The Hawks lived and died by the three ball tonight. Despite the Pelicans having the edge in most categories and Anthony Davis carrying the Pelicans in the 4th quarter, it took the Hawks running out of gas to give the home team the win.
The game started off with both teams excelling offensively. In the 1st quarter, each side shot 50% or better from the field and posted just 1 turnover a piece. As if they both were sensing the moment of a possible All-Star match-up, Paul Millsap and Davis started off extremely well, combining for 18 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.
In the 2nd quarter, the Pelican reserves started off quiet, not scoring their first points until almost 3 minutes in. Then in the next instant, they suddenly couldn't miss. The lineup of Roberts-Rivers-Morrow-Withey-Stiemsma quickly built an 8 point lead with 5:06 before halftime. But, in a game emphasizing plenty of runs, the Hawks caught fire from beyond the arc and proceeded to hit 4 of them to take a 51-47 lead into intermission.
The 3rd quarter featured more bombs from the opposition, 6 in all. Millsap provided 3 of them and all over a late-recovering Davis. While Atlanta was contesting our jumpshooters well, the Pelicans couldn't remotely stay with Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver and Mike Scott. Fortunately, a solid 12 points in the paint advantage through 3 quarters kept the Pelicans in the game.
**As a sidenote, how wonderful would it have been had the Pels pursued Millsap instead of Evans during the last free agency?
The 4th quarter involved more runs: 5-0 Pelicans, 8-0 Hawks and 9-0 Pelicans. With 5:21 remaining, the Pelicans held a precarious two point lead, but as it was mentioned at the outset, the Hawks 3-point well ran dry. But that didn't mean the game was completely over.
As we've learned this year, no lead is safe and a 10 point advantage with 1:18 to go was almost circumvented. In the span of 6 seconds, the Hawks cut the deficit in half. Following a missed Morrow jumper, Millsap cut the lead to 3 points after a roll to the rim for an easy dunk. Fortunately, Roberts made amends for a terrible turnover seconds ago with a nice running jumper to put the good guys up 5 with 20 seconds to go.
Yet another whewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww win.
- Monty Williams was steadfast in having a big lineup in the 1st half as two of Davis/Stiemsma/Ajinca/Withey were in the game throughout. In the 2nd half, Monty went small in hopes of containing their perimeter game. Yet, as we witnessed, it was to no avail for the majority of the time. Our players still don't have a good grasp on how much space they should give a perimeter shooter nor how to always stay with the deep threats through screens, etc.
- Anthony Davis' performance tonight -- 27 points (on 14 shots), 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block/steal -- might have assured his place in the upcoming All-Star game. Davis went toe-to-toe with Eastern reserve Millsap and really did a fantastic job on him after his 3-point barrage.
- Brian Roberts had a solid offensive showing and proved yet again he's quite capable on that end. Nice to know he doesn't shy away from the big moments...
- Eric Gordon did his usual of volume scoring (18 points on 17 shots) but his impact was again spotty. One would think with the game in the balance, it would have been him running the pick-and-roll with Davis, not Roberts.
- Anthony Morrow was awesome -- he poured in 16 points, including 9 in the final frame. When Tyreke Evans is healthy, Monty has to be able to find him in the neighborhood of 20 minutes a game. His ability to shoot the ball is too rare for this team to pass up due to any numbers game.
- Austin Rivers has made 15 of his last 15 free throw attempts! He hit a 3 ball early and grabbed a bunch of rebounds in between. However, he still put up some awful shots in midrange, worse than what you'd see at a 6th grade girls game. He just has no confidence in his pull-up game which is mystifying considering his size and speed (hey Roberts can do it).
- 29 assists. When they weren't keen on the long ball, the Hawks ball movement was a thing of beauty. Balance is never easy to maintain, but it sure would be nice to see our team make 4 crisp passes in reversing the ball or hit a number of cutters in the lane for an easy score. Just every once in awhile?