Hawks Pull Away Late, Send Raptors Home With Loss

ATLANTA — If Atlanta and Toronto tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks will have the tiebreaker for home court over the Raptors thanks to an edge in the season series.

The Hawks put the defensive clamps on Toronto in the fourth quarter and took two of the three regular-season games between the teams with a 105-99 victory Friday night.

Dennis Schroder scored 13 of his 26 points in final six minutes as the Hawks (36-29) broke away from a tie at 86 to move within two games of fourth-place Toronto (38-27).

The Hawks have struggled defending the 3-point arc most of the season, but the Raptors were just 4 of 25 from deep and went 1 for 8 in the final quarter.

“We’ve still got to take those shots with confidence,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “I believe in our shooters. We have some excellent shooters who have proven that. We’ve got to live with those shots. We can’t turn shots down.”

Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer has made defending the trey a point of emphasis and his team responded.

“He told us we’re heading to the playoffs and we’ve got to take the 3 away,” Schroder said. “I think we did a great job, but I still think we’ve got to get better.”

DeMar DeRozan scored 28 points for the Raptors, but just four came in the fourth quarter. He was 1 of 8 from behind the arc in the game and was 2 for 10 overall shooting down the stretch.

“I think Thabo (Sefolosha) and Kent (Bazemore) did a great job on DeMar DeRozan, changing it up forcing him to go left,” Schroder said. “He was a little uncomfortable with that.”

“They started blitzing him a little bit,” Casey said of the defensive strategy on his leading scorer. “We knew that would be coming. He did a good job of kicking it out.”

Paul Millsap had 21 points for the Hawks, while Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 20, and Dwight Howard had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Down the stretch, though, it was all Schroder as the point guard scored 13 of his team’s final 19 points, including the basket that put them up for good at 88-86.

Schroder got to the rim at will and was 7 of 8 at the foul line in the late going as the Hawks made 13 of 16 after starting the game 6 of 13.

Serge Ibaka had 18 points for the Raptors, but fouled out in the closing minutes.

“I’ve got to go back and look at those calls and see what they were,” said Casey, who was unhappy about several fourth-quarter fouls on his team.

The victory gave the Hawks a 3-3 record for their longest homestand of the season and the loss dropped the Raptors to 5-3 since losing Kyle Lowry to wrist surgery.

Jonas Valanciunas contributed 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors, while Cory Joseph had 15 points and eight assists.

DeRozan had 13 points in the third quarter and the Raptors were up 75-74 going into the final period.

The Hawks, though, made 8 of 12 shots from the floor in the fourth quarter in addition to their good foul shooting and the Raptors were just 9 of 30.

Millsap scored 11 of his 13 first-half points in the first quarter and Hardaway all 12 of his points in the second period as the Hawks led 49-48 at intermission after a half in which neither team led by more than four points.

DeRozan had 11 points at intermission, with nine coming in the second quarter. Ibaka scored seven of his nine first-half points as the Raptors led 19-18 after the opening quarter, but picked up his third foul midway in the second period.

The Raptors were just 2 of 12 from behind the 3-point arc in the first half, but hit 14 of 17 free throws compared to 4 of 10 for the Hawks.

NOTES: F DeMarre Carroll returned to the Raptors lineup after missing a game with a sprained left ankle. He had 11 points and seven rebounds. … Coach Mike Budenholzer held F Thabo Sefolosha out of the Hawks’ starting lineup after the veteran was late for the team’s pregame walkthrough. “Friday traffic in Atlanta,” Budenholzer said. G/F Mike Hardaway Jr. took Sefolosha’s starting spot. … Hawks F Mike Dunleavy (ankle) missed his eighth straight game and there remains no timetable for his return. … The Hawks play their first road game of the month Friday at Memphis. … The Raptors, like the Hawks, have a back-to-back, playing Friday at Miami. … The previous Raptors-Hawks games came during a two-week stretch in January at Toronto, with Atlanta winning the second 125-121 after a 128-84 blowout loss in the first.

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