Raptors' struggles continue against Hawks

Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa shoots past Hawks forward Ivan Johnson in Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 16,...

Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa shoots past Hawks forward Ivan Johnson in Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 16, 2012. (TAMI CHAPPELL/Reuters)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:41 PM ET

ATLANTA - It wasn't a carbon copy of Saturday night's loss in Chicago, but there were definitely many similarities to that game in Toronto's 93-84 loss to the Hawks on Monday afternoon.

Hang around for most of the contest? Check.

Fail to get to the free-throw line for long stretches and then don't hit enough of the freebies when you do get there? Sure.

Most importantly, the Raptors again missed a host of makeable shots and committed some bad turnovers to start the fourth, which resulted in another notch in the loss column.

Head coach Dwane Casey even said post-game that he feels like a broken record.

"I thought our guys competed and played hard. We are missing a few of our key players, but our other guys came in and did a good job," he said, sounding an awful lot like he did on Saturday night.

"Our zone was effective and we did a good job at reading and recognizing and forcing them into jump shots."

The problem was, the Hawks -- particularly Joe Johnson and Josh Smith -- are good, and hit the bulk of their shots (a combined 22-39).

"They made their tough shots and we missed ours," Casey said.

Smith, a potential all-star, was unguardable in a 28-point 15-rebound effort. Perennial all-star Johnson added 27 points, six assists and five rebounds along with some good defence on DeMar DeRozan, who shot just 5-for-17.

Leandro Barbosa led the Raptors with 22 off of the bench, Jose Calderon added 13 points and 11 assists for the slumping Raptors, losers of seven of the eight games played over the past 11 days.

Without Andrea Bargnani (strained calf) again along with three others including valuable reserve James Johnson (ankle sprain), Toronto battled hard against another good team (Atlanta is now 10-4), but could never quite get over the hump.

The Raptors trailed by only a bucket entering the final quarter thanks the team's best shooting in quite some time (51.4% at the break, 47.1% after three following games of 34.9% and 37.5% shooting). However, a 6-for-24 performance in the fourth made any thoughts of a comeback moot.

The 4-10 Raptors take on the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday night.

CENTRE? WHY NOT

Ed Davis said he didn't have a problem playing centre, even though in a perfect world, he and Casey would like to see him playing power forward.

"It's cool, I played a lot of five (centre) last year. I know I can play the five so I'm ready for it," Davis said. " I'm naturally a four, but whatever I have to do to help the team win and stay on the floor (I'll) do it. If they need me to play the one (point guard), I'm ready to play," he joked. Davis, like all of the Raptors, struggled to contain Smith early, but actually played a solid game. Davis had ll points, four emphatic blocks and three steals to go with his seven points. The Raptors tried to establish Davis early and Casey said they are trying to bring along his offensive game. The Toronto staff was constantly teaching Davis during timeouts and TV breaks throughout the afternoon.

MORE AGGRESSION NEEDED

DeRozan's demeanour and decision-making on the court can at times be quite puzzling. Early on, he lacked aggression and seemed to disappear after not getting a couple of foul calls. Casey said DeRozan needs to "fight through" the no-calls, continue to attack and not look for bailouts from the referees.

While not directly addressing his early struggles, DeRozan said he and his teammates' problems of late are based not on what opponents are doing, but what they themselves are not.

"We break down, commit turnovers and miss easy shots. Nobody forces us into anything," DeRozan said.

"It's all on us. We just have to be able to execute better. We end up taking difficult shots late in the shot clock and that's one thing that kills us too. We have to do a better job taking care of the ball in the fourth quarter."

It is early, but if DeRozan continues to look disinterested early and struggle with the rest of the group late, his failure to take a significant step forward in his third season will become a large concern for the Raptors organization.

ON THE RUN

The Raptors don't play at a particularly quick pace, but Casey would like to see the team pick up its speed. He implored the Raptors to run on almost every possession in the first quarter. Calderon said the team is getting the message and pushing the ball, but warned that also contributes to some of the turnovers ... Atlanta has won five games in a row against Toronto, eight straight at home ... The Raptors committed a whopping seven turnovers in the first quarter, then only three over the next two frames, but five more in the fourth ... The free throw differential was 16-5 in Atlanta's favour at the half, but Toronto out-attempted the home side by that same 16-5 margin in the third quarter to keep things interesting.


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