TORONTO (AP) — A troubling fourth-quarter trend has emerged in the Atlanta Hawks' past two games, putting their playoff hopes under increased pressure.
Kyle Lowry scored 25 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and 13 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth to beat the Hawks 96-86 on Sunday.
"We were up the whole game, we had the momentum, and then we just kind of crumbled at the end," Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll said.
The late collapse brought back bad memories of Friday's 111-105 home loss to New Orleans, in which the Pelicans overturned a late Atlanta lead with a 42-point fourth quarter.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer called the back-to-back defeats "very troubling," a sentiment shared by forward Paul Millsap.
"We just lose our focus down the stretch," Millsap said. "I feel like we had it for three quarters. Fourth quarter, another letdown."
Carroll and Millsap each scored 17 as the Hawks lost their second straight following a five-game winning streak.
"We just weren't able to make enough plays down the stretch," Budenholzer said. "Our execution wasn't good enough and they made more plays."
Jeff Teague had 16 points and Pero Antic had 10 rebounds for Atlanta, which failed to win a third straight road game after losing its previous 10 away from home. The Hawks are 11-25 on the road.
DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points, Greivis Vasquez had 12 and Terrence Ross 10 as the Raptors used their biggest fourth-quarter comeback of the season to avoid their first three-game home losing streak since dropping games against Brooklyn, Miami and Denver between Nov. 26 and Dec. 1.
Toronto, which leads the Atlantic Division and holds the third seed in the Eastern Conference, fell in double overtime to Oklahoma City on Friday and lost to Phoenix last Sunday.
"Huge for us, huge for us," Lowry said of beating the Hawks. "We can't let losses build up."
Lowry, who scored 13 in the fourth, has scored 19 points or more in a career-high nine consecutive games. He reached the mark again Sunday despite being held to 27 minutes, about three quarters of his season average.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Lowry isn't nursing an injury, but acknowledged an effort to keep his star guard's playing time down in the final month of the regular season.
"We just talked with the medical people and as an organization, we are going to try and keep his minutes down as much as possible," Casey said. "It's hard, believe me, as a coach and for him as a competitor. It looks like we're going at each other but we both understand the situation.
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