For much of the night, it looked as if DeMarre Carroll's return to Atlanta would be marked by a victory for the home team. However, the Hawks ran out of gas in a big way down the stretch, and the visiting Raptors took serious advantage in with a 96-86 come-from-behind victory.
The first quarter on Wednesday evening was... not a tribute to beautiful basketball. Atlanta held an 18-16 lead after 12 minutes despite shooting just 30% from the floor, and in general, shots were not falling on either side of the floor. Fortunately for the home fans, that quickly changed on the side of the Hawks.
Atlanta sprinted to a 10-2 run to begin the second quarter, claiming a 28-18 lead after an Al Horford dunk, and in short order, the lead would extend further. The Hawks built the advantage to as many as 17 points after a 15-2 run, and while Toronto chipped away prior to halftime, the home team held a 46-32 lead at the break.
Atlanta's defense was quite stingy throughout the half, to the point where it was notable in comparison to the rest of the year. The Raptors missed 13 of their 15 three-point attempts in the half, and their 32-point performance was the lowest first-half total allowed by the Hawks all season. With that combined with a "breakout" offensive half from Thabo Sefolosha (11 points, 5-8 FG), things were going quite well in the friendly confines of Philips Arena.
Following the break, though, the execution waned a bit on both ends. Toronto's offense continued to sputter, shooting just 41% from the floor in the third quarter, but the Raptors were able to score 25 points by taking care of the ball (one turnover) and the visitors managed to cut the lead to just seven points before the margin settled at 66-57 after three quarters. Though Atlanta entered the night with a 35-game streak of holding fourth-quarter leads at home, that would be tested in a big way down the stretch, as the Raptors kept coming until they spoiled that statistic entirely.
Toronto pecked away at the advantage until the 6:28 mark, when Kyle Lowry gave the Raptors the lead with a circus lay-up. In general, Lowry was able to get anything he wanted in the fourth, scoring 22 points in the frame, and he was the impetus for Toronto's massive push, including a personal 8-0 run to give the Raptors a wildly unexpected 82-75 lead.
While Atlanta would stage something of a response on the back of six quick points from Kent Bazemore and Al Horford, the collapse was on. Toronto quickly buoyed the lead to a game-high 10 points with 2:21 left on an alley-oop from Lowry to former Hawk Lucas Nogueira, and that was basically the end of the night. All told, the Raptors scored 39 points on 14 for 19 from the floor in the fourth quarter, and while some of those shots were seriously contested, the defensive performance waned greatly in the closing minutes of this game.
There was nothing pretty about the performance on Wednesday, and while that was fine when the defense performed well early, the Hawks won't be able to win many contests against strong opponents while shooting 36.7% from the floor. Atlanta's next task will be a home game against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Friday night, and with the sour taste left from this one, an inspired effort would be welcomed.