Atlanta Hawks stun Los Angeles Clippers, 107-104


The Atlanta Hawks played the second game of their back-to-back nights on Friday night. Playing on consecutive nights is hard enough, but it’s made extra tough when the opponent is the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, the Clippers are a star-studded bunch. This game was the very definition of Stars versus System. I love it when the Hawks system wins, and the home team won in a close game, 107-104.

DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver opened the game with early three-pointers, while Paul Millsap added in 6 points of his own in the first quarter. The Hawks were scoring well in the opening period, but they were struggling to keep the Clippers, or more specifically Blake Griffin, away from the glass. Griffin had 9 points of his own in the first quarter, which closed out with the Hawks leading by 6 points.

Second quarter action went the way of the Clippers, in large fashion. The Hawks for some reason decided they were going to stop playing solid defense, and instead tried jacking up shots from outside. That’s fine if you make the outside buckets, but the Hawks were so ice cold they could have been selling Fudgesicles. For a stretch of about six minutes, the Hawks didn’t even have a point. Not a shot from the field, not a free throw, just a whole pile of bricks for the new driveway. When Atlanta shoots that badly it’s no shocker that the Clippers outscored the Hawks by 13, leading the 7 at the half.

I’m not going to lie, there was a time in this game where things looked really dire. In the third quarter, the Hawks kept falling further behind until the deficit stood at 13 points. At this point, the Hawks could have simply thought they were tired, it was a back-to-back, it was the Clippers, and they could have given up. They did anything but give up. They rallied hard, and it all started with Elton Brand getting aggressive on both sides of the ball. Big EB decided to provide the spark by getting to the rim, getting some foul shots, making a big block, and knocking away a steal. For about four minutes, Elton Brand was a wrecking ball. By the close of the third quarter, the Hawks only trailed by 2 points.

Then, the fourth quarter happened. Folks, it was a scene. The Hawks were magic wrapped in a Christmas miracle. Mike Scott, Kyle Korver, and Al Horford all came out guns blazing to start the quarter taking the Hawks on a 13-2 run. Suddenly, the Hawks were up by 9 points after trailing in the game by 13! What was happening with this team? Guts is what. Heart is what. The Hawks dug down to the fire inside themselves and they unleashed it all on the Clippers before they knew what hit them.

But the Clippers weren’t going anywhere. They are an amazingly talented team, and when faced with a fight they will answer the bell. A 9 point lead became 7 points, then 6 points, then just four points with about three minutes left in the match. The Clippers were missing shots, but getting their own rebounds, and missing again. The Hawks would drive and then get rejected. Back and forth and back again with a four point margin. With just 18 second left, the Clippers scored to take it within 2 points. The game was going to come down to free throws and defense.

Kyle Korver got fouled and made both his free throws. The lead was back to four for the Hawks. Unfortunately, the Hawks fouled JJ Redick shooting a three. He missed the first free throw but made the next two. The Hawks inbounded the ball to Korver, but he got tied up on a jump ball. That could have been a total disaster, but Kyle won the tip on the jump and the Clippers were forced to foul Horford. But then, Horford missed one of his freebies. So, the game came down to the Clippers with six seconds, the ball, and down by 3 points. Could they make a three and take this to overtime?

No. Blake Griffin clanked one off the iron, and the game was over. Was it the prettiest thing down the stretch? No. But a win is a win and this one was the grittiest of the gritty. And in that spirit, I think Elton Brand deserves the MVP for his turning point performance in the third quarter. The game was slipping away and Elton Brand said not today. That’s clutch, and clutch is everything in life even if he only scored 3 points.

So the Hawks win five in a row now in a stretch where many thought they had no chance to win two. The Hawks take a holiday until Friday when they face off with the Milwaukee Bucks. Don’t miss it!