Going inside the Hawks’ 95-83 win over the Magic on Wednesday on the road in Orlando.
1. The Hawks erased a deficit and pulled away in the fourth.
When the fourth quarter started, the Hawks were down by three points. That was a much more manageable shortfall than the five points they were down at halftime, and the eight points after the first quarter.
Atlanta didn’t start well. Shots weren’t falling and Orlando got rolling quickly. The Magic scored 31 points in the first quarter and shot 60 percent from the floor.
The Hawks tightened up their defense. More pressure was placed on the ball and extra attention paid to closing down passing lanes. Their in-game fix went a long way toward winning Wednesday’s game, because at times it looked like there would be no chance.
Atlanta was down by 13 points in the second quarter before a late run help whittle that difference down. Then the Hawks’ style of tenacious defense stepped up.
After shooting 60 percent from the floor in the first quarter, Atlanta held the Magic to 34 percent the rest of the way. Orlando only had 52 points in the final three quarters.
On offense, the Hawks turned to point guard Jeff Teague to bring the win home.
Teague scored nine points in the fourth quarter (he finished with 16 for the game) on 4-of-4 shooting from the floor. He also dished out five assists and did not turn the ball over.
The Hawks outscored Orlando 27-12 in the fourth quarter and won by 12. To be down by 13 in the second, then win by 12 — that’s a monumental turnaround.
2. Millsap kept the Hawks alive early.
If the Hawks turned to Teague to win the game in the fourth, it was only possible to do so because Paul Millsap carried the team on his shoulders in the first half.
When the Hawks were struggling to score in the first half, and the defense wasn’t working as it should, Millsap was on fire. He shot 6 of 10 from the floor with a three-pointer, hit five free throws, blocked two shots and pulled down eight rebounds.
Millsap’s 18 first-half points were the second most this season of any Hawks player. DeMarre Carroll scored 20 points in the first half of Atlanta’s game against Sacramento on March 9.
The effort from Millsap was so vital to the Hawks on Wednesday because he was responsible for holding things together while the team fought through some adversity. Atlanta was plagued with some off shooting, an ankle injury to Teague and several struggles on defense.
Once the Hawks found their rhythm in the second half, Millsap gladly accepted help from Tegaue and the rest of the Hawks. Kyle Korver pitched in too. He finished the game with 13 points and eight rebounds, and more than half his points came in the second half.
Millsap finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds. It was the 27th time this season he led the Hawks in scoring.
3. Avoiding injuries is key for any team. The Hawks showed how tough they can be on Wednesday.
Teague’s injury in the first quarter look about as horrific as any rolled ankle could. As he drove the baseline and looked to dish, he took a misstep and crumbled.
It took less than a quarter for him to return to action (he missed 7:50 of game time). When he returned, he slowly got back up to speed. He scored two points and added two assists in the second quarter, and two more points and an assist in the third.
But Teague’s fourth quarter was something to watch, and proof that his ankle was likely not going to be an issue moving forward.
Speaking of tough, Korver broke his nose on March 15, had surgery to repair the damage, and then only missed three of the Hawks’ next games. He returned to action on March 22 against San Antonio, but didn’t look sharp.
Against Orlando, Korver hit a couple of key 3-pointers, but where he really showed his toughness was the eight rebounds he grabbed. Guys worrying about a surgically-repaired broken nose don’t often like to mix it up and fight for rebounds. Korver not only fought, he peeled off his protective mask to get a better feel for the game.
2: The Hawks magic number to clinch the No. 1 seed in the East is two.
17-0: Atlanta won by 12 by stepping on the gas in the fourth quarter. Not only did the Hawks go on a 17-0 run, they did all that damage in just 4:21 of game time.