into the break down 59-47.
Simply put, the Raptors allowed too many run-outs and too many second-chance opportunities by failing to protect the glass.
Offensively, they weren’t very smart in their decision-making.
Reggie Evans is not a low-post presence and yet Calderon fed him the ball on a sequence that resulted in an Evans heave that went over the backboard.
Even when they’re at full strength, the Raptors don’t have the necessary athleticism to match up against a team such as the Hawks, who have posted a 50-win season for the first time in more than a decade.