Court Vision: Hawks win 18th straight after explosive 4th quarter
ATLANTA — Going inside the Atlanta Hawks’ 105-99 win over the Portland Trailblazers on Friday night at home, their 18th victory in a row:
With just 2:21 elapsed off the clock, the Hawks were down two perimeter players due to injury.
DeMarre Carroll did not play because of a sore groin, and Thabo Sefolosha left the game after 141 seconds with a right calf strain. Sefolosha was guarding Chris Kaman in the post, fouled him and then left the altercation with a limp.
The injury scares weren’t finished. Jeff Teague banged knees with Steve Blake shortly after Sefolosha left the game. Teague limped around for a few trips up and down the court, but he remained in the game and put in almost 34 minutes.
With Carroll and Sefolosha out, Teague and Dennis Schroder spent a good bit of time together on the floor. Teague flirted with a triple-double (13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists) while Schroder poured in seven points. But a star emerged from deep on the bench.
Enter Kent Bazemore.
Bazemore scored four points in the first quarter and finished with 12, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. He played five seconds shy of 40 minutes and reminded the Hawks how deep they are at the wing.
"We’re very, very fortunate to have three guys on the wing that really take a lot of pride in defending," said head coach Mike Budenholzer. "DeMarre is an incredible defender. Thabo’s obviously an elite-level defender. To have Kent as another defender tonight, Kent was everywhere. He was on a lot of different people doing a lot of different things.
"He hit some timely baskets and just did a lot of things. He’s just been growing and coming in he right direction along with the whole group."
When an NBA team loses its two best defenders, games typically get out of hand. But the Hawks overcame that obstacle. Depth on the wing — which was such an issue last season — has become an area of strength for Atlanta.
Teague nailed the first shot he took on the night, a 3-pointer to get the Hawks going early. But then Atlanta missed three of its next four shots, one of which was a layup.
But that wasn’t the only problem.
The Hawks missed two free throws in the first quarter, including a rare moment when Korver missed his mark. Atlanta shot 60 percent from the charity stripe in the first 12 minutes of the game.
But that still wasn’t the only problem .
The Hawks weren’t in a rhythm. There were too many instances of passes that went way off target. Too many players that zigged away from away from a ball when they should have zagged to the pass. The passing — when it actually happened — looked forced and without purpose.
Al Horford was aggressive under the basket, but off target. The player who had shot 74.1 percent from the floor over his last eight games missed three consecutive shots in the first quarter. Horford finished the night with 17 points, but only shot 8 for 15 (53.3 percent).
The Hawks woke up though. After allowing the Trailblazers to shoot better than 70 percent from the floor in the first quarter, Atlanta’s defense tightened.
Pero Antic only played 12 minutes, but scored seven points. His real value was felt on the defensive side of the court. That sparked some intense pick-pocketing from Schroder and Teague, and some stellar defense from Bazemore.
The Hawks forced 17 turnovers from Portland, and shut down Damian Lillard, who had 13 points on 6-of-20 shooting.
The the Hawks exploded in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta started the quarter down by five points, but had the game tied just 1:45 into the quarter. Then they poured on the points. The Hawks outscored the Trailblazers 36-25 in the fourth quarter and pressured Portland into 30.4 percent shooting form the floor and 28.6 percent from three-point range.
Mike Scott finished the game with 11 points. He only played 14:15, and most of his output came in the fourth quarter. There was a 31-second span where he seemed solely responsible for changing the momentum of the game.
Scott hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 76. On the next possession, Horford came up with a big block on the other end of the court, Bazemore came down with the rebound, fed it to Scott at midcourt, who finished the drive with a thunderous dunk.
He wasn’t working alone, but Scott sure seemed to take matters into his own hands late in the game. Budenholzer ensured everyone that the comeback in the fourth was all team.
"Dennis, in the second half, was good," said Budenholzer. "Mike Scott hit some three’s and changed the momentum there in that first four, five six minutes (of the fourth quarter). It was a team effort … everybody contributing."
Scott had eight fourth-quarter points. Korver added seven and Teague and Schroder six. At the end, six Hawks finished in double digits.
An entire team effort.
87.5: The Trailblazers shot 7 of 8 (87.5 percent from the beyond the three-point arc to start the game, but only 4 for 22 the rest of the way.(18.2 percent). Budenholzer called it the law of averages correcting itself, not anything special defensively the Hawks did.
6: The Hawks missed only six shots in the fourth quarter, shooting 71.4 percent (15 for 21) and outscoring Portland 36-25.
"We’re confident from one to 15 here. Guys really put in the time. Guys work every day. They just don’t get the opportunity because we’re so deep. We have guys who can play. John Jenkins came in in the first half and hit a nice shot, played for us for a few minutes. It’s just the way it is with this team." — Coach Budenholzer on getting quality minutes and play from the bench.