7:00 PM ET, December 11, 2007
Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
ATLANTA (ESPN.com news services) -- T.J. Ford's teammates said the Toronto Raptors guard was moving before he was taken off the court on a stretcher following a scary fall late in Tuesday night's 100-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Ford, who missed the 2004-05 season with Milwaukee following neck surgery, stole the ball and was headed toward a breakaway basket when Atlanta rookie Al Horford hit his face with his hand. Ford landed hard on his back, his head bouncing off the floor.
"After a while I could see him moving and that was a relief," Toronto's Chris Bosh said, adding there was immediate concern about Ford because everyone knew his injury history.
"It turns my stomach because of who it is," Bosh said. "Like I say, we know about his situation and everything.
"He was conscious. He wasn't trying to move too much. I'm sure he was feeling pain in his arms and legs. I just hope he's OK."
Raptors spokesman Jim LaBumbard confirmed Ford "had feeling in his upper and lower extremities when he was taken off the floor."
Ford was taken to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. ESPN.com's John Hollinger reports that while the Raptors are flying back to Toronto for Wednesday's game against Dallas, assistant trainer Rory Mullin and director of basketball operations Marc Eversley are staying in Atlanta to be with Ford.
LaBumbard said it was expected Ford would remain at the hospital through the night.
Former NBA player, coach and Ford workout coach John Lucas told ESPN.com that he spoke with Ford's girlfriend, Candace Dixon, Tuesday night and that she told Lucas that Ford had feeling in his arms and legs and did have range of motion. Lucas said Dixon told him they were awaiting results of a CAT scan and that Ford didn't lose consciousness.
Toronto coach Sam Mitchell reacted with immediate anger to the hard foul and had a brief exchange of words with Atlanta coach Mike Woodson.
"We're just concerned about T.J.," Mitchell said. "There's not much more to say. We've just got to wait and see."
Horford insisted he did not try to injure Ford, who had 26 points.
"Definitely not. I'm not a dirty player," Horford said.
Horford said he was fooled by Ford's move as he went up for the layup with 1:32 left.
"When it happened with a minute and a half left, we were still down by eight [92-84]," Horford said. "He got the steal. I just tried to go and block the shot. When he went up, I went up too. He tried to use the rim and I thought he was going to stay on [one] side so I went up and tried to hit the ball and I hit his head.
"He just made a good move and fooled me."
Horford said he was alarmed by Ford's hard fall.
ATLANTA -- Ford is especially vulnerable to hits like this because he suffers from a congenital condition called spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column.
That's why the hit on Feb. 24, 2004, when he crashed into Minnesota's Mark Madsen, was so damaging -- he ended up with a bruised spinal cord and underwent surgery that May which fused two vertebrae in his neck.
"When I saw his head hit twice, that's when I thought it was serious," said Horford, who was ejected with the flagrant foul.
Bosh said it didn't look like a dirty play by Horford.
"Al kind of mistimed it and hit him in his head," Bosh said. "I don't think he meant to do it on purpose. He was making a basketball play. He just got him right on his head."
Woodson spoke with Mitchell after the game.
"I just went down there to let them know our prayers are with him," Woodson said of Ford.
Players on both benches and fans were quiet as medical personnel attended to Ford.
"I'm a good friend of T.J.'s," Atlanta's Josh Smith said. "Knowing about the injury he had in Milwaukee, it kind of scared me. I started praying for him."
Toronto led 69-68 entering the final quarter but stretched the lead to 82-71 before Marvin Williams, who had 23 points, finally ended Atlanta's field goal drought with 7:30 left.
Joe Johnson also had 23 points for Atlanta.
The Hawks (10-11) were denied in their attempt to move over .500 after 20 or more games for the first time since 1998-99, their last playoff season.
Ford was 8-of-11 from the field and had 19 points as Toronto led 54-43 at halftime.
The Hawks cut into the lead with a strong third quarter but couldn't continue the strong play early in the fourth. A 3-pointer by Jose Calderon gave Toronto an 87-75 lead.
Bosh had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Toronto.
Smith fouled out with only five points and eight rebounds with 2:45 left, one night after having 25 points and 16 rebounds in the Hawks' win at Orlando.
A layup by Smith gave Atlanta a 37-30 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Raptors closed the half on a 24-6 run for a 54-43 lead.
Johnson, who had only five points in the first half, made three 3-pointers in the third quarter. A driving jumper by Acie Law at the end of the quarter cut Toronto's lead to 69-68.
The Hawks tried to recover from their slow start to the final period. A 3-pointer by Johnson cut Toronto's lead to 90-84, but the comeback ended there.
Toronto F Jason Kapono left the game in the second quarter with a sprained left wrist. X-rays were negative but he did not return. ... Raptors rookie Jamario Moon did not attempt a free throw for the sixth straight game. He had one blocked shot, extending his streak with at least one rejection to 14 games. ... F Josh Childress scored 13 off the bench for Atlanta. Calderon had 15 to lead Toronto's reserves. ... Horford had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||36-80 (.450)||31-80 (.388)|
|3PM-3PA||5-11 (.455)||5-10 (.500)|
|FTM-FTA||23-29 (.793)||21-26 (.808)|
|Fast Break Points||4||2|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||18 (0/1)|