The Hawks can expect an official protest of Wednesday's win over the Toronto Raptors. It would be their second of the season after the Miami Heat successfully protested the finish of a Dec. 19 loss to the Hawks.There's no disputing the official's call on T.J. Ford's layup that would have won the game for the Raptors in regulation. The ball didn't leave his hands until after the game clock had expired.
But there was lengthy discussion in the Raptors' locker room after the Hawks' 127-120 overtime win about the clock starting early on Ford's layup attempt. Television replays clearly showed that the clock started before Ford caught the ball in mid-air and began stretching for the basket.
The Hawks' official scorer was at fault for the error in the Miami game. But the culprit Wednesday was one of the game officials, Eric Lewis, who started the clock with a mechanism on his belt.
"It could have gone either way," Ford said. "I didn't get too excited."
Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said he thought Ford's shot was good and one of the officials actually called it good. But it was overturned on replay.
"I thought it was an early (start on the) clock," Mitchell said.
This is the second statistical/game clock snafu involving the Hawks and Ford. He wasn't' credited for a layup late in a loss to the Hawks last season that ultimately played a part in the league upholding the Heat's protest of that Dec. 19 game.
"I just hope we don't have to go through any of the foolishness again," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said. "Nobody wants to deal with that drama again."
Lost in all the drama is that the Hawks now have a four-game cushion for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with seven games to play. They're as close to being a virtual lock for the playoff as a team could be.
"I think they are a playoff team," Mitchell said. "They're a team that plays well."
HAWKS 127, RAPTORS 120 (OT): Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby aren't the only Hawks willing and able to take and make big shots with the game on the line.
They're usually the only two Hawks coach Mike Woodson feels comfortable with doing so, particularly from beyond the 3-point line.
But he had no choice but to watch Josh Smith do exactly that, stroking two deep 3-pointers in overtime to cap the Hawks' stunning and humongous 127-120 overtime win over Toronto Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
"I've been on him for taking 3's anyway," Woodson said after his team's fifth straight win, "and he stepped up and made two big ones tonight. So what's that tell you? Coach just needs to shut up, I guess?"
Smith's shots came after Bibby drained a monster shot of his own to cap the Hawks' comeback from a 17-point deficit with a minute to play in the third quarter.
The Hawks got three opportunities to force overtime and made good on the third, when Bibby sank a 3-pointer over T.J. Ford with half a second to play to tie the game at 107-107.
The Raptors had what looked like a game-winning layup on a fantastic play from Ford at the basket, but after initially counting the basket, lead official Mark Wunderlich overturned the play after watching it repeatedly on replay.
"They ran it perfectly," Smith said. "We were just hoping that it wasn't good. And thank goodness it wasn't."
Smith capped a huge night with 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and some clutch crunch-time defense on Raptors All-Star forward Chris Bosh, who matched Smith with 24 points.
And it was Smith, whose 3-point percentage for the season is gruesome (.244), that didn't think twice about taking those big shots. He made the first with 2:06 to play in overtime, giving the Hawks a 114-113 lead. The second came with 29.7 seconds to play for a game-sealing 122-118 advantage.
"I know my percentage isn't that great," Smith said, "but I understand my teammates have trust in me and they give me confidence no matter what happens. And they found me when it was drive and kick and I was able to knock the shots down. And I have to tell you, this feels great to know that we're still rolling."