Atlanta made it seven straight wins Sunday when they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 129-121 to continue their streak that began on Jan. 17. It is the longest winning streak in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto beat the Miami Heat 124-120 in triple overtime on Saturday, a grueling game that saw each member of the starting lineup play at least 53 minutes. The Raptors are 4-6 in their past 10 games. The stop in Atlanta is the final leg of a three-game trip.
Atlanta has won the past three games against Toronto. The clubs have four games remaining against each other. Toronto has a one-game lead over Atlanta for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Atlanta bench has been instrumental in the team’s seven-game winning streak. Over the past three games, the Hawks’ reserves have outscored their opponents 160-60. They outscored the Lakers’ bench on Sunday 44-27.
Against the Lakers it was Onyeka Okongwu who came up big in the fourth quarter. Okongwu had three key baskets down the stretch and played well defensively against Anthony Davis. Okongwu finished with 16 points and five rebounds, although his stretch of games with at least two blocked shots ended at nine.
“He is doing a good job,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “He did a good job of keeping his body between (Davis) and the basket. The team had a rhythm with him in the lineup, so I decided to just stay with him and finish the game with him.”
Atlanta’s Trae Young had 36 points and 12 assists, giving him a league-best 11 games with 30 points and 10 assists. He also had 25 points and 10 assists in five other games. Young helped to calm the team with his court presence Sunday after McMillan said the Hawks had been “playing emotionally drunk.”
“Trae got the team to settle down in the second half,” McMillan said. “I thought he did a good job being calm — we were down 10 — and not pushing the panic button.”
Toronto’s Gary Trent Jr. has tied or set a season high for points in the past two games, getting 32 against Chicago and 33 against Miami. He has scored 30-plus points in three straight games, which has seen him shoot 49.3 percent (35-for-71) from the floor and 45.7 percent (16-for-35) on 3-pointers.
Atlanta nemesis Fred VanVleet is averaging a career-high 21.7 points and nailed two 3-pointers in the third overtime against Miami. Pascal Siakam had 21 against the Heat and has topped 20 points in nine of the past 11 games.
“We have become a little more feisty here in the last few weeks,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “I don’t know where they get that from, but it’s good to see. There’s been several comments to me about that, people saying, ‘When did Toronto get so mean?’ from players on the other team coming by me during the game. I like it. I think that it is a tough battle out there, and you’ve got to stand up for yourself.”
–Field Level Media