Raptors 103, Hawks 91
ATLANTA (AP)—Morris Peterson isn’t too impressed with Toronto’s winning record, no matter how long it’s been since the team has had one.
“We’re obviously happy about that, but we don’t want to stop there,” Peterson said. “You don’t want to say, ‘We’re over .500.’ You get fat and sassy.”
Winners of five of six, the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors improved to 24-23, the first time since 2001-02 that they’ve been over .500 this late in a season. Toronto hasn’t had a winning record since it started the 2004-05 season 4-3.
“Now that we’re in first place, we’re not going to be the hunter, we’re going to be the hunted,” Peterson said. “We’ve got to play harder.”
Bosh also had 10 rebounds to lead Toronto in points and boards for the fourth straight game. But the two-time All-Star said it’s a team concept that has the Raptors winning.
“It’s getting unbelievable,” Bosh said. “We trust each other, no matter what happens. We’re moving the ball well, Everybody’s playing unselfish basketball, and that’s what’ helping us out a lot.”
Atlanta never led after Josh Smith’s dunk made it 4-2. The Hawks couldn’t recover after an unnecessary push-off foul on Zaza Pachulia following a missed 3-pointer by Anthony Parker led to Peterson’s 3 for a 100-87 lead with 4:16 remaining.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks, who had won four of five, with 28 points. Smith had 26 points and 12 rebounds.
“When we cut into the lead, we cut it back down to six or seven and when the fourth quarter came, we stopped doing the things that got us back in the game,” Johnson said. “That’s what hurt us tonight.”
Toronto has 21 victories in 35 games since Nov. 24, when the official scorer in Atlanta failed to credit T.J. Ford with a basket that would’ve given the Raptors a late tie and an opportunity to change the complexion of a 97-93 loss.
Peterson was 5-for-7 beyond the arc. His 3-pointer with 4:45 left in the second quarter gave Toronto the first of five 19-point leads.
Ford finished with 10 assists despite playing just 17 minutes in a reserve role.
The Hawks were never closer than seven points after Smith hit two free throws with 9:37 remaining.
Atlanta, coming off its first winning month in nearly three years, made coach Mike Woodson furious with poor defense with 5:47 remaining. After Andrea Bargnani missed a 3, Bosh grabbed an uncontested rebound and fed Rasho Nesterovic for an easy layup and a 95-84 lead.
“I thought we played better in the second half, and we were able to get back in the game because we defended and rebounded the ball,” Woodson said. “First half, we just showed up, and they were the team on the floor. We were just out there.”
Tyronn Lue, who has battled a sore groin, was just 1-for-7 in 17:16 as the Hawks’ starting point guard. He said he admires how Toronto coach Sam Mitchell has guided the Raptors’ comeback.
“When a team buys into what a coach is doing, it makes it a lot easier,” Lue said. “Those guys are playing together and sharing the ball. It doesn’t matter who scores for them. They just want to get wins, and that’s what they’ve been doing as of late.”
Hawks G Speedy Claxton, returning after missing the last 11 games with a sore knee, scored two points on 1-for-8 shooting in a reserve role. … Toronto’s 63-point first half marked the most by an Atlanta opponent this season. … The Raptors are now 5-1 with a starting lineup of Bosh, Jorge Garbajosa, Nesterovic, Parker and Jose Calderon. … Johnson was 8-for-10 from the field for 17 points in the third quarter.
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