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Raptors crush Hawks


ATLANTA—On a night starter Jonas Valanciunas earned credit for setting a high-energy tone in a runaway win, Toronto coach Dwane Casey still criticized a lackadaisical final few minutes from his back-ups.

The explanation from Casey was simple: “We're building for something bigger.”

Valanciunas had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and the rested Raptors used strong three-point shooting to beat the Atlanta Hawks 108-93 last night.

Playing in their first game since Saturday's loss at Minnesota, Toronto made 14 three-pointers, including eight in the first half.

The Raptors improved to 25-6 when making at least 10 “threes” this season.

Toronto's big lead was 32 points but Atlanta's reserves, led by rookie John Collins' 13 points and career-high 16 rebounds, had the stronger finish to the game.

“It was a letdown at the end," Casey said. ”I was disappointed at the way that last group went in.

“It's a game of habits and that's what I just told the young guys . . . you create bad habits and it shows up in weird places.”

Casey wants his players to win home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

The Raptors entered the game 1.5 games behind Boston in the race for the No. 1 seed in the East.

Fred VanVleet added 19 points off the bench while all-star starter DeMar DeRozan had 14 as Toronto moved to 3-0 against Atlanta this season.

The Raptors won the first two games of the season series by an average of 23.5 points.

“It feels like this year they've played really, really well against us,” said Hawks' coach Mike Budenholzer.

“I think you have to give them credit why we have not played well.”

Dennis Schroder led Atlanta with 20 points while Kent Bazemore had 13.

The Raptors had good reason to feel comfortable. They arrived in Atlanta on Sunday and, in a rarity, had time to focus on fundamentals in two practices.

“We tried to focus on getting back to the basics,” said Jakob Poeltl, who had six points.

“I think it showed tonight.”

Toronto also had 12 blocks and 10 steals.

Before the game, Casey wasn't sure what to expect following the unusually long rest.

“It's an unknown,” he admitted.

“Hopefully it's good, the break is good, but sometimes rust is something else, too, when you get out of game rhythm.”

The Raptors showed no rust.

They were never threatened after stretching their lead to 17-6 with an 11-0 run, capped by Serge Ibaka's three-pointer, in the first quarter.

Valanciunas reached double-double status with his rebound and jam midway through the third period.

VanVleet, meanwhile, finished three points shy of his career high of 22 points against Cleveland back on Jan. 11.

The Raptors coasted despite their two all-stars, DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, combining to make only 7-of-22 shots.

Lowry had nine points while making 3-of-10 shots.

Elsewhere in the NBA, Portland beat Minnesota 123-114, Indiana dumped Phoenix 116-101, New Orleans downed Charlotte 101-96, Philadelphia upended Chicago 115-101, and Utah shaded Detroit 98-95 (OT).

Houston beat Dallas 104-97, San Antonio bounced Memphis 108-85, and Boston downed the L.A. Clippers 113-102.

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