It must feel good to silence the doubters.
Al Horford scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, Jeff Teague had 24 points and 13 assists and the Hawks clinched a playoff berth for the sixth consecutive season, beating the Toronto Raptors 107-88 on Wednesday night.
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"I'm really proud of this bunch with what we accomplished tonight," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "There were a lot of people that counted us out at the start of the season and said we wouldn't be in this position. With all the changes that we made, here we are."
Teague was just as delighted.
"This is a group no one really gave a chance," he said. "For us to come together and be in the playoffs this year, it's a lot of excitement."
After being hired last June, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry turned over the roster by dealing Johnson to Brooklyn and Williams to Utah. Willie Green was sent to the Clippers, Jordan Farmar was waived and Kirk Hinrich left as a free agent.
Atlanta's success at weathering those changes means a lot to Horford.
"This team could have easily gone the other way," he said. "We haven't had the perfect year, a lot of injuries. We've been up and down as a team. I'm proud of the way we've been able to hang in there and play through adversity. That's been the biggest thing for us."
The Hawks still have a shot at earning home court advantage in the first round. They entered play Wednesday tied with Chicago for the fifth seed, only 2½ games behind fourth-place Brooklyn.
"We just want to be in the best position that we can, whatever that is," Horford said.
Josh Smith scored 19 points for the Hawks, who used a 16-0 run midway through the fourth to win for the 13th time in their past 15 meetings with the Raptors.
Horford had only six points in the first half but still reached double digits for the 31st consecutive game, the second-longest streak of his career. He did it in 33 straight games in 2009-10.
"He has really come into his own," Drew said. "He got off to a little bit of a slow start but as the game went on he started getting more and more into a rhythm. You could see in the second half where he was really wanting the basketball so we were running plays where we got him the ball. We were putting him positions where he was picking and popping and he was knocking the shot down."
Raptors coach Dwane Casey had suggested his team might shut down Rudy Gay after the star forward left Friday's home loss to the Knicks with a sore back, then sat out Saturday's loss in New York. Still sore, Gay started against the Hawks, scoring 15 points in 34 minutes and matching his season high with 12 rebounds.
Toronto forward Amir Johnson left with 10:28 left in the third with a left leg contusion. X-rays were negative but he did not return.
Toronto was outscored 55-29 after Johnson went down, leaving Casey bemoaning his team's lack of toughness.
"We didn't respond when they got physical," Casey said. "We're looking for calls, and they're not calling them."
The Raptors trailed 81-80 after Anderson's 3-pointer with 9:11 left, but Horford scored six of the next eight points, four on jump shots and two on a dunk, putting the Hawks up 89-80 with 7:26 to play.
Teague made back-to-back 3-pointers then added a driving jump shot, giving the Hawks a 97-80 lead with 4:39 left.
DeRozan snapped Toronto's 4:48 scoreless streak with a pair of free throws, but Horford answered with a slam off an alley-oop from Teague.
Gay scored six in the first and DeRozan and Amir Johnson each had five as the Raptors led 25-20 after one.
Ross scored nine points in the second and DeRozan had seven, including a jump shot with less than two seconds left, giving the Raptors a 54-44 lead at the half.
Atlanta took a 71-69 lead, its first since early in the second quarter, on Smith's 3 with 3:23 left in the third. Ross scored four of Toronto's next six points as the Raptors reclaimed the lead, but a pair of free throws by Smith with 30 seconds left knotted the score at 75-all heading to the fourth.
Atlanta's Kyle Korver extended his streak of game with at least one 3-pointer to 65. Korver's streak is the fifth-longest in NBA history. Reggie Miller (68 games) had the fourth-longest, while Dana Barros tops the list with an 89-game streak.
|Atlanta big man Al Horford scores 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter of the Hawks' win over Toronto.|
|Atlanta (40-32) «||20||24||31||32||107|
|ATL:A. Horford 26 Pts
ATL:A. Horford 12 Reb
ATL:J. Teague 13 Ast
|TOR:J. Valanciunas 19 Pts
TOR:R. Gay 12 Reb
TOR:K. Lowry 10 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|A. Horford, C||36||10-18||6-6||12||1||2||26|
|J. Teague, PG||35||9-15||3-3||4||13||2||24|
|J. Smith, SF||31||7-16||3-5||3||1||3||19|
|A. Tolliver, PF||26||2-4||2-2||1||1||3||7|
|K. Korver, SG||23||3-9||0-0||3||1||2||8|
|I. Johnson, PF||34||4-5||1-2||6||4||4||9|
|D. Stevenson, SG||21||0-4||0-0||2||0||1||0|
|S. Mack, PG||13||1-3||0-0||1||3||2||3|
|J. Jenkins, SG||11||4-4||0-0||3||2||0||9|
|J. Petro, C||7||0-1||2-2||3||1||1||2|
|M. Scott, PF||4||0-2||0-0||2||0||1||0|
|D. Jones, SG||Did Not Play|
|Z. Pachulia, C||Did Not Play|
|D. Harris, PG||Did Not Play|
|L. Williams, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|D. DeRozan, SG||36||5-14||4-6||2||1||2||14|
|R. Gay, SF||35||6-14||3-4||12||3||5||15|
|K. Lowry, PG||34||1-5||1-2||7||10||3||3|
|J. Valanciunas, C||32||8-11||3-4||8||0||2||19|
|A. Johnson, SF||20||3-6||1-1||5||0||3||7|
|A. Anderson, SG||31||5-13||0-1||1||2||0||12|
|T. Ross, SG||24||5-9||2-2||5||0||0||13|
|J. Lucas, PG||14||1-3||0-0||1||3||1||3|
|L. Fields, SF||7||1-2||0-0||1||0||0||2|
|A. Gray, C||6||0-1||0-0||0||1||2||0|
|M. Pietrus, SG||Did Not Play|
|S. Telfair, PG||Did Not Play|
|L. Kleiza, SF||Did Not Play|
|A. Bargnani, C||Did Not Play|
|Q. Acy, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|