The Atlanta Hawks seem to be slipping since the end of their impressive winning streak, giving the Toronto Raptors a chance to take advantage and maybe change things on top of the Eastern conference. A 105-80 win on the road is certainly a hint of things the might be coming.
The Hawks have lost four of the seven games since winning 19 in a row. They’re not doing anything different. But things are… different. Open shots aren’t being created with the ease they were before. Open shots aren’t falling and dropping like they were before. Or maybe the Raptors, second in the East and now 5.5 games behind the Hawks, are just as good with DeMar DeRozan back to ‘up & running’ status, leading his team with 21 points.
The Raptors missed him, despite doing a lot better than just keeping their heads above the water while their shooting guard was out. Their defense forced 22 turnovers, with four steals by Louis Williams and 3 by DeRozan. Williams was the hottest hand on the floor, scoring 26 points off the bench, including seven 3-pointers made. Both teams missed quite a lot, giving the opportunity to grab a combined 104 rebounds, but the Hawks couldn’t get anything going from the outside, hitting only 8-of-38 from beyond the arc.
The Raptors claim the season series between the two teams at 3-1, and got to repay the Hawks for beating them by 21 points in Canada just over a month ago. In what is right now the projected conference finals in the always changing and quite flexible Eastern conference, it no longer seems like the Hawks have the edge over everybody. They might still have the best record, but they’re certainly not playing like the best team anymore.