Horford and Hawks send Raptors to fifth straight loss

Associated Press
3/27/2013 10:45:56 PM
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TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors beat a hasty retreat from the post-game locker-room without saying much on Wednesday.

Jonas Valanciunas said what they didn't need to.

"That was bad," the rookie Raptor said.

Valanciunas scored a team-high 19 points but Toronto completely fell apart in the fourth quarter en route to an ugly 107-88 loss to Atlanta that clinched the Hawks' sixth consecutive playoff appearance and had the Air Canada Centre fans booing the home team off the court.

"They got away so quick in the fourth quarter. I don't know what happened," Valanciunas said after the Raptors' fifth consecutive loss.

Part of what happened: the Raptors lost hard-working forward Amir Johnson -- on Johnson's bobblehead night -- early in the fourth quarter to a left leg contusion. And if there was any question about what he brings to the team, the Hawks provided the answer, outscoring Toronto 55-29 after Johnson left the game.

"Toughness is a big part of this league," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of his toughest player. "If you don't have mental and physical toughness. . . Amir is that experienced guy who's been in those situations. We missed that toughness, what he brings to the table."

Al Horford poured in 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to top the Hawks (40-32), while Jeff Teague added 24 and Josh Smith chipped in with 19.

Rudy Gay returned after missing a game with a sore back to score 15 for Toronto (26-45). DeMar DeRozan finished with 14 points, Terrence Ross had 13, and Alan Anderson scored 12.

The Raptors, who were coming off back-to-back losses to the New York Knicks, led for most of the night and looked poised to deliver an upset, leading by 11 in the second quarter.

But it was as if the Hawks had been toying with their hosts, calmly chipping away at the deficit in the third to send the game into the fourth quarter tied 75-75.

The Hawks found another gear in the fourth, while the Raptors collapsed, turning a close game into a blowout in a matter of a few minutes as Teague scored 10 straight points to put Atlanta up by 17 with 4:39 left to go.

"Frustration," DeRozan said of the fourth-quarter meltdown. "We let frustration get to us and they took advantage of it."

Casey, whose team who will head into the off-season without a playoff appearance for the fifth consecutive year, was angry about Toronto's turnovers -- his team coughed up the ball 20 times, costing them 24 points.

"That's the name of the game," Casey said. "That was the culprit that started everything."

The Hawks shot 49 per cent on the night to Toronto's 45. The Raptors outrebounded Atlanta 42-40.

Toronto came out strong, shooting 48 from the field and getting scoring from all seven Raptors who played in the first quarter, taking a nine-point lead on a Gay driving hook shot with about four minutes to go in the quarter. The Raptors took a 25-20 advantage into the second.

Ross led the way in the second quarter with nine points, including a monstrous dunk four minutes in that brought the crowd to it feet. The Raptors went into the dressing at halftime up 54-44.

Smith and Horford combined for 10 points apiece in a third quarter that saw the visitors outscore Toronto 31-21.

NOTES: The Raptors have 11 games left on the season. . . They're in Detroit on Friday then Washington on Sunday before returning home to host former Raptors guard Jose Calderon and the Pistons next Monday.

Al Horford (Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)


(Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
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