DeRozan, Gay power Raptors past Hawks
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks want to be well-rested for the playoffs.
They certainly didn’t use up any energy Tuesday night.
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DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points, Rudy Gay added 22 and the Toronto Raptors ran all over the playoff-bound Hawks, 113-96.
The Raptors made two-thirds of their shots in the first half, sprinting to a 68-51 lead as DeRozan scored 19 points and Gay chipped in with 17. Atlanta went mostly with backups, showing no sense of urgency to claim the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I’m going to err on the side of caution,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said.
Atlanta fell into a tie with Chicago for the fifth spot. The teams finish the regular season on Wednesday, with the Hawks traveling to New York to face the Knicks, while the Bulls are home against lowly Washington. Chicago holds the tiebreaker.
Kyle Korver led the Hawks with 13 points, extending his 3-point streak to 73 consecutive games.
But he didn’t sound too thrilled about the way Atlanta is playing going to the playoffs.
“I just go in the game when they tell me to,” Korver said. “For some people, the rest is good. But you also want to be in a rhythm. There’s a balance to it. We’re kind of walking that right now.”
Atlanta center Al Horford didn’t play, sitting out because of soreness in his left chest, and the rest of the Hawks took the night off as well — certainly at the defensive end.
Toronto ran right through the Hawks for too many dunks and layups to count, making 26 of 39 from the field in the opening half. Amazingly, the Raptors put up 68 points before the break while turning it over 11 times. It was like watching the Globetrotters against the Washington Generals, as Toronto set season highs for points in a half as well as a quarter, scoring 38 in the second.
“Too bad it’s coming at this time when we’re out of the playoffs,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said.
Atlanta was never up by more than two, and its last lead was 19-18. The Hawks trailed by double digits the rest of the way after DeRozan knocked down a 3-pointer with 4 minutes left in the opening half.
“We’re playing freely. We’re going out there and not thinking so much, playing with our abilities and instincts,” DeRozan said. “We’ve got a lot of talent on this team. When we play like we played tonight, we’re tough to beat.”
The Hawks are part of the only race left in the East, but they are playing like a team that wants no part of a position that might mean a possible meeting with the defending champion Miami Heat in the second round.
Then again, it may not matter where the Hawks finish. They are limping to the end of a season that will be surely be followed by major changes, with Drew and much of the roster — including Josh Smith — in the final year of contracts. Atlanta has lost 14 of its last 25 games, hardly a team on a roll heading to the playoffs.
“My focus right now is to try to keep this team competing at a high level, which I didn’t think we did in the first half,” Drew said. “We came out a little soft, and played as if we were just winding it down.”
The Raptors led 96-75 at the end of the third, allowing DeRozan and Gay to spend the entire fourth quarter on the bench. Jonas Valanciunas scored 13 points, Amir Johnson had 11 and Lowry dished out 11 assists.
Toronto is showing some life at the end of another disappointing season, winning its fourth in a row — all over playoff teams.
“Our start put us in this hole,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We’re going the direction we need to be going in as far as building a program.”
Korver hit a couple of 3-pointers in the opening minutes to keep his franchise-record streak alive. Rookie Mike Scott and Ivan Johnson each scored 12 points, with Scott also grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds for his first double-double in the NBA. Shelvin Mack added 11 points.
Toronto’s Terrence Ross appeared to reinjure his left ankle late in the game when he landed on an Atlanta’s player’s foot. He hobbled off the court and didn’t return.
Notes: A moment of silence was held before the game to honor victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. … The Hawks rested G DeShawn Stevenson. … Valanciunas returned after missing two games with a whiplash-like condition. … Toronto closes the season Wednesday at home against Boston. … The Raptors improved to 16-16 since acquiring Gay from Memphis. … The only Hawks starter to play more than 20 minutes was center Johan Petro. Smith played only 12:44 and spent the entire second half watching from the bench, a towel covering his head.