TORONTO (AP) — Embarrassed by the Toronto Raptors 13 days ago, the Atlanta Hawks made up for that poor performance in the rematch.
Dwight Howard had 27 points and 15 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the season to lead the Hawks to a 125-121 victory over the Raptors on Friday night.
Toronto had a franchise-record 44-point victory over its Eastern Conference rival on Dec. 3. In this one, Atlanta responded with a season-high scoring effort and shot a season-best 53.5 percent from the field.
“I thought our energy was better tonight,” Howard said. “We locked in on defense and we forced some of their guys to take tough shots. I thought last game they just got any shot they wanted.”
The Raptors made the game close down the stretch with 39 points in the fourth quarter, closing to within three on DeMar DeRozan‘s layup with 10.6 seconds left. However, Dennis Schroder converted a free throw with 6.7 seconds to re-establish a four-point Atlanta edge, and Kyle Lowry‘s miss on a 3 with 1.9 seconds left ended Toronto’s comeback effort.
Despite the frantic finish, overall Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer was pleased with his team’s defensive effort.
“The first half I thought the defense was very good, there’s maybe some slippage in the second but anytime you can come in here and get a win, you are doing something on both ends of the court,” he said.
Kyle Korver did his best to help on the offensive end with a season-high 19 points, including a season-high six 3-pointers, while Schroder added 24 points.
For the Raptors, DeRozan had 34 points, his third straight 30-point outing and 14th of the season to tie a career high, with Lowry adding another 24, including a season-high-equaling six 3-pointers, as Toronto saw its four-game winning streak come to an end. The defeat to Atlanta was Toronto’s fourth against an Eastern Conference club, but its first to someone other than Cleveland.
After allowing an opponent season-high 69 points in the first half, and getting outrebounded 44-26, Toronto coach Dwane Casey was less than impressed with his team’s defensive effort. That’s something he has preached even as his team has scored 100 points in 13 consecutive games, the second longest streak in team history and the longest active one in the NBA.
“We scored enough points, 121 points, shooting 54 percent, 47 percent from the 3,” Casey said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where our problem is.”
While Lowry agreed with his coach’s assessment, he was also happy to give credit to Atlanta, particularly given the 128-84 score the last time the two teams met.
“They played aggressive and they played like they wanted to win,” he said. “Tip our hats to them, it’s one game for us and they beat us fair and square. We will look at the film; they beat us tonight, they really beat us.”
Hawks: G Tim Hardaway remained in the starting lineup for the third straight game even as usual starter G Kent Bazemore returned after missing the last two games with right knee soreness.
Raptors: C Lucas Nogueira returned to the starting lineup after missing Wednesday’s game with a sore right knee. … The crowd at Air Canada Centre observed a moment’s silence in memory of late TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager. … In defeat, the Raptors scored at least 120 points for the eighth time this season, one shy of the franchise record of nine, set in the 2014-15 and 2005-06 seasons.
With his second of two free throws with 1:15 to go in the first half, Howard became the NBA’s newest member of the 16,000-point club. The shot gave him a first-half high 18 points.