The Toronto Raptors haven't played this well before the All-Star break since Chris Bosh's final season north of the border, but in no way does that mean they're satisfied.
They'll look to head into the long weekend on a positive note by ending a five-game home losing streak to the struggling Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
Toronto (27-25) leads the Atlantic Division by three games and is enjoying its best run before the break since going 29-23 in 2009-10. It is coming off a 108-101 home victory over New Orleans on Monday after dropping three of four to end a five-game road trip.
Patrick Patterson - starting in place of the injured Amir Johnson - scored a season-high 22 points, while Kyle Lowry added 19 and 12 assists.
'There's no one on this team that's not focused. There's no one on this team that's not ready to play,' said Patterson, who may start again Wednesday with Johnson nursing an ankle injury. 'We have to go into (the game against Atlanta) with the same mentality that we had (Monday).
"Nobody can focus on the All-Star break, no one can focus on getting away and being with family. We have to handle what we have here and get things done.'
DeMar DeRozan, who also scored 22 points against the Pelicans, won't get as much time off as he's headed to New Orleans to compete in the 3-point contest and All-Star game for the first time in his five-year career. He stressed the need to head into the break with a solid showing at home.
Toronto has gone 10-3 at Air Canada Centre since losing eight of its first 12 there.
'We dropped a lot of games earlier in the season at home,' said DeRozan, who has averaged 23.8 points while shooting 54.5 percent in his last six against Atlanta. 'We really took the onus to understand that we've got to take advantage of home court, and that's what we've been trying to do.'
The Raptors have lost seven of the last eight home meetings with Atlanta and dropped the first matchup this season 102-95 on the road Nov. 1 despite DeRozan's 31 points.
The Hawks, though, head into this contest on a season-worst four-game skid after falling 100-85 at Chicago on Tuesday. Paul Millsap scored a team-high 15 points for Atlanta (25-25), which has averaged 86.5 points during its skid - well below its season average of 101.8.
'We just have to stay together,' Millsap said. 'Get back to playing our style of basketball. We feel like we have not played at our pace in the last few games.'
Atlanta was outrebounded 57-28 and ranks near the bottom of the league with a minus-3.2 differential. It made a charge in the second half, though, pulling to within eight points with 8:47 remaining after trailing by as many as 25.
'I think the second half is what we expect from our group, what we expect of each other, and the challenges to find a way to play that way for 48 minutes,' coach Mike Budenholzer said.
The Hawks haven't lost in Toronto since Bosh hit a jumper in the closing seconds of a 106-105 defeat March 17, 2010, but they've dropped three of their last four on the road heading into this contest.
The Associated Press News Service
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