The Atlanta Hawks clamped down in the second half Monday night and got some revenge defeating the Toronto Raptors 109-87 at the Air Canada Centre. With the win the Hawks clinched a playoff spot for the 5th consecutive year. Atlanta also guaranteed that they will finish with a winning record on the road for the first time since the 1999 season.
Toronto picked right up where they left off on Sunday in the first quarter to take a 32-30 lead. Neither team seemed much interested in playing any defense as both made over 66 percent of their shot attempts in the quarter. Atlanta outscored Toronto 24-19 in the second period to take a 54-51 lead into the break. The Hawks pushed the pace in the period where they scored 10 of their 28 fast break points.
Atlanta was finally able to clamp down in the third quarter holding the Raptors to just 32 percent shooting. Jeff Teague scored eight of his 19 points in the third quarter as the Hawks finally took control of the game and cruised home at the end.
Ivan Johnson ended up leading the Hawks scoring a career-high 21 points while grabbing eight rebounds. He has came up big for the team since being sent home for a game and with Zaza Pachulia out this is the time that Atlanta needs him the most. The before mentioned Jeff Teague snapped out of a two-game slump with 19 points and 10 assists on 6-11 shooting.
Joe Johnson bounced back from a sub par outing on Sunday to score 18 points but doesn't appear to be moving very well particularly defensively. If the Hawks can nail down a seed in the playoffs it might not be a bad thing to try and rest Johnson at some point over the final five games.
The win improves the Hawks to 36-25 on the season and places them in a tie with both the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic. Boston is guaranteed the fourth seed by virtue of their lead in the Atlantic Division however they are not assured home court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs if the fifth seed has a better record. The Celtics hold the tie breaker against the Hawks so Atlanta must finish with a better record. The Hawks and the Celtics will meet for the final time during the regular season Friday night at Philips Arena.
Atlanta holds the tie breaker advantage over the Orlando Magic. Whoever finishes in the sixth spot will face off against the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs.
Atlanta's fifth straight trip to the playoffs may not get much fanfare from those that are tired of second-round exits. However, accurate that might be the successes of this team with this difficult schedule can't be underscored due to the amount of injuries they have overcame in a condensed and often times ridiculous schedule.