The Toronto Raptors proved they’re a team to watch in the Eastern Conference.
They also showed once again they can beat the Atlanta Hawks — and in convincing fashion.
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The matchup of the Eastern Conference’s top teams turned into rout as Toronto opened the second half of the season with a surprisingly lopsided 105-80 win over the Hawks on Friday night.
Lou Williams had 26 points while making seven of 10 3-pointers and DeMar DeRozan had 21 points for Toronto. The Raptors outscored the Hawks 28-13 in the third quarter to turn a close game into a 23-point lead.
Atlanta still has a five-game lead over Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings, but the Raptors won the season series 3-1. No other team has two wins over the Hawks.
Williams said the Raptors were motivated by Atlanta’s similarly lopsided 110-89 win at Toronto on Jan. 16.
"We were embarrassed on our home court so we wanted to come out and play with that on our mind," Williams said.
The Raptors won with defense. Williams had four of Toronto’s 15 steals, matching the team’s season high. The Raptors blocked nine shots.
"We were scrambling," said DeRozan, who had three steals. "We tried not to let them get anything easy. We didn’t want to let them get going, get a rhythm. As long as we do that, we can live with the outcome."
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said the Raptors "really took it to us."
Atlanta’s Al Horford said the Hawks wouldn’t be worried about a matchup with Toronto if the teams meet in the playoffs.
"No. Give them credit, they’re a great team," Horford said. "But we’re a confident group."
The Hawks have lost four of seven following a team-record 19-game winning streak.
The Hawks and Raptors set team records for wins before the All-Star break, and neither made moves before Thursday’s trade deadline. Toronto backed up that show of confidence in the final regular-season meeting of the clubs.
The Raptors stretched their 49-45 halftime lead with a dominant third quarter. Atlanta made only three of 19 shots. Kyle Korver had a dismal period, missing all five of his shots while committing two turnovers.
Budenholzer turned the game over to backups such as Mike Muscala, John Jenkins and Shelvin Mack for much of the final period.
Raptors: Blocked five shots and had seven steals in the third quarter. … DeRozan scored Toronto’s first six points and had 17 points in the first half. … The eight days between games marked the longest All-Star break in team history. … The game started a stretch of nine road contests in 11 games for the Raptors. … The last time Toronto won a season series over Atlanta was in the 2007-08 season.
Hawks: Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Rep. John Lewis, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and former Mayor Andrew Young were part of a halftime ceremony honoring heroes of the Civil Rights movement as part of Black History Month. … Atlanta had 22 turnovers, one shy of its season high. … F Thabo Sefolosha missed his eighth straight game with a right calf strain.
Williams, a former high school star in the Atlanta area, played for the Hawks for two seasons from 2012-14. He continues to thrive in his sixth-man role, and his career-high seven 3s was tops for any Toronto player this season.
"He made some tough shots," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "That’s what he does."
Korver, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague had only 11 points each to lead Atlanta. The Hawks set a season low by making only 33 percent of their shots (29 of 88). Horford had seven points and 12 rebounds.
"We just didn’t play well at all," Horford said, adding their play was "just sloppy" in the third period. "We were throwing the ball all over the place."