After a lackluster half of basketball, it looked (albeit briefly) that the Atlanta Hawks could be headed for their second consecutive loss against one of the league’s big-market teams. Then, the Hawks put on a show for the final 24 minutes, including a lights-out 3rd quarter, and that momentum propelled the team to a 114-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The turning point in Monday night’s action was a 21-4 blitz from the Hawks over the middle portion of the 3rd quarter. With the Hawks trailing 58-49, Al Horford knocked down back-to-back shots, and then, it was Kyle Korver time.
First, Korver swished a 19-foot jumper to give the Hawks a 5-point advantage, and then, fireworks came. Korver continued his utterly absurd streak of 3-point shooting, as the swingman extended his NBA-record streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer to a staggering 94 in a row when his jumper sliced through the net at the 7:05 mark. The streak-continuing basket broke Korver out of an 0-for-4 slump to begin the game, and in typical Kyle fashion, he kept things going with another triple on the very next possession.
Those 12 points (8 from Korver, 4 from Horford) keyed the decisive 21-4 run, and while the Hawks led by just 8 when the run concluded, they weren’t done just yet. As a whole, the Hawks outscored the Lakers 35-19 in the 3rd frame, and when Jeff Teague and Lou Williams hit back-to-back threes to lengthen the team’s lead to 15 midway through the 4th quarter, the Lakers would never seriously threaten again.
It was a total team effort on this night for the Hawks, and that was illustrated in the final box score. Atlanta placed 6 players (including all 5 starters) in double-digits, and all 9 guys that saw action scored at least 5 points. The bench provided an enormous lift in this one, combining for 36 points on just 25 shot attempts, and they provided a serious lift when the team needed it most.
Elton Brand displayed some of his best basketball of the season in the 1st half, and when some of the roster seemed to be sleep-walking (as the scoreboard indicated), the life that “EB” brought to the table was enormous. The 34-year-old veteran big man erupted for 8 points (on 4-5 shooting), 5 rebounds, 3 big-time blocks, and 1 steal in 11 first-half minutes, and Mike Budenholzer was quick to praise Brand (by name) for this impetus in the post-game.
As far as the starters were concerned, the usual suspects came to play for the Hawks. In addition to Kyle Korver (who finished with 11 points in addition to his 3-point streak), Al Horford led the way with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Jeff Teague posted a double-double with 17 points, 10 assists, and 4 rebounds.
It was a typical, under-the-radar game for Horford, but his mid-range arsenal was on full display, and he was seemingly the only Hawk (at times) who could compete with the highly active duo of Jordan Hill (who was fantastic for LA) and Pau Gasol on the glass. In the case of Teague, Coach Bud referred to his performance as an “excellent floor game”, and as his aggressive increased in the second half, the scoreboard flipped in chorus.
Swingman DeMarre Carroll had the “worst” statistical line of any starter (5 for 11 FG, 1 for 5 3-PT, 13 points, 6 rebounds), but his defensive contribution was enormous in this one. Carroll drew the assignment of locking down Kobe Bryant on the other side of the floor, and Kobe was held to just 8 points (on 4-14 FG) in his 32 minutes of action. Personally, I would love to see DeMarre cut down a bit on the jump-shooting (simply because it isn’t his strength), but his activity was tremendous, and his basket cuts stand out on this roster.
Finally, the rest of the non-Elton Brand bench deserves come serious commendation. Lou Williams didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (2 for 8 from the floor), but his two baskets came in Atlanta’s final run, and his 8 assists were key in setting up quality offensive trips. Shelvin Mack and Mike Scott also had exceptional production off the bench, shooting 4-for-6 and 5-for-6 respectively, and Scott was especially explosive, scoring 14 points in just shy of 13 minutes on the floor.
Just two days after a 27-turnover implosion in New York, the Hawks offense responded in a massive way on Monday night. Despite a slow start (including 38% FG and 1 for 8 from 3 in the 1st quarter), the team finished with 49% FG, 41% from 3, and only 10 turnovers on the night. 10 turnovers is a perfectly acceptable number in the NBA, but even more than that, the Hawks were nearly flawless after the halftime break, as they committed only 1 giveaway in the final 24 minutes.
From beginning to end, it wasn’t a completely brilliant performance, but the second half was as close to “top level” as this team has flashed all season. Beating this edition of the Lakers in Atlanta isn’t the accomplishment that you may think, but the decisive way in which Atlanta pulled away late was extremely encouraging. The win pushes the Hawks back over the .500 mark at 13-12 on the season, but more than that, it could provide some serious momentum as the team finishes off a 3-game homestand this week with two winnable games against the Kings and Jazz.