The Atlanta Hawks did what they needed to do on the road, snatching three victories during the five-game trip. However, the team fell short of a "home run" trip on Thursday night, falling victim to the Toronto Raptors in a 104-96 defeat.
The early going was encouraging for the visiting team, as the Hawks opened up a quick 9-4 lead that forced Toronto into an early timeout. The energy level and tempo were high for Atlanta in the first few minutes, and even as the Raptors charged back with a 9-2 spurt of their own, the Hawks were largely in good shape.
While the starters built the small advantage that the Hawks held after the first 12 minutes of play, it was Tim Hardaway Jr. who maintained it to start the second quarter. The backup swingman exploded for 9 points in his first 6 minutes of play, and that kept Atlanta afloat as the Raptors began to improve their ball security and, in turn, their overall production. Toronto reclaimed the lead and held it for much of the quarter, though, and when the dust settled at the halftime break, Mike Budenholzer's team trailed by a score of 52-48.
On one hand, the first half was quite positive in that the Hawks did not execute brilliantly but maintained reasonable results. Atlanta shot only 40% from the field, 27% from three and 64% from the free throw line before the break, and while that isn't anyone's idea of offensive success, the defense kept things manageable (thanks to 11 turnovers from Toronto) and the offense did a quality job of taking care of the ball with only four first-half turnovers.
The opening moments of the third quarter were, again, quite impressive, but that was sadly the end of the positive mojo on this night. Atlanta raced to a 9-3 run to open a 2-point lead, and the team used three triples (two from Horford, one from Bazemore) to do it. However, the momentum shifted in short order, as Horford personally issued three straight turnovers to key Toronto's response as they home team reclaimed a 5-point lead.
The Raptors then used another 7-0 spurt later in the quarter to establish a more comfortable lead, and they cruised to an 8-point lead after 36 minutes of clock time. From there, the Hawks were never able to make a full charge. Toronto kept the visitors at arm's length for the balance of the fourth quarter, finally pushing the margin to 12 at 101-89 with 3:30 remaining.
Atlanta would not fade away entirely, posting a slow-developing 7-1 run to climb within 102-96 with less than a minute remaining, but Dennis Schröder was whistled for an offensive foul with 32 seconds on the clock, and that effectively ended the threat. Toronto put the game away with free throws on the other end, and the eight-point margin was sealed.
All told, there was nothing embarrassing this performance from a Hawks perspective. Atlanta was victimized by DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 30 points on 20 shot attempts, but the defense was not woeful for much of the night. Offensively, the shots simply didn't fall at an acceptable clip (43% FG, 30% 3-PT) when trying to pull an "upset" on the road against a quality team, and the team lacked a standout individual performance to put things over the top.
The Hawks will have a moment to breathe on Friday as they return to Atlanta, but a home back-to-back against the Grizzlies and Pacers awaits over the weekend and such is life in the NBA. Mike Budenholzer and company can be pleased with a 3-2 mark on a grueling road trip, but there is much work to be done.