Raptors make franchise history in rout of Hawks

DeMar DeRozan had 21 points, and Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson each added 17 in the Toronto Raptors' 128-84 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

TORONTO — The largest margin of victory in franchise history. The best shooting percentage of the season. The NBA’s longest current win streak, and a place back atop the Eastern Conference standings.

The Raptors roared to a thrilling 128-84 rout of the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, and in the moments after the momentous win, coach Dwane Casey was asked if he’ll allow himself to feel at least a little bit proud.

"No," Casey said, without pause. "There’s a thin line between the penthouse and the outhouse in this league.

"It’s something that I never forget. I’ve been in it too long, seen too much, to understand what it takes and where things can go."

Still, the Raptors are playing easily their best basketball of the season. Their offence, in particular, is running like a well-oiled machine. Led by DeMar DeRozan’s 21 points, eight Raptors scored in double digits in the team’s largest margin of victory in their 20-plus seasons.

Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson had 17 points apiece, Terrence Ross contributed 15, Pascal Siakam finished with 14, Lucas Nogueira had 11, and DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph had 10 each for the Raptors (14-6), whose victory stretched their win streak to six games, and propelled them to a tie with Cleveland atop the East.

"Right now, we’re hot, we’re making shots, right now it seems like the ball is just finding the net," Patterson said. "Extremely fun. You look left and right, you’ve got Kyle doing his thing, and same with DeMar. You see CoJo and T-Ross, and Pascal, Norm (Powell). When every guy seems like they can’t miss, it makes the night more fun because you’ve got weapons all over."

Dennis Shroder had 15 to top the Hawks (10-11).

The Hawks’ season story is virtually the opposite of Toronto’s. Since racing out to an early 9-2 record, they’ve been in a tailspin, losers of nine of their last 10 games.

It was the same storyline Saturday, as the Raptors led virtually from the opening whistle, had cobbled together a 21-point lead by the second quarter, and went into the final frame ahead 86-71 in front of a capacity crowd of 19,800 that included Toronto FC forward Tosaint Ricketts and Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis.

"Everybody worked on it every single day, it’s just repetition, us catching a rhythm, playing together," DeRozan said.

The Raptors showed no mercy in a can’t-miss fourth quarter, hitting a flurry of shots in a 72 per cent shooting effort. When Patterson scored on a three-pointer barely four minutes into the quarter, it put Toronto up by 28 points. Three minutes later, they’d stretched it to a whopping 38 points, and once again, Casey was able to empty his bench as the clock ticked down.

When rookie Jakob Poeltl scored on a huge dunk with less than a minute to play, falling to the court with a delighted grin, the Raptors veterans on the bench leapt to their feet in celebration.

"It feels great, knowing that we all did our job, and then guys who don’t get to play all the time, especially the young guys, get to get in, showcase their skills, and we get to root and cheer them on," Patterson said. "It’s fun, we love seeing it, we’re their biggest cheerleaders, they’re our biggest cheerleaders and just have fun."

Poeltl’s dunk was a memorable moment in a game that had several. Carroll dove for a loose ball into the third row of courtside seats. When he clambered back out, he paused to kiss the little girl he nearly crushed.

Lowry found Nogueira and Siakam for several huge dunks, including a virtual full-court touchdown throw to Siakam that he finished with the alley-oop.

"That’s the way they play, it’s easy for me to throw the ball and they go get it, the way Lucas jumps, Pascal’s energy," Lowry said. "It makes it a lot easier on me, I take no credit on what those guys have been able to do. The intangible things that they have, naturally gifted to them, it’s pretty amazing."

DeRozan led the way with 14 points in a first quarter that saw Toronto race out to a 32-22 lead on 62 per cent shooting.

Patterson drilled three of the Raptors’ five threes in the second quarter, and was terrific in stretches, including one series that saw him make a steal, then finish with an uncharacteristic dunk and free throw at the other end.

A pullup jumper by Carroll, who returned after sitting out Friday’s game to rest, put the Raptors up by 21 points with two minutes left in the half, and they went into the break with a 64-47 lead.

The Raptors next host the Cavaliers on Monday, but Lowry said facing Cleveland doesn’t have any significant meaning.

"We want to be better than every team in the NBA, at the end of the day," Lowry said.

They end their six-game homestand against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Canada’s Andrew Wiggins on Thursday.

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