It is sometimes rare for nearly everything to come together during an NBA game, but that was the case for the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night. In addition to an NBA record from Kyle Korver (don’t worry, we’ll get there), it was a near-flawless offensive performance for the Hawks, and the defense played up to the task in dismantling the visiting Los Angeles Clippers, 107-97.
The aforementioned Kyle Korver began the night with a vengeance, knocking down a history-making 3 on Atlanta’s first possession of the night. Kyle tied the all-time NBA record for consecutive games with a 3-pointer at the 11:30 mark of the 1st quarter, and that was just the beginning of a big day for the marksman. In addition to the record-tying triple, Kyle finished the night with 23 points (on 8 for 12 from the field and 6 for 9 from beyond the arc), and he also added 3 rebounds and 5 assists for good measure. His contributions in the early going (8 of the first 13 points) and down the stretch (including a 4-point play and a back-breaking 3 during the final stretch) were enormous, and it was the perfect “welcome back” scenario.
In addition to Kyle’s hot start, the Hawks executed very well early, using a 12-2 run to pulse an 8-point advantage at the end of the 1st quarter. Paul Millsap joined with Kyle in beginning the game hot, scoring 11 points (on 5-7 FG) and grabbing 6 rebounds in the 1st, and that set the stage for what was a huge night for Paul.
The starting power forward had one of his best games in an Atlanta uniform, scoring 25 points (on 12-20 FG), grabbing 9 rebounds, and dishing out 6 assists over a team-high 37 minutes of action. Paul soundly outplayed Blake Griffin for most of their heads-up battle, and his consistent offensive output was one of the big keys to the victory.
Following the 1st quarter push, the Hawks were able to lengthen the lead to 15 near the end of the half, as a mini-run gave Atlanta a 55-40 advantage. However, Los Angeles looked to be stealing the momentum back, as they finished the half on a quick 4-0 spurt, thanks to a costly turnover with less than 10 seconds remaining. Fortunately, though, the Hawks weren’t deterred in the slightest.
The two teams traded runs out of the gate in the 2nd half, as the Hawks scored the first 5 with the Clippers answering with a 9-0 binge of their own to cut the lead to just 7 at 60-53. That was the closest that Los Angeles would come to closing the gap in full, however, as the Hawks took it to them down the stretch. In the 4th quarter, Korver helped to put the game away with the aforementioned sequence of a 4-point play at the 5:08 mark, and a dagger three with 3:58 remaining to put the lead back to 11 at 99-88. After a Clippers timeout, the Hawks wouldn’t be denied, as they continued the run with 8 straight points, including 4 from Shelvin Mack, to put the game away for good.
Speaking of Shelvin Mack, this was yet another positive night for the young point guard. Earlier in the day, the Hawks made a transaction that ended all “controversy” about Mack’s spot as the primary backup at the point guard position, and he took full advantage of the nod. Mack finished with 12 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds in just under 25 minutes, and even closed the game out with 10 minutes and 54 seconds of playing time in the 4th quarter, thanks to Jeff Teague’s foul trouble.
This wasn’t a night where Teague was needed to produce big-time numbers, and that is perfectly fine. The point guard finished with just 6 points and 6 assists, but he facilitated when necessary, and allowed for the big men to take over in an advantageous match-up. In addition to Millsap’s stellar performance, the always-consistent Al Horford had a big night of his own, scoring 21 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in 34 minutes. Both frontcourt options were able to score at will in pick-and-roll situations, and as a team, the Hawks were able to exploit what has been the biggest problem for LA’s defense this season.
Knocking off a top-tier Western Conference team is just what the doctor ordered for the Hawks as they begin their longest homestand of the season, but the way in which Atlanta dismantled the visiting Clippers is noteworthy. The final margin of 10 points wasn’t necessarily indicative of just how well the Hawks played (51.2% FG, 12 of 23 from 3-point land is more of an illustration), and this was certainly one of the best showings of the entire campaign. This is one of the most entertaining Hawks teams of the last 20 years, and with a couple more performances like this, we’ll be able to vault them to the top of that list.
Next up for the Hawks will be the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, as they look to continue their positive homestand on a night where Kyle Korver will be aiming for history.