Toronto guard Kyle Lowry (7) drives to the basket as Atlanta center Dwight Howard (8) defends during the first quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre Friday night. (Nick Turchiaro- USA TODAY Sports)
Last night, the Hawks once again proved that in the NBA, you should have a short memory on recent results as they were looking to win for the first time this season against the Toronto Raptors. Less than two weeks ago, the Hawks suffered one of the franchise worst losses as they lost 128-84 and entered last night losers of 10 of their last 11 regular season games against Toronto. Led by Dwight Howard & Dennis Schroeder, the Hawks redeemed themselves as they defeated the Raptors in a much needed victory 125-121.
Dwight Howard was the star of last night’s win with 27 points and 15 rebounds and during the game, Howard surpassed Elgin Baylor in rebounds for 26th all-time in NBA history, scored 16,000 points in his career, and also broke Kevin Garnett career record for offensive rebounds, which Howard is ranked 24th all-time. Last night was arguably the best team basketball opponent Atlanta has faced in nearly a month. From the start, the team’s ball movement and energy on the floor was key to the Hawks earning a much needed victory.
Atlanta got off to a great start by scoring 35 First Quarter point points, in comparison to their dismal 37 second half points in their previous blowout, go figure. Also, shooting 56% from the field and 46% from behind the arc at one point during the game, they built a huge lead which was as high as 19 points before the half ended with a 69-52 lead.
The Hawks bench contributed in a major fashion in order to win last night as well; Kyle Korver, the veteran shooting guard, posted arguably his best game of the 2016-17 season as he led the second unit with 19 points after going (6/10) from long range. However, in the second half, the Raptors would put together a rally and put pressure on the Hawks as Lowry picked up a technical in the fourth quarter to cut the lead down to five late in the contest.
Despite the Raptors second half rally, Dennis Schroder contributed key minutes down the stretch in the victory, as he finished with 24 points, when the Hawks win basketball games, its due to Schroder’s impact in the clutch moments such as in Toronto. The fourth year point guard would cause havoc in the paint, having his way whether he was driving to finish with an easy lay-up or a traditional lob pass to Dwight Howard. Schroder and Howard led the way scoring 62 points in the paint, which is where the majority of their points came throughout the game. Late in the fourth as the Raptors kept making the game interesting,
Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) and Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) in action as the Toronto Raptors take on the Atlanta Hawks at the Air Canada Centre, in Toronto, Ont. on Friday December 16, 2016. Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
Schroder made a lay-up to give the Hawks a 123-115 lead with 1:27 remaining in the game. The Raptors didn’t go away trimming their lead down to one possession after a jumper by Demar DeRozan, but Schroder went to the Free Throw line and made a shot securing the victory. Atlanta is the first team in the Eastern Conference to beat both Cleveland & Toronto on the road.
Atlanta Hawks’ Dwight Howard directs a teammate during first-half NBA basketball game action against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AJC)
Despite a great victory, the Hawks don’t have any time to celebrate as they returned from North of the Border back to Philips Arena for a match-up against Southeastern Division Rival, the Charlotte Hornets, who enters tonight’s game hoping to avenge 96-88 loss against the Boston Celtics. If the Hawks beat Charlotte, they can climb up to sixth in the Eastern Conference and the Hornets could fall to 7th or 8th. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. on Fox Sports Southeast. GO HAWKS!!!