The biggest story of Friday night’s game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers was, unquestionably, Kyle Korver’s pursuit of history, but that didn’t stop the Hawks from (nearly) stealing the show with a team-oriented and dominant victory.
First, though, Kyle Korver made his way into the NBA’s record book with his 90th consecutive game with a made 3-pointer. Kyle surpassed Dana Barros’ long-standing record of 89 straight with his triple at the 5:29 mark of the 1st quarter, and the well-deserved praise that fell his way from the entire basketball world ensued. Head coach Mike Budenholzer referenced Kyle as a “great teammate” during his post-game remarks, and that was also evident by how he was treated on the floor and in the post-game by his teammates.
In addition to the streak, Kyle also played a very effective game overall, spreading the floor to allow for penetration and interior play, while holding his own defensively. However, this one will certainly be known as the record-breaking evening, and that is perfectly fine, especially in an Atlanta win.
As for the rest of the positivity surrounding the result, this was a fantastic overall performance by the Hawks for the great majority of the night. The team began the night with an electric, 37-point explosion in the first quarter, as they scored their season-high for any quarter in the 1st, and shot a blistering 60% from the field, including 5 for 9 from beyond the arc. The run didn’t end at the end of the 1st, though, as the Hawks continued with a 6-0 spurt to begin the 2nd quarter, and that completed a 13-0 spurt to lengthen the lead to 43-20.
The two teams played virtually even from that point until the early part of the 3rd quarter, when the Hawks built their largest lead of the night at the 6:56 mark of the 3rd quarter, with a score of 77-48. Following that, though, Atlanta went through their one and only lull of the night, allowing the Cavs to go on two separate 8-0 spurts to close the lead to just 12 with just 10:12 remaining.
Fortunately for the Hawks, that was as close as the Cavs would get to completing a comeback, as a 14-6 run capped by a crazy sequence of back-to-back lob dunks by Al Horford put the game away at 98-78 with just over 5 minutes remaining, and that was virtually the end of the night.
Offensively, the numbers weren’t absolutely staggering for Atlanta (as they were in the 1st quarter), but incredibly balanced and effective. Al Horford led the way with 22 points (on 10 for 19 shooting), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, while Paul Millsap added a 16-point, 14-rebound double-double to complete the frontcourt barrage. Those two performances were just the beginning, though, as the team had seven players score in double-figures to go with a 51.6% shooting mark across the board.
It wasn’t a lights-out game for Jeff Teague (6 for 14 from the field, 13 points, 6 assists), but that was more than enough for him to outlast Kyrie Irving in tonight’s most highlighted match-up. In fact, Irving had the worst game of his entire career (at least statistically), as he failed to tally a single point (a first in his admittedly short career) on 0-for-9 shooting and 0-for-3 from the free throw line. Budenholzer characterized Irving’s effort as just “one of those nights”, but the Atlanta defense did force him into multiple tough shots, and that seemed to get him off of his game from the outset.
Although Coach Bud was quick to dismiss this game as not being the “best” showing of the year, the first half was the epitome of what the Hawks look like when they have it clicking on both ends. The offense can be downright scary when all the parts are working (especially with both Kyle and Lou Williams, who added 13 points off the bench, are playing), and although Cleveland certainly helped out the defense with some poor execution, holding any team to 40.4% from the field and 25% from 3-point land is an accomplishment.
From there, the Hawks have a welcomed period of rest, as they don’t appear in another game until Tuesday night’s home tilt against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Many people would say that it is a negative to quell this type of momentum, but in this league, it’s critical to get extra rest at times, and I can’t imagine that anyone on the roster would complain about the time off.
This night belonged to Kyle Korver (and the entire cast declared this, both during and after the game), but it was a universally positive effort, and that is another long-lasting takeaway.