Just more than a week ago, an abysmal stretch for the Atlanta Hawks seemed to be jeopardizing their chances for a seventh straight playoff appearance. They've now seemingly righted their defensive woes and gotten back on track with their longest winning streak of the season.
Atlanta will try to continue its recent home mastery of the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.
Toronto, which has dropped nine of 11 at Atlanta, is letting opponents shoot 45.2 per cent from long distance over its last four games.
Patterson on mend
The Toronto Raptors confirmed in a statement released Tuesday that forward Patrick Patterson had his right ulnar collateral sprain reassessed and a second scan was taken of the elbow.
The injury is healing as anticipated.
Patterson is permitted limited basketball activity over the week with the use of a supporting brace before a decision is made on his return to the lineup.
These clubs split two earlier meetings with the Hawks going four of 20 from distance in a 104-83 road loss on Feb. 12. Atlanta hit 10 of 23 three-point attempts in a 102-95 home win on Nov. 1.
DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points in each and is averaging 24.9 points in his last seven meetings.
The Raptors (37-28) own a three-game lead for first place in the Atlantic Division and have won eight of 11, despite a 121-113 home loss to Phoenix on Sunday.
Kyle Lowry had 28 points and 13 assists and Terrence Ross added 22 points, but Toronto's bench was outscored 59-11. The Raptors have tallied 20 or fewer bench points in three straight games for the first time this season and have been without Patrick Patterson, who averages 9.3 as a reserve, for their last five due to a right elbow injury.
Toronto came close to losing another key player when Lowry was briefly treated after being struck in the head twice during a loose-ball scramble, though he remained in the game after a timeout and is expected to play Tuesday.
"I got kneed in the head, bad," said Lowry, who is averaging 22.0 points and 9.8 assists over his last five games.
The Raptors will be looking for their 18th road victory for the first time since 2001-02. They're in striking distance of the franchise record of 20 road victories (2000-01) with eight more games away from home remaining after Tuesday's contest.
The Hawks (30-35) have won four games in a row since dropping 14 of their previous 15 and improved defence appears to be keying the turnaround. They have held their last three opponents to 90.7 points per game on 39.3 per cent shooting, including a 29.0 per cent clip from three-point range. Over Atlanta's previous 13 contests, opponents were averaging 109.4 points on 45.2 per cent shooting, including 38.8 per cent from beyond the arc.
Monday's 97-83 win at Charlotte trimmed the Bobcats' lead for seventh place to 1 1/2 games. Atlanta held Charlotte to 35.3 per cent shooting, including 28.9 per cent and 31 points in the second half. It was the fewest points allowed in a second half by the Hawks since holding Chicago to 30 in an 83-80 victory on March 2, 2011.
"The activity and the effort and the commitment on the defensive end in the second half allowed us to beat a very, very good team tonight," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "That's something that we want to continue to build on and continue to improve as we go down the stretch here."
Paul Millsap, who is averaging 23.0 points over his last four games, scored 28 and was one of four Hawks with at least two treys. They're shooting 42.8 per cent from long range over the last five games.
Millsap is shooting 57.4 per cent over 14 career games against Toronto, which is his highest against any opponent.