The Atlanta Hawks got into the basketball equivalent of a fistfight on Friday with the Brooklyn Nets. The game turned into a back-and-forth slobber-knocker of shifting momentum, with the Hawks needing a win to grab hold of their playoff destiny. The Knicks had already won their game as the Hawks sat perilously on the edge of their contest. That meant the Hawks risked opening the door yet again for New York, even after their victory against the Celtics earlier in the week.
Brooklyn owned the first quarter while the Hawks could barely put the ball in the hoop, taking a 23-16 lead. The Hawks made a complete about-face in the second quarter, sinking absolutely everything they tossed up. At the half, the Hawks had pulled ahead 55-47. However, the Hawks woes weren’t over as they only scored 19 in the third quarter, and the Nets surged back with 26 of their own. By the time the 4th quarter started, the Hawks only had a one point lead, and the fans felt like they had been put in a washing machine on the spin cycle.
With so much on the line, the Hawks needed their best player to step up. That player was Paul Millsap, and he answered the call. In the fourth quarter, Paul had 8 of the 19 Atlanta points in the low-scoring, defensive battle. Jeff Teague also played excellently down the stretch by putting out the fires every time Brooklyn tried to make a run. However, even with the effort by the Hawks players, the real decider of the game was Brooklyn missing huge free-throws (14-25), while the Hawks went 19-20 from the charity stripe. That 5 point different in free throws was the difference in the game’s final score.
In the end, the Hawks escaped from a game they could have easily given away. Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap combined for a huge 49 points, and Paul had 10 rebounds to go along with it. Paul’s good for a double-double almost every single game if he’s playing well, and that should make Hawks fans very happy heading to the playoffs.
Another player that should get some love is DeMarre Carroll, who had a 12 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double of his own.
While the free throw shooting was outstanding for the Hawks, a noticeable issue was Atlanta shooting 1-19 from beyond the arc. Luckily, it didn’t matter in the final score. What mattered is that the Hawks won the points in the paint and the rebound battle, and when they do that they win most of their games.
Next up, Atlanta will look to carry some of this momentum into a game with the Miami Heat on Saturday. Win there, and the Hawks can clinch their playoff spot.
Tags: Atlanta Hawks