Toronto has been playing solid basketball of late — if you don’t bring a genuine effort against them you are in trouble.
Like getting blown out 113-96 kind of trouble, which is what happened to the Hawks on Tuesday night. The loss drops the Hawks to the six seed in the East, tied with the Bulls for the five seed but Chicago has the tiebreaker. If the Bulls win or the Hawks lose on Wednesday night, Chicago will finish in the five spot and face the Nets in the first round, the Hawks at six would get the Indiana Pacers.
Tuesday the Hawks looked like a team trying to avoid being on the Heat’s side of the playoff bracket (which they do as the six seed). Al Horford didn’t play and Josh Smith, Jeff Teague and Devin Harris played limited minutes.
The Hawks also looked like a team that shouldn’t worry about going deep enough in the playoffs to meet the Heat — the physical, defensive-minded Pacers are going to overwhelm the Hawks easily if Atlanta doesn’t bring a radically level of effort. Particularly on defense.
The question about the Raptors is just how efficient their offense will be on any given night with Rudy Gay leading the way, but against the lazy Hawks rotations they looked good.
Toronto took and early lead in this game and generally maintained a small lead through the first part of the second quarter, were able to stretch that out a little, sparked by a ridiculous Harris flagrant foul.
Toronto stretched that lead out to 68-51 at the half as Rudy Gay shot 7-of-10 while DeMar DeRozan hit 8-of-11. As a team they shot 66.7 percent in the first half (they went 5-of-9 from three). The Hawks came out playing with better energy in the third quarter but they couldn’t dig out of the big hole they were in. Then in the fourth the Raptors blew the lead out again.
DeRozan finished the game with 30 and DeRozan had 22.
We’ll see if the Hawks bring a different kind of effort on Wednesday, or if they like the idea of the Pacers and the six seed.