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Bench propels Raptors past Hawks

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ATLANTA — Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey was ecstatic to see three of his guards combine for 70 points. He was even happier with the way it came about.

DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points, Lou Williams came off the bench to scored 22 and reserve Greivis Vasquez added 21 to lead the Raptors to a 126-115 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, extending their winning streak to six games. Casey was quite excited that the points came organically.

“When you get 22 points and 21 points from your guards off the bench, that’s big time, Casey said. “That tells you you’re cooking with gas. Those two guys came in with tremendous confidence, but it wasn’t anything forced. It was within the offense.”

DeRozan hit his first five field goals and had 14 of his points in the first quarter. He’s averaging 24.1 points over his last 11 games against Atlanta. Williams, who played the last two seasons in Atlanta, scored eight in the fourth quarter, made four 3-pointers and is averaging 24.2 points over his last four games. Vasquez had three pointers and matched his season high.

“Lou and Vasquez were great,” Atlanta center Al Horford said. “Those guys came out with a lot of energy. They were very confident. They hit some tough shots. We were defending them, but they just made shots.”

Toronto improved to 13-2 with the win and has started the season 4-1 on the road for the first time in franchise history. The Raptors are 2-0 against the Hawks, having also beaten Atlanta in Toronto in the season opener. Toronto has won 11 of its last 12 games, which matches its best stretch of wins in team history.

The Raptors also got 14 points and 13 assists from Kyle Lowry and posted their season high for points.

“It was a good win for us,” Williams said. “Three nights in a row it’s been somebody different stepping up. It just shows the depth and character of this team. We’re playing at a high level.”

Atlanta (7-6) was led by guard Jeff Teague with 24 points and 12 assists. Horford, who made 11 of 16 from the field, finished with 23 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

Guard Kyle Korver made four 3-pointers, moving him into a tie for 17th on the NBA’s all-time list, and scored 19. The loss ended Atlanta’s two-game winning streak.

“They deserve credit,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They made a lot of shots, made a lot of plays. Defensively we’d like to play better. We’ll continue to get better. For a lot of the night we were good, but you have to do it for 48 minutes against a good team.”

Both teams shot 51.2 percent from the floor, but the difference came at the line. The Raptors shot 33 free throws, nine more than Atlanta.

“They drove the ball, they made contact and they make the referees make calls,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said.

The game was tied at 14 when the Raptors began to pull away, eventually taking a 30-22 lead after one quarter. Toronto stretched the lead to 10 at 34-24 on a runner by guard Greivis Vasquez and built the advantage to 13 a couple of times, the last at 50-37 with 6:51 left in the first half.

That’s when Atlanta began bombing its way back into the game. Korver connected on three 3-pointers and Jeff Teague added another during a 12-2 run that trimmed the lead to 52-49.

The Hawks got within a point at 54-53, but could never tie the score. Toronto pulled ahead again by seven, only to have Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll knock down a 3-pointer that drew the Hawks to within 64-61 at the break.

Atlanta was finally able to tie the game a couple of times in the third period, only to have Toronto immediately answer. Atlanta’s Pero Antic made a 3-pointer that tied the game at 88-88 with 30 seconds left, but Lou Williams countered with a trey that put the Raptors ahead 91-88 to end the quarter.

That started Toronto on a 17-5 run that put the game away.

“Every mistake we made, they capitalized on it and made the most of it,” Teague said. “We just have to be better.”

NOTES: Toronto coach Dwane Casey said F James Johnson was exhibiting flu-like symptoms but was going to play. Johnson is also trying to come back from a sprained right ankle that kept him out of three games and limited him to four minutes against Phoenix on Nov. 24. … Inactive for the Raptors were F/C Tyler Hansbrough, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a right shoulder AC sprain, and F Bruno Caboclo. … Atlanta was without G Thabo Sefolosha, who was sent home with flu-like symptoms. Sefolosha had played in all 12 previous games, starting four, and averages 5.8 points. Also inactive was rookie C Adreian Payne. … The NBA corrected some erroneous figures from Friday’s statistical box after the Atlanta-Washington game. The league added a missed field goal for Atlanta G Kyle Korver, who went 0-for-4 from the floor.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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