Raptors put home winning streak on line vs. Hawks
TORONTO — The Atlanta Hawks and the Toronto Raptors will be in unfamiliar situations when they meet Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.
The Hawks (9-25) will be looking for their third straight win after defeating the Washington Wizards 113-99 on Wednesday night, giving them two wins in a row for the first time this season.
After losing 124-107 to the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, the Raptors have dropped two in a row for only the third time this season and for the first time since Nov. 22-24.
The Raptors (23-10) will also put a 10-game home winning streak on the line Friday. They are 12-1 at the ACC this season.
The Raptors rolled to a 112-78 win over Atlanta, which has the worst record in the NBA, on Nov. 25 to end their previous set of two consecutive losses.
The Hawks are feeling better about their recent form.
“I really felt like we’ve been playing better basketball with the exception of the second half against Indiana (a loss to the Pacers on Dec. 20),” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We were really disappointed, really frustrated with that second half. But in the first half of that game and in some of the games prior, we’ve been playing better.
“Our offense has been a little more efficient, a little more dynamic. We are getting guys back healthy and we are playing bigger more.”
The Hawks have lost nine games this season by six points or fewer, with five of those losses coming in the past 11 games.
“It’s tough losing,” said Hawks guard Dennis Schroder, who scored 16 of his 21 points Wednesday in the second half. “Everybody hates losing. We just have to find a way to make it happen. Right now, how we are playing, we are doing everything together. Playing for each other. When we play like that, we have fun and we win a couple of games as well.”
Despite the losses Wednesday and to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, the Raptors (10-3) have the best record in the Eastern Conference during December and the third-best in the NBA overall, trailing Golden State (12-1) and Oklahoma City (12-3).
Toronto is third in scoring for the month, averaging 111 points.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey expects his team to come back strong from the losses that stopped a six-game winning streak and a span in which the Raptors had won 12 of 13.
“We should hurt,” Casey said. “We should be down, be upset that we lost two in a row. We didn’t earn either game. We’ve got to put a full game together.”
Guard DeMar DeRozan, who scored 15 points, knows how his team needs to respond.
“Understanding this moment right now, understanding how much it sucks, to feel this way, to lose, to perform the way we did,” DeRozan said after the game. “Keep that in mind, come out as competitors and know what we need to do to win games.”
DeRozan was named Eastern Conference player of the week (Dec. 18-24) when he averaged 34 points and made 13 three-pointers over three games
The loss on Wednesday put the Raptors at 3-2 in the second half of back-to-back sets this season.
“Even though it’s a back-to-back, you string together some quality minutes — and I don’t know how many quality minutes we put together collectively,” Casey said. “Every once in a while, a person would have a good stretch, a good run and we fell apart. Again, (the Thunder) are hitting on all cylinders, offensive rebounding (15 offensive rebounds to Toronto’s seven), they kicked our butts on the boards. We have to go back, regroup, get back in the gym, come back together and get back to the way we want to play.”
The Thunder had a 52-34 advantage in rebounding overall Wednesday.
The Raptors’ average margin of victory during their home winning streak that began Nov. 7 is 13.6 points. They won a franchise-record 12 straight home games from Jan. 18 to March 4, 2016.