Raptors top Hawks; Ford taken off in stretcherDec 12, 2007 - 4:36 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- T.J. Ford denied the Atlanta Hawks a chance to go over the .500 mark. But his stellar game was marred by a serious injury.
Before getting taken off in a stretcher in the final minutes, Ford scored 26 points and Chris Bosh added 20 and 13 rebounds to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 100-88 victory over the resurgent Hawks on Tuesday.
Jose Calderon chipped in 15 points and Anthony Parker scored 12, nailing three 3-pointers, for the Raptors, who have won two straight.
However, their stellar play was overshadowed by an ugly injury to Ford, who was carted off after Hawks rookie forward Al Horford nailed him in the head - snapping his neck back.
It all happened when Ford picked Atlanta guard Joe Johnson's pocket and went down the court for the fast-break layup.
Horford met Ford, who has a history of neck and spinal injuries, behind the bucket and struck Ford with a forearm to his forehead, sending the point guard to the floor.
He landed on his left arm as his neck came crashing to the floor and laid motionless on the court while Horford was whistled for a flagrant-2 foul and ejected.
"I just tried to go and block the shot," Horford said. "When he went up, I went up to try to block it. He made a good move and it kind of fooled me. I really thought he was going to lay it up on one side and it he went up on the other side."
"It was frightening to see T.J. go down," Bosh said. "I had a pretty good view, and it was one of those plays where he got hit hard and he hit his head on the way down. We just hope he's OK."
Bosh and some of his teammates didn't think the foul was intentional.
"T.J. went to the basket under control and, unfortunately, Al just mistimed (the block)," Bosh said. "I don't think he meant to do it on purpose. He was just making a basketball play."
"I definitely don't think it's intentional," Parker added. "But, it's just one of those things where you think, 'Why?' A minute and a half left in a game, maybe you let the guy (score). It was a great move. (Ford) changed his hands and went for the reverse layup."
According to Raptors media director Jim LaBumbard, Ford, who missed the final 26 games of the 2003-04 season and the entire 2004-2005 campaign after undergoing neck surgery for a bruised spinal cord, had feeling in both his lower and upper extremities.
He was taken to Piedmont Hospital for further evaluation, where he is expected to stay overnight while the club travels back to Toronto to face the Dallas Mavericks.
"Our thoughts are with (Ford, the person) first - not T.J. the basketball player," Parker said. "It's tough. It makes you not want to play anymore after that."
It all came after a great game for Ford, who tallied eight of his 19 first-half points in a 26-7 run to close out the half. Ford capped the scoring with a pretty finger roll layup with 1.9 seconds remaining in the half to give the Raptors a 54-43 lead.
Prior to his injury the Hawks' defense could not stop Ford, who victimized Atlanta all night.
Bosh connected on two free throws and Ford hit an acrobatic jumper from behind the basket on the right sideline to help thwart Atlanta's 8-2 run to start the third quarter.
"I don't think we were playing our coverages correctly, and he took advantage of it," Hawks forward Marvin Williams said. "He didn't miss but three or four shots all night. He obviously had a great game."
The 6-foot Ford connected on 11-of-15 shots from the field and dished eight assists, while Bosh, who played collegiate ball a few miles down the road at Georgia Tech, was 8-of-17 from the field.
"T.J. was probably having his best game of the season," Bosh said. "We just hate to see him go down like that."
The Hawks cut their deficit to 69-68 on Acie Law IV's jumper as time expired in the third quarter, but the Raptors scored 13 of the first 16 points of the fourth quarter to put the game way.
The Hawks (10-11) were soaring entering this one, winning seven out of their last 10 games to get to the .500 mark for the first time this season.
It was the latest in the season that the club, which has been the poster child for futility this side of the millennium, had been over that mark since Atlanta made its last playoff appearance following the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season.
And for a quarter and a half, it looked like things were going to go the Hawks' way.
With the clock winding down in the opening period, Law uncorked a wild pass that missed its intended recipient. But the ball trickled to Williams, on the left sideline.
The 21-year-old Williams then buried a 22-foot jumper a few steps from the Hawks' bench at the buzzer to give Atlanta a 21-19 lead.
Atlanta built its advantage to as many as seven, taking a 35-28 lead on Horford's jump shot with 6:56 remaining. But from there, Ford took control.
The Hawks were unable to overcome a poor shooting night from reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Josh Smith, who finished with just five points on 2-of-11 shooting. He fouled out with 2:45 remaining.
"That was the key to the game, to keep him in check," Parker said. "Josh Smith is great at grabbing rebounds and getting points in transition. We tried to limit his points tonight."
Josh Childress scored 13 points for Atlanta after missing the last two games with a sore right groin.
Andrea Bargnani collected two rebounds in 12 minutes in his return for Toronto after missing the last four games with a hyper-extended left knee.
Williams and Johnson scored 23 points apiece for the Hawks, who snapped a three-game winning streak.
ATLANTA 88 FINAL
Dec 11 9:27 PM
ATLANTA 68 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 11 8:50 PM
ATLANTA 43 HALFTIME
Dec 11 8:05 PM
ATLANTA 21 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 11 7:35 PM
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