by Lang Whitaker

Great night for me last night. Great games all around the NBA. My Braves finally won their first game of the season. And my Hawks managed to come from 17 behind and defeat Team Canada last night. The Hawks are finally, finally turning into a team, kids. Mike Bibby is exactly what they needed, and all the players are coming together and starting to play like a TEAM for the first time in four years.

Funny thing was, I was so excited that the Hawks pulled the win off that I didn’t even think twice about the controversy at the end of regulation. What happened? Well…

• The Hawks and Raptors had played close throughout the first half. In the third the Raptors built up a lead, and going into the fourth Toronto was ahead 91-80.

• The Raptors held off the Hawks, who kept coming strong. Toward the end of the fourth, the Raptors couldn’t make shot to save their lives, and they repeatedly gave the Hawks open looks that they couldn’t convert either.

• Finally, with seconds left and the Hawks down three, the Hawks ran an inbounds play and got it to an open Mike Bibby in the corner, who drained a three to tie it with 0.5 seconds remaining.

That sets the scene. Then, this happened…

(The funniest part of that clip is the way Raps play-by-play guy Chuck Swirsky is certain that the ball went in with time left. Even as replay after replay shows Ford’s hand touching the ball with the lights on. That actually made me laugh out loud. If Swirsky ever gets fired, it won’t be because he doesn’t support the Raptors.)

Once the Raptors realized that Ford’s basket didn’t count, they noticed the clock started early. Like, a tenth of a tenth of a second early — the referee who started the clock apparently gave it a little nudge.

And it looks like, technically, the clock did start a little early. But my point, which I made earlier this morning here in Mutoni’s post, is that I’m pretty sure the clock starts that early on every inbounds play in every game. It’s impossible for a human to be correct all the time, so we often have to accept the closest thing to perfection that’s available.

No, the clock didn’t start correctly on Ford’s play, but I’m also willing to bet it didn’t start exactly on time on Mike Bibby’s last-second three pointer on the previous play that tied the game up. But the Raptors fans don’t care about that play. Why not? You guys want accountability, right? Or can we check that the clock started on time on the inbounds pass on the last shot of the first quarter, when Nesterovic hit a buzzer-beating three after a Hawks score? Where’s the slo-mo video on that play?

I love the passion of the Toronto fans, but it can get a little tiresome, eh? Instead of begging that the NBA call a do-over, which they probably won’t do, why not ask Sam Mitchell to work on not blowing 17-point leads. Or talk about something positive, like how Chris Bosh dunked all in Josh Smith’s face last night.

(And can we talk for a second about just how poorly the Hawks defended that inbounds play? The game is tied with 0.5 on the clock, so why don’t you worry about defending the rim and not have your entire team standing around the free throw line? Also, every NBA team switches on picks on inbounds plays at the end of games. When Ford came off that pick, Josh Childress seemed to release him and switch. But Josh Smith doesn’t pick up Ford and lets him stroll under the basket alone. Wouldn’t you put three tall guys in a semi-circle around the rim and make the Raptors shoot a jumper on that play? A great play call from Sam Mitchell — almost as great as when he kept double-teaming Joe Johnson in the fourth and leaving Bibby open.)

Toward the end of that YouTube clip, the analyst says if the Raptors lose the game, you’d have to look at that play and say “that was the deciding factor.”

I guess if you work for the Raptors, you do. Because as a basketball fan, I’d say the deciding factor was the Raptors blowing a 17-point lead. Bad call or not, they had no business winning that game. And the basketball gods conspired to make sure they did not win.

• It was kind of a deja vu night in the NBA, between the Raptors running into problems in Atlanta, to the return of Pau, Dirk, Elton Brand and Gilbert. I didn’t watch either of the L.A. games, one because it was Clippers/Sonics, the other because I knew we already have a couple of SLAM writers who’d be watching Lakers/Blazers.

I thought Gil looked pretty gimpy, and I couldn’t believe Eddie Jordan had him in to play defense on the game’s final play, when the Bucks nailed that three to win it. Who did Ramon Sessions hit the three over to win the game? Gilbert Arenas.

Similarly, the Mavs had control against the Warriors throughout their game, but even with a 20 point lead in the fourth, Avery Johnson has Dirk out there until there were 7 minutes remaining. Dirk looked even worse than Gilbert, even going so far a few times as just falling over instead of taking a hard landing on his bad leg. I was watching the first five minutes of the quarter with my hand over my eyes, just hoping Dirk wasn’t going to get re-injured. He didn’t, as it turned out, but why even risk it?

• And how did the Wizards celebrate the loss? By dressing up in ’80s clothes.

• Penn State is an interesting place. Do you have an explanation, Ryan?

• Linkstigator Allen wrote in to note that David Letterman‘s Top 10 last night was Top 10 Questions On The Job Application For New York Knicks President. The list…

10. Are you deeply committed to sucking?
9. Any suggestions for new ways to rip-off fans and overpay players?
8. Can you promise to deliver New York a winning team within 25 years?
7. Are you a cop?
6. Are you cool with Isiah Thomas calling you “Bitch”?
5. Can you transform this team from laughing stock to lovable losers?
4. How much do you think we could get for a naked photo of Yao Ming?
3. Do you mind the circus making the arena smell “Elephanty”?
2. Do you have any friends who can play center, power forward, point guard or shooting guard?
1. Are you insane?

• I can’t tell you how many people the last few days have asked me if I knew anything about the new reality show starring my main man, Deion Sanders. Khalid asked me how I’m not actually on the show, seeing as I’m the world’s biggest Deion fan. That’s a great question, Khalid.

• Jason Smith used to be in the D-League, but now he plays on the Sixers and has become a public figure. So maybe he shouldn’t be making out in clubs with porn stars. I dunno, just an idea.