Raptors-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks have already locked up their sixth consecutive playoff appearance, but they still have some positioning at stake in their final home game.

The lottery-bound Toronto Raptors aren't likely to roll over as they look for their sixth win in seven games.

The Hawks will try to claim their third straight win and move closer to securing the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday night when they take on the surging Raptors.

After three straight losses, Atlanta (44-36) bounced back with its second win in a row on Friday.

Josh Smith and Jeff Teague each scored 24 on a combined 21-of-32 shooting to help the Hawks rally from a 19-point deficit for a 109-104 win over Milwaukee.

"If there's one thing for sure with this team, we'll never make it easy," coach Larry Drew told the team's official website. "Coming in at halftime down 14, I had all the confidence in the world."

With just two games remaining, Drew's club is trying to hold off Chicago for fifth. The Bulls hold the tie-breaker over Atlanta, though, having won two of the three meetings.

The Hawks will face fourth-place Brooklyn if they finish fifth, and Central Division champion Indiana should they fall to sixth. They've split their four games with each club.

Smith enters this contest on a roll after totaling 52 points and 18 rebounds while hitting 22 of 35 shots his last two games. He's averaged 24.7 points on 56.4 percent shooting and 11.3 boards in his last three home games in this series.

Al Horford, who had 18 points and 17 rebounds on Friday, has played a major role in Atlanta's two wins over the Raptors.

The center had the go-ahead dunk with 21 seconds remaining and blocked two shots in the closing seconds of the Hawks' 93-92 victory on Jan. 30. He also finished with 26 points and 12 boards in a 107-88 win at Toronto on March 27.

Atlanta scored 89.7 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting during its recent skid, but has gotten back on track by averaging 116.5 points while shooting 52.3 percent in its last two.

Now the Hawks will go for their ninth win in 10 home games against the Raptors.

While Toronto (32-48) will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year, the Atlantic Division-worst club has been playing well down the stretch and beat Brooklyn 93-87 on Sunday for its third straight win.

DeMar DeRozan finished with 36 points and Rudy Gay added 26 and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who also beat playoff-bound Chicago in their previous two contests.

"Obviously it means nothing for the standings or our record next year,'' said Gay, who has totaled 49 points in his last two games. "It's just the mentality that we're trying to start having, not giving up, working hard. This is a jump-start for next year.''

DeRozan has scored 23 in each of his last two trips to Atlanta and averaged 22.8 on 53.8 percent shooting over his last six overall.

Center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 19 points in last month's loss, will miss his third straight game because of a neck injury.

Toronto has averaged 90.0 points in its two losses to the Hawks, who have averaged 100.0 points while shooting 48.7 percent in those games.

A win would give Atlanta its second series sweep in three seasons.

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