The Atlanta Hawks enjoy being a part of the NBA's Martin Luther King Day festivities, commemorating their native son. But hosting the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors on Monday won't give the home team any cause for celebration.
The matchup, the first part of a televised NBA quadrupleheader, has been tilted heavily in favor of the Raptors. Toronto has won eight straight meetings against the Hawks, including five in a row at Atlanta's State Farm Arena.
The Raptors prevailed 119-116 in the first meeting between the two clubs on Nov. 23 in Atlanta. The Hawks haven't beaten the Raptors since March 10, 2017.
Toronto, which has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, has won three in a row, most recently a 122-112 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. Toronto shot 51.6 percent from the field and held the Timberwolves to 28.0 percent shooting on 3-pointers.
Fred VanVleet sparked Toronto in his return to the lineup after missing five games with a right hamstring strain. Despite playing under restricted minutes, VanVleet scored 29 points and was 7-for-8 on 3-point shots.
"It looked like he was just riding a bike," Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. "He was really good."
Norman Powell came off the bench to score 20 points. He has posted four consecutive 20-plus efforts since returning from a left shoulder injury that caused him to miss 11 games. During this hot streak Powell is averaging 22.8 points and shooting 61.4 percent from the floor.
Toronto continues to be led in scoring by Pascal Siakam (23.8 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (20.4 points, 7.6 assists). Siakam moved into second place among Eastern Conference forwards in the most recent All-Star voting.
Atlanta has won two of its past three but is coming off a dreadful 136-103 loss to Detroit on Saturday. That occurred on the second half of a back-to-back that saw the Hawks win in San Antonio on Friday for the first time since 1997.
"We just didn't execute our plan well," forward John Collins said. "We came out a little slow and they hit us first and we really didn't respond too well."
The bright spot in the loss to the Pistons was Atlanta's ability to force 18 turnovers. The Hawks rank fifth in the league with 15.8 forced turnovers per game and have forced 15-plus turnovers on 24 occasions.
Collins had 20 points against the Pistons and blocked two shots, giving him a streak of seven games with at least one block, the second-longest streak of his career.
Trae Young, who averages 28.8, had only 16 points against the Pistons. The second-year guard is on pace to become only the third Hawk to average 28 points on the season, joining Bob Pettit (three times) and Dominique Wilkins (four times).
Jeff Teague, re-acquired in a trade earlier in the week, had 15 points and seven assists upon his return. That is the sort of relief effort for Young at point guard that the team has lacked all season.
The Hawks and Raptors have two more games this season, both in Toronto, Jan. 28 and April 10.