For 48 minutes, it looked as if the Atlanta Hawks were set to scratch and claw in order to avoid their fifth consecutive defeat, but once the halftime break ended, the Toronto Raptors had other ideas. Toronto blitzed the Hawks for 33 third-quarter points, and with some help from a frazzled Atlanta offense, they were able to cruise to a 104-83 win that kept the Hawks losing skid alive.
Gustavo Ayon was the big story in the first half, as the Atlanta big man scored 12 points on 6-for-6 from the floor before the break. He was extremely active in leading the team in scoring (what were the odds of that?) early, and with his contributions, the Hawks were able to keep the Toronto lead at just 1 after 24 minutes. From there, though, the Raptors were able to stretch their lead to 13 by the end of the 3rd period, and when Toronto scored the first 5 points of the 4th quarter (punctuated by a Steve Novak triple at the 9:32 mark), any visions of a streak-snapping win virtually left the building.
Defensively, the Hawks were simply unable to defend All-Star swingman DeMar DeRozan. In the absence of DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta's team defense held DeRozan to just 11 points in the first half, but after the break, he exploded for 20 points for a total of 31, and he was the best player on the court in this one. Kyle Lowry (16 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds) also won the point guard battle over Jeff Teague (13 points, 4-for-13 shooting), and that was something that this short-handed Hawks roster simply couldn't afford.
On an individual basis, the aforementioned Gustavo Ayon had, by far, his best game in an Atlanta uniform. The big man scored a career-best 16 points in the game and added 10 rebounds for a double-double in just 30 minutes of court time. Aside from Ayon, however, there was a shortage of positive efforts. Paul Millsap continued his strong play with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, while Kyle Korver continued his 3-point streak (now at 120 games) with a three at the 3:15 mark of the 1st quarter.
If there was a single encouraging thing from this game (and it's a stretch), it was that the Hawks didn't have any visible effort concerns. The entirety of the second half represented a team that looked exhausted and with the losing streak mounting, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the majority of the roster (especially the young guys) were pressing. Five straight losses is never fun, but with the All-Star break around the corner, there is time to rest and regroup before things heat up once again.