After 3 quarters, it looked as if the Hawks would cruise to victory, but the Kings had other ideas. Sacramento posted their second 30+-point quarter of the night, scoring 35 points (including 18 from point guard Isaiah Thomas) and thoroughly challenging Atlanta before finally surrendering late. It was a far cry from the “middle” quarters, where the Hawks turned a 7-point 1st quarter deficit into a 17-point advantage after the 3rd quarter on the strength of lock-down defense.
That defensive effort allowed Sacramento to post just 33 points in that 24-minute window, and despite those two explosive quarters, the Kings were held to just 43.8% shooting from the field and 32.3% shooting from three-point distance on the night. The aforementioned Isaiah Thomas led the way with 26 for Sacramento, but only a 1st-quarter barrage from Ben McLemore stood out against the improving Hawks defense otherwise.
On the offensive side, the Hawks were carried to victory by their starting duo in the front-court. Al Horford did his best “Al Horford” routine, putting up 27 points (on 11 of 19 shooting) and 10 rebounds on the night, while Paul Millsap had his best game in a Hawks uniform, scoring 25 points (on 9 of 15) and grabbing 11 rebounds. In addition to their scoring prowess, the Horford/Millsap combo also contributed 7 steals combined, and their energy level (copyright, Larry Drew) was extremely high.
Jeff Teague led the perimeter push, as the point guard put up a double-double of his own with 18 points (despite an uncharacteristic 4-for-8 showing from the free throw line) and 10 assists. There were certainly some struggles on the defensive end (especially late), but all in all, it was a positive night from Jeff. In addition, Dennis Schröder was tremendous in his 19 minutes, notching 7 assists and reminding us of his explosiveness as he absolutely toyed with Kings point guard Greivis Vasquez at times.
As far as the rotation is concerned, it was another night where John Jenkins didn’t see the court, and the first time this season that Mike Scott joined him on the bench throughout. In Scott’s case, I think it was more of a match-up issue against what can be a bulky front-line for Sacramento, but for Jenkins, it’s a bit troubling to see Cartier Martin consistently grabbing 20+ minutes while he sits idle. This is something to monitor moving forward.
All in all, it was a very positive night for the Hawks, and a much-needed road win with a trip to Denver (and that scary homecourt advantage) looming on Thursday. Kyle Korver kept the streak alive (77 straight!), the frontcourt studs kept up their end of the bargain, and we saw flashes of what the perimeter could look like on their best day. Stay tuned.