It isn’t often that any team can sustain 8 scorers in double-figures in a single, but that was the exactly the case for the Atlanta Hawks in Madison Square Garden on Saturday, and that incredibly balanced effort led to a runaway, 110-90 victory over the New York Knicks.
Jeff Teague led all scorers for Atlanta with 16 points, but one night after his career high effort against the Sixers, he was largely overshadowed by the aforementioned balance. He was very aggressive (key word!) as has been the case for most of the year, and that was encouraging, but one of his backups (in fact, his 3rd-string point guard) put up a line that seemingly emerged from nowhere to give the Hawks an unexpected boost.
Shelvin Mack had the best game of his Hawks career, scoring 12 points (on 5 of 8 shooting) and dishing out 12 (yes, 12) assists in just 22 minutes of action. The little-used point guard excelled all night on the offensive end, and his shear presence coupling with the final run that put the game away kept Teague’s minute total to only 26 on the night.
Up front, the Hawks big men gave the team 4 double-figure scorers on the night, and it was Paul Millsap leading the way. Millsap was reinserted into the starting lineup after a 1-game hiatus, and he didn’t disappoint, scoring 14 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in only 30 minutes of game action. As usual, Millsap was extremely efficient, needing only 9 shots to get his production, and his defensive effort against Carmelo Anthony also stood out, as the Knicks’ go-to guy was held to 8 of 20 shooting.
Mike Scott and Gustavo Ayon also put up very, very solid efforts off the bench. Scott played workmanlike defense on Anthony when Millsap was on the bench, and he also added 11 points. Ayon came off the bench for the first time this season, and managed to score 10 points and grab 5 rebounds in 19 minutes. I absolutely love Ayon as a role player for his defensive and rebounding, and these two players were certainly a bright spot in this game.
Finally, Al Horford wasn’t electric from a production standpoint (12 points, 2 rebounds), but as always, he was the floor leader for Atlanta, and his rim protection helped to curtail the New York offense. It’s very nice to see a blowout victory without the need for Horford to carry the team at any point, and the fact that he only needed to play 30 minutes on the 2nd game of a back-to-back is a plus as the season wears on.
The marvelous saga that is the Kyle Korver 3-point streak also continued on Saturday night, as the sharpshooter finished the night with 3 triples on 8 attempts. Kyle’s streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer extended to 83 when he knocked down a three at the 4:05 mark of the 1st quarter, and with that, he now trails NBA all-time record holder Dana Barros by only 6 games. In addition to the streak, Korver played extremely well in all facets, scoring 15 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, and playing solid defense for his position.
In fairness to the Knicks, this was a much, much closer game than the final score suggested, but the Hawks put the pedal to the medal late and New York simply had no answer. The Hawks shot a blistering 56.4% (44 of 78) from the field on the night, and when the 3-ball is falling (9 of 22 in this spot), it’s incredibly difficult to stop the multi-faceted offense that Budenholzer and company are rolling out at this stage. Defensively, this was an awesome effort, and while the Knicks (namely JR Smith) certainly helped the Hawks at times, holding a team to less than 38% shooting on the road is a win against anyone.
After flying back to Atlanta this evening (red-eye!), the team will have 2 days off before heading to Miami to take on Lebron James and the defending NBA champion Heat. There is no rest for the weary in this league, but I’m positive that a 20-point, “revenge” win over the Knicks will make the next road trip an easier one.