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Hawks clinch sixth straight playoff berth

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- The Atlanta Hawks used a dominating fourth quarter Wednesday night to clinch a playoff spot for the sixth consecutive season.

The game was tied after three quarters, but the Hawks outscored the Toronto Raptors 32-13 in the fourth to pull out a 107-88 win.

Atlanta's Al Horford and Jeff Teague led the scoring with 26 and 24 points, respectively. Five Raptors scored in double digits, led by Jonas Valanciunas, who had 19 points.

"It feels special because we weren't together for long and nobody gave us much of a chance," said Teague, who is one of only a handful of faces from last season's team after the Hawks underwent a massive offseason roster change. "For us to come together and be in the playoffs this year, there's a lot of excitement today."

The Raptors were without Amir Johnson for much of the second half after he left with a left leg contusion. X-rays were negative, but Johnson didn't return.

Atlanta led 81-80 with nine minutes remaining before Horford and Teague took over. The two players combined for all of the scoring in a 16-0 run that put the game beyond all doubt.

The Raptors committed 20 turnovers on the night en route to their fifth consecutive loss.

"You turn the ball over 20 times for 24 points, that's the game," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Once that happened, we didn't respond. When they got tough, got physical, we're looking for calls (with the refs) not calling them, and we have to adjust to the game."

The Hawks quickly eliminated a double-digit deficit, starting the second half by making their first three field goals and their first three free throws.

Toronto's lead was down to just one point with 7:43 left in the third quarter when the Raptors called a timeout after Atlanta's Ivan Johnson hit a jumper to make it 61-60.

"They really responded really well. I told that guys that what we really want to do is play within ourselves, to control the game," Hawks head coach Larry Drew said. "I told our guys we want to get a good shot every possession. Defensively, we wanted to limit them to one shot."

After the Hawks regained the lead by a single point with just under five minutes remaining, neither side was able to build up an advantage greater than two points the rest of the quarter, and the teams headed to the fourth tied 75-75.

"We were trying to make home run passes a bit too much, and we were a little bit too careless with the ball," said Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, who had 14 points. "You can't do that against them. A team like Atlanta can push the ball, and that was on us."

Atlanta tied the score early in the second quarter before the Raptors pulled out a lead that they took into the locker room.

Alan Anderson assisted on 3-pointers by John Lucas and Terrence Ross on consecutive possessions as Toronto's second-quarter lead grew as high as 11 points.

The half ended with DeRozan hitting a fade-away jumper with just under two seconds left to make it 54-44.

The Raptors used a 7-0 run to build a nine-point lead in the first quarter. The Hawks brought that margin down to three points when Josh Smith hit a 3-pointer with just under 30 seconds remaining, but Landry Fields managed a tip-in to make it 25-20 after one.

NOTES: Lou Williams (right knee), Zaza Pachulia (right Achilles) and Devin Harris (left foot) were all out for the Hawks. ... Rudy Gay, who was considered day-to-day with a sore back, scored 15 points for Toronto. ... The Raptors recalled forward Quincy Acy from their D-League affiliate, the Bakersfield Jam, on Tuesday. However, Acy (groin) was not available to play against the Hawks. Andrea Bargnani (elbow sprain) was the other injury absence for Toronto. ... Kyle Korver's streak of 65 consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer is the fifth-longest run in NBA history. He went 2-for-6 from long distance Wednesday. ... The Hawks have used the most variation in terms of starting lineups this season (25 heading into Wednesday) while the Raptors have used the third most (22). ... The Hawks won the only other meeting (93-92) between the two teams on Jan. 30. They play again on the second-to-last day of the season, April 16.
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