Court Vision: Hawks hold off T-Wolves’ rally for 16th straight win
ATLANTA — Going inside the Atlanta Hawks’ 112-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night at home, their 16th victory in a row:
When the first quarter ended, the Hawks held a one-point lead after a back-and-forth period. There were 10 lead changes, three ties and Atlanta was up by as much as five points and down by as many as three.
The second quarter was more of a beatdown by the Hawks.
Before Minnesota could score a bucket, the Hawks put eight points on the scoreboard. And that was just how the first 119 seconds of the period went. Atlanta built upon its one-point lead, and stacked it all the way to 18 points before the Timberwolves managed to slow the bleeding and lower the lead to 14.
When Minnesota had the ball, the Hawks brought out a smothering and tenacious defense. The Timberwolves were allowed just 28.6 percent shooting (6 for 21) as rejections and airballs were more likely than shots and scores.
On offense, the Hawks scored almost at will. But the play was paced by ballet-like ball movement. There was no rule that every player had to touch the rock on offense, but just that happened on occasion. Every pass seemed to be an attempt to out-beautiful the previous.
The Hawks landed five 3-pointers, shot 60 percent (12 for 20) from the floor and outscored the Timberwolves 36-23 to construct a 61-47 halftime lead.
When the Timberwolves made a mistake, the Hawks made them pay. When Atlanta orchestrated an open look, the ball typically went in. Al Horford and Kyle Korver led the Hawks in the first half with four assists each. But the entire team got involved with 17 in the first half.
Minnesota entered the second quarter feeling good about its upset chances. The Hawks smacked that idea down in just 12 short minutes.
Paul Millsap (10), Jeff Teague (11) and Horford (10) paced the Hawks in the first half and entered the locker room at halftime with double-digit scoring outputs. But they weren’t going to be the only scoring threats.
DeMarre Carroll added six third-quarter points, Korver three and Dennis Schroder five to bring Atlanta’s total of double-digit scorers up to six by the end of the third quarter.
Carroll got hot late in the third with a lay-up and two short-range jumpers to reach 11 points. All Korver needed was his third 3-pointer of the game to get to 10 points and Schroder, who notched his second consecutive game in double digits 18th of the season, quickly reached 11 with five points in a 68-second stretch at the end of the quarter.
The Hawks did most of their damage in the third quarter in the paint, with 18 of the team’s 25 points coming inside. But don’t believe for a second that Atlanta was pushing the ball down low, especially with the size of the Minnesota big men.
Atlanta’s interior shooting came at the behest of head coach Mike Budenholzer’s movement offense. Pick and rolls, screens and effective but not-always-attractive shooting kept the Hawks going, and allowed the team to feature six scorers, not just a few.
With just more than 10 minutes to play, the Hawks held a 15-point lead. A few minutes later, Budenholzer started some creative substitutions to rest some of his starters. That plan didn’t last long.
"[It was] not our prettiest game, but to make a couple of big plays down the stretch, a couple of big shots, the way the ball moved we found open guys. When the game got tight they trusted their spacing trusted the pass and a couple of guys made big plays," said Budenholzer. "To find a way to win today when we probably don’t play our best, it’s a good sign."
At the 5:17 mark of the fourth quarter, Minnesota cut Atlanta’s lead to six points with an Andrew Wiggins turnaround jumper. The Hawks built the lead back to 10 within the next 45 seconds, but Budenholzer still re-inserted Carroll into the game for insurance.
The Timberwolves chopped the lead back down to six in a back-and-forth final quarter before the Hawks stepped on the gas for good.
Carroll hit a 3-pointer to take the lead to nine points. Korver added another 30 seconds later before Teague and Horford took the Hawks home with buckets. Budenholzer said his defense didn’t play as well as it could have, and the Minnesota comeback was troubling. But there were some positives in the way Atlanta fought off the Timberwolves.
"I think our poise and our confidence is growing," said Budenholzer. "I think they’re trusting each other, trusting where they’re going to find their shots late in the game. We’ve got to work on our execution, but just to see them trust it when it was cut to I think six or eight, to hit a couple of big shots and make the right pass and make the right play. That’s good for us."
73.6: Horford shot 8 for 9 on Sunday and put up 19 points in Atlanta’s win. Over his last seven games he’s been lights out, shooting 53 of 72 (73.6 percent) from the floor.
16: Not only does Sunday’s win mark the 16th consecutive victory for the Hawks, it’s also the 16th time this season Atlanta has held a lead of at least 10 points in a game. The Hawks are 16-0 in those games.
"His ability to make that 15-footer. I feel like if I can get all the way in the paint deep enough for him, he’s always out there. If I’m able to kick it out to him, he’s almost automatic from that spot." — Teague on Horford’s mid-range jump shot