NBA News Wire

Raptors hand Hawks fifth straight loss

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TORONTO — The way both teams waltzed through the first half, they looked as if they already were on the All-Star Game break.

The Toronto Raptors were able to pick their game up in the second half though to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 104-83 on Wednesday.

Guard DeMar DeRozan scored 14 of his game-high 31 points in the third quarter as the Raptors stretched a one-point halftime lead to 13 entering the fourth quarter.

The Raptors (28-24) head into the break with two consecutive wins while the Hawks (25-26) have lost five in a row.

“I think both teams were on vacation before the game started,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “This is the toughest time of the year, the weeks leading to the All-Star break. I commend our guys for coming out and focusing on the second half, getting defense into the game, getting physicality into the game and making sure we paid attention to detail on the defensive end.”

“We really like our group. It’s been a tough stretch,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’re going to take a break. We’ll recharge, we’ll re-energize and we’ll come back and build on a lot of the positives we had in this first 50 games. I don’t think tonight, or even the last few games, are reflective of our group.”

The Raptors improved to 9-2 at home since Jan. 1 while ending a five-game losing streak against the Hawks in games played at Air Canada Centre. Their previous home win over the Hawks was on March 17, 2010.

Guard Kyle Lowry added 16 points, 13 assists and six rebounds for the Raptors.

“He’s been an All-Star on and off the court,” said DeRozan, who is going to the All-Star Game while Lowry was overlooked. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him. And I wouldn’t be where I’m at now, to be honest.”

Forward Patrick Patterson contributed 14 points and six rebounds, guard/forward Terrence Ross scored 13 points and guard Greivis Vasquez had 12 coming off the bench. Center Jonas Valanciunas grabbed 14 rebounds and had two points.

“This is a good team and we’re becoming a great team because we’re so tight,” Vasquez said. “That’s going to help us in the long run. There’s a lot of trust between the coaches and the players and between the players. We’ve got a great group.”

Center Gustavo Ayon led the Hawks with 18 points and 10 rebounds while forward Paul Millsap added 17 points, guard Jeff Teague scored 13 and forward Cartier Martin came off the bench to score 10.

Guard/forward Kyle Korver, who extended his NBA record to 120 games with at least one 3-pointer by going 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, finished with eight points.

“We need a break mentally. The guys just don’t have it right now,” Teague said. “We’ve got to play with a lot more pace. Defensively we’ve got to be a lot more aggressive. Maybe guys are a little tired, maybe their legs are a little heavy. The break, we need it.”

The Raptors scored the first seven points of the third quarter to stretch a one-point halftime lead to eight. The lead never dropped below five after that and, when Lowry closed out the third by making one of two free throws, the Raptors led 78-65.

“DeRozan got hot in the third quarter,” Teague said. “It was hard to keep him off the free-throw line and when he’s making shots like that he’s a tough guy to cover.”

DeRozan was 11-for-19 from the field and 7-for-7 in free throws.

Vasquez opened the scoring in the fourth quarter with a driving layup and forward Steve Novak hit a 3-pointer to give the Raptors an 83-65 lead. The lead reached 21 points after a 3-pointer by Vasquez with 7:15 to play. Novak’s 3-pointer bumped the lead to 25.

The Raptors, who trailed by as many as eight points early, took their first lead, 29-28, with 5:26 to play in the first half on two free throws by DeRozan. A turnaround jumper by DeRozan increased the lead to three points. After the Hawks regained a three-point lead, the Raptors led 45-44 at the half.

“The first half, first quarter, we didn’t have it; neither team had it,” Casey said. “We had to get into the game. Like I told our guys, the second half it’s going to be a grind; it’s not going to be pretty. We don’t want it to be pretty, it’s going to be a grind it’s going to be hard and everybody has to be committed in the locker room.”

Said Budenholzer: “Our challenge is to come back and get back to doing a lot of the things we were doing earlier.”

NOTES: Atlanta F DeMarre Carroll (left hamstring) was not in the lineup after straining his hamstring in the Hawks’ 100-85 loss to the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday. G Lou Williams started at shooting guard to allow G/F Kyle Korver to move to small forward in place of Carroll against the Raptors. … Toronto was without F Amir Johnson (right ankle) for the second game in a row. F Patrick Patterson again started in his place. Patterson scored 22 points in his first start as a Raptor in a 108-101 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday. … The Raptors resume play after the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Washington against the Wizards. … The Hawks return from the break with a Tuesday road game against the Indiana Pacers.