The Atlanta Hawks have never been able to come back to win a 7-game series after dropping the first two in 18 tries. The team took a critical first step toward that goal by claiming a 116-98 victory over the Washington Wizards Saturday afternoon.
Dennis Schroder slashed to the rim, lofted a shot at the basket and managed to tack two points even without his shot falling through the net. The layup attempt from Schroder drew a goaltending call from Markieff Morris, marking the last time the Hawks didn’t lead in the game.
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Atlanta is hoping to overcome the odds and advance to the second round even after falling behind 0-2 in the series.
In NBA history, only 18 teams have ever won a series after losing each of the first two contests, while the team that has won the opening game in a series has advanced 80.7 percent of the time since 1984.
Even after the Atlanta Hawks dropped the first two games of the series by letting a second-half advantage slip away, Paul Millsap insisted it was an even series, since Washington had yet to capture a road victory.
Millsap helped set the tone early, as Atlanta scored 19 of the first 23 points of the game. Millsap sank the first shot of the game by collecting an offensive rebound, converting the put back layup and drawing a foul on Otto Porter Jr.
During the Hawks’ early scoring binge, Millsap assisted on a pair of 3-pointers, paving the way to an 18-point advantage by the end of the first quarter.
The 6-foot-8 forward finished with team-highs in scoring, rebounding, free throw attempts, free throw makes and blocks.
Millsap posted 29 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal, becoming the first player to post consecutive playoff games for the Hawks with at least 27 points, 10 rebounds and four assists since Bob Pettit in 1963.
Following the game, Morris dubbed Millsap a crybaby after believing the Hawks only won because of the free throw disparity. Atlanta went to the foul line 32 times, 12 more than the Wizards.
Millsap has been the most complete player in the series for Atlanta, posting averages of 25 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game.
The Wizards may think he is whining to officials, but his play is a cause for concern.
Effective Shooting Propels Offense
During the first two games of the series, the Atlanta Hawks struggled to knock down shots. The team connected on 66-of-157 attempts from the field (42 percent) as the 3-point shot was taken out of their game.
The Hawks made just 11 shots from beyond the arc at a 24.4 percent clip in the first two games.
Both percentages experienced a tremendous turnaround Saturday afternoon, as Atlanta started the game by connecting on eight of the first 10 shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.
For the first time in the series, the Hawks posted a higher shooting percentage from the field and connected on more shots from 3-point range than the Wizards. Atlanta shot 49.4 percent from the field and connected nine times from beyond the arc.
Six players shot 50 percent or better from field for the Hawks, as the team posted a 54.5 effective field goal percentage Saturday, easily the highest mark of the series.
Controlling the Paint
Easy looks at the basket had been scarce for the Atlanta Hawks in the series, but with Dennis Schroder’s ability to slash to the basket, the team took control of the paint.
Schroder poured in 27 points, with 12 coming off shots in the painted area. When he wasn’t creating easy looks for himself, Schroder was able to generate layups for his teammates. Seven of his nine assists led to shots in the paint.
The Hawks took control of the game early by relentlessly attacking the rim. In the first quarter alone, five different players converted a look in the paint, as the Hawks sank eight of 10 looks in the paint.