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Second half struggles cost Hawks in 119-101 loss to Raptors

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The first half was fun...

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Though some fireworks occurred for the Atlanta Hawks in advance of the NBA trade deadline, the roster for Lloyd Pierce’s team remained largely intact ahead of Thursday’s face-off with the Toronto Raptors. In fact, the bizarre dynamic in play with Atlanta’s first game of an extended homestand came from the undermanned nature of the Raptors, with Toronto only having nine available players to deploy after a series of transactions. Still, it was the visitors that were stronger in the second half and the end result was a 119-101 defeat for the Hawks.

Offensively, the Hawks began on a high note, making six of their first ten shots on the way to a slight early edge. Trae Young got things going in a hurry, with four quick points including some post-play acrobatics.

From there, the hot shooting continued as Kent Bazemore, DeAndre’ Bembry and Vince Carter (twice) all connected on threes to key a 14-2 run that gave the home team a 31-17 lead.

Eventually, the Hawks settled in to an 11-point lead after 12 minutes of play and positive things continued into the second frame. Atlanta opened a blistering 13 of 17 (!) from beyond the arc and Taurean Prince was five of his first six from long distance.

The Hawks led by as many as 17 in the second period but the Raptors eventually awakened. Toronto used a spurt of 11 consecutive points to climb within a 66-60 margin and, while Prince scored the final bucket of the half for Atlanta, the Hawks took only an eight-point lead into the break.

Atlanta’s 13 three-pointers tied for a season-high for a half of play and, in general, the offense was lights-out. Between the scalding-hot shooting and only five turnovers, the Hawks did more than enough on that end of the floor, though the Raptors were able to score effectively (especially late in the half) in their own right.

The third quarter was not as kind to the Hawks in an overall sense, and the Raptors put the pedal to the floor immediately. Toronto used a 15-5 run to take the lead at 75-73 and Atlanta’s offense (finally) sputtered. To their credit, the Hawks did respond with six straight points from Young and John Collins to reclaim the edge, albeit briefly.

The Raptors (again) scored eight straight from there, however, and Toronto carried a three-point lead to the fourth quarter. All told, the Hawks shot just 7-of-18 from the floor and 1-of-6 from three in the third period, representing a far cry from the red-hot performance of the early going.

Though the less than stellar performance continued to start the fourth quarter, there was an infusion of energy in the form of a throwback dunk from Carter.

That was the lone bright spot in the opening minutes, however, with the Raptors blitzing the Hawks to the tune of a 15-4 run. That spurt gave Toronto full control with a 103-89 lead and fewer than eight minutes remaining on the clock, leaving Atlanta in a vulnerable position.

From there, the crushing blow is imminent, as the Raptors pushed the margin to 110-92 and that essentially ended the threat.

Young and Prince led the way for the Hawks statistically, with the rookie point guard finishing with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists and the third-year forward scoring 19 points and knocking down five threes. Elsewhere, Collins produced a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds but, in general, Atlanta’s offense sputtered mightily in the second half and that was the death blow on this particular night.

Following this defeat, he Hawks will play host to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday at State Farm Arena. Stay tuned.