Hawks-Raptors Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks have a favorable schedule to try to push for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but did themselves no favors against the Toronto Raptors.

These teams complete a home-and-home set Monday night as the Hawks play their final road game and try to avenge a stunning loss to the Raptors.

Atlanta fell 102-86 at home to Toronto on Sunday, trailing by as many as 24 points and by double digits for almost the entire fourth quarter. The Hawks had won six straight matchups in the series.

"Very flat," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "The energy level was very low."

Atlanta (35-25) fell into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with Orlando, three games behind Indiana in the race for the No. 3 seed. The Hawks, who close the regular season with five home games, and the Magic are one-half game behind Atlantic Division leader Boston.

"I think this is a game we need to think about," guard Willie Green said. "We're supposed to be getting prepared for a playoff run. It was a letdown tonight on our part."

It was a particularly dreadful night for Joe Johnson, who made 2 of 12 shots for seven points, failing to score in double figures for the first time in 24 games. Johnson averages 18.6 points.

"Give Toronto credit," he told the league's official website. "They were better than us tonight. If we come out and start like that (Monday), they'll be better than us. We'll see."

The result was particularly surprising since Toronto (22-39) played without Andrea Bargnani (calf) and guard Jerryd Bayless (oblique), who are both out for the season. Point guard Jose Calderon also was out, and he's day to day with an eye injury.

Instead, the Raptors used three players on 10-day contracts to support DeMar DeRozan, who had a team-high 23 points. One of those players, Alan Anderson, had 16.

"Guys are just playing the right way, playing together, playing with a purpose," coach Dwane Casey said. "You've got guys who don't want to go down without a fight."

Toronto shot 55.4 percent for its second-best mark of the season. Casey also employed a zone defense at times that helped force the Hawks into missing 17 of 22 3-pointers.

"It's a changeup and it's kind of disguised," the coach said. "We see sometimes that teams don't know whether it's a man-to-man or if it's zone. It helps. You can't win a championship with it but it's a good thing to have in our pocket."

Ben Uzoh and rookie Justin Dentmon added 10 points each. The 10-day contracts of Anderson, Uzoh and Dentmon will expire Monday, giving them one more day to impress the Raptors.

"Coach keeps saying, 'Make the extra pass; share the ball.' We're passing up good shots for great shots," Anderson said. "Everybody wants to stay in the NBA."

Josh Smith led Atlanta with 26 points, and Green and Ivan Johnson chipped in with 14 apiece.

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