On Wednesday, the Hawks put on an absolute display of outstanding offense in their rout of the Sacramento Kings, but on Friday, the team made effort to upstage themselves in a 115-85 drubbing of the Utah Jazz.
The night began with yet another 30-point quarter for Atlanta in the 1st, as they ran past the Jazz by a 14-point margin in the first 12 minutes, setting the stage for what was a runaway win. Hawks big man Al Horford scored the first 6 points of the night, and when the Hawks jumped out to a 23-10 lead, that advantage never fell back into single-digits for the rest of the evening.
Following that strong opening frame, the Hawks cruised into halftime with a 19-point lead, but they weren’t done yet, as another monster second half was on the horizon. After halftime, the Hawks shot 60% in putting together back-to-back 30+-point quarters, and when Paul Millsap capped yet another run to give the team a 67-40 lead, things were all but academic.
Atlanta 6th man Lou Williams led all scorers with 25 points off the bench, and he was incredibly efficient in his effort. Williams shot 8-for-13 from the field and 6-for-10 from beyond the arc (tying a career-high) in the game, and for good measure, he added a team-high (tied with DeMarre Carroll) with 4 steals. Both Coach Mike Budenholzer and Al Horford were quick to praise Williams in the post-game, and it was well-deserved as he, once again, added another dimension of shot creation when needed.
Next to Williams, the “standout” performance came from the aforementioned Al Horford, who built off of those initial 6 points with another monster night. Because of the margin of victory, Horford sat on the bench for entirety of the 4th quarter, but in just 23 minutes, Al scored 23 points (on 11 for 15 shooting) and seemed to be in complete and utter control on both ends. It was incredibly encouraging to see this type of aggressiveness from Al, and he has turned up his production recently, to coincide with the team’s winning streak.
Kyle Korver extended his NBA-record streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer to 96, and he did so in very quick fashion. Kyle’s first attempt of the night ripped through the net at the 4:20 mark of the 1st quarter, and the floor spacing that he provided throughout gave the guards and mid-range shooters plenty of room to operate.
As a team, the Hawks shot 52.3% from the field and a respectable 38.5% from the floor, but it was the sharing of the ball that stood out. Atlanta notched 32 assists on just 45 field goals, and it was the 6th time this season that they eclipsed the 30-assist mark in a game. Paul Millsap (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Mike Scott (11 points, 6 rebounds) were the other members of the Hawks that reached double-digits, but all 12 active players scored in the game, and it was a thoroughly balanced effort.
Defensively, this was a shut-down performance. As per usual, Budenholzer was respectful in his post-game comments, describing Utah’s offensive futility as an “off night”, but for me, it was the Atlanta defense driving their shortcomings. The intensity was very good on that end from the opening whistle, and guys like Elton Brand (4 blocks, 8 rebounds in 19 minutes) provided hustle and toughness to keep Utah off of the spots that they desire to be in. Overall, Utah shot just 37.2% from the floor and 16.7% from 3-point distance, and while some of that is certainly due to their own failures, the Hawks’ defensive effort should be commended.
Following this type of blowout, focus can sometimes be an issue, but I don’t believe that will be the case here, as the Hawks will now travel to Miami to face the defending NBA champion Miami Heat on Monday night. Atlanta has now won 3 straight (sweeping this homestand) to achieve a 15-12 record and a 2-game cushion on the rest of the non-Miami/Indiana Eastern Conference, but Monday will be an interesting measuring stick of where the team stands.
Until then, though, the team can bask in what was a dominant and impressive performance.