Hawks eye playoff berth in tilt with Raptors
The Atlanta Hawks will try to clinch a playoff berth and salvage the back end of a home-and-home set with the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
Toronto won the front end of the series in the Peach State on Sunday when DeMar DeRozan scored a team-high 23 points as six Raptors finished in double figures and Toronto easily defeated the Hawks 102-86 at Philips Arena.
Atlanta failed to clinch a playoff spot with the loss but its magic number remains one for a fifth straight postseason appearance.
Alan Anderson chipped in 16 points, James Johnson added 15, and Ed Davis, Ben Uzoh and Justin Dentmon tallied 10 points apiece for the Raptors, who have won two straight since halting a four-game skid.
"Believe me if I knew I'd bottle it," said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey when asked about his team's effort. "We would have been doing it earlier in the year. Guys are just playing the right way and playing together, playing with a purpose."
Josh Smith led all scorers with 26 points and Ivan Johnson and Willie Green netted 14 points apiece as the Hawks fell for the second time in three games.
"You know what, I don't think it's a game you want to put out of your mind," remarked Green about the loss. "I think it's a game we need to think about. We're supposed to be getting prepared for a playoff run. It was a letdown tonight on our part as a team."
Atlanta trailed by as many as 24 points and never seriously threatened Toronto in the second half.
"Give Toronto credit," All-Star Joe Johnson, who made just 2-of-12 shots, told NBA.com. "They were better than us tonight. If we come out and start like that (Monday), they'll be better than us. We'll see."
The blowout was particularly worrisome considering the Raptors have already shut down star power forward Andre Bargnani (calf) and guard Jerry Bayless (oblique) for the season. Meanwhile. starting point guard Jose Calderon was also out and remains day-to-day with an eye injury.
The Atlanta loss, coupled with an Orlando Magic victory over the Cavaliers on Sunday, drops the Hawks into a tie with the Magic for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference with six games left in the regular season.
After Monday's game, Atlanta finishes the season with five straight at home where they hold a 19-9 record.
Despite the loss on Sunday, the Hawks are 10-2 in the last 12 matchups between the teams.