Chris Paul and Blake Griffin led to Atlanta a potent Clippers club who had assembled a 12-6 record in the incredibly tough Western Conference. They came in as the highest scoring team in the league, speaking to their arsenal of weapons and frantic pace of play. But it would be the Hawks who had the last laugh, as they came away with a comfortable 107-97 win.
Kyle Korver was back from his rib contusion and ready to go. He nailed a three-pointer in the first possession to push his streak to a 89 straight games with a made 3, tying Dana Barros for the NBA all-time record. The Hawks match up with the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday, when Korver will have chance to set a new NBA record.
The Clippers had not played since Sunday but you would never know it from watching the first quarter. It was the Hawks who came out of the gates with a lot energy, scoring a robust 29 points in the first quarter alone to jump out to an eight point lead.
Possibly to provide much needed shooting, Coach Budenholzer deployed an interesting lineup consisting of Jeff Teague, Shelvin Mack, and Lou Williams together near the end of the first quarter. Fighting fire with fire was paramount for a Hawks team fighting a Clippers bunch that has a propensity to heat up from outside, even if it meant giving up size on the wings to do so.
After 24 minutes, it was darn near pristine offensive execution for the Hawks. 15 assists on 22 made field goals. Only 3 turnovers. And the loss of J.J. Redick for the Clippers paired with the return of Kyle Korver turned the three point shooting tide. No open looks for the men in red resulted in a ugly 0-6 mark from three in the first half, compared with 4-7 from the Hawks.
It’s always very difficult game planning for a Chris Paul-orchestrated offense, but the Hawks pulled off a convincing win over one of the players the Hawks passed on in the 2005 NBA Draft for Marvin Williams. Former Hawks littered the court and the bench. Doc Rivers, Tyronn Lue, Willie Green, Jamal Crawford all made appearances on the camera screen. Atlanta’s old buddy Jamal Crawford lit up the scoreboard in the first half before cooling off in the second half.
A former Clipper, Elton Brand saw action for the fifth straight game. Though his jumpers are Jason Collins/Johan Petro-kinds of questionable, his defensive impact has been felt in every one of the matches. There’s clearly plenty left in the tank as a veteran on this very young team.
Lou Williams seems to be near 100% of his production pre-ACL injury. His ability to create shots for himself off the dribble is unmatched on the roster and a necessary skill going forward when the shot clock ticks toward 0. He hit a backbreaking double-teamed three pointer from the wing seemingly as a message to those wondering if he still needed easing back into the rotation.
Dennis Schröder was assigned to the D-League affiliate of the Atlanta Hawks, the Bakersfield Jam, before the game. His loss has not been felt at all, as Shelvin Mack continued his solid play tonight. To have the luxury of essentially picking up a couple of guys off of waivers at minimum price in Mack and Cartier Martin and have them be valueable rotation pieces has meant a lot to this team, namely that they can give Schröder time to develop without depending on his immediate production.
Although Mack played a solid game off of the bench, Mike Scott had a clumsy allotment of minutes. However, I don’t see this one game affect his status of being ahead of Gustavo Ayón and Pero Antic in the rotation.
The keys to the win became obvious from early on. The Clippers’ frontcourt defensive issues were easily exploited by the mobility of Millsap and Horford in the post. There were much too many uncontested layups after inside passes for Doc Rivers to not shield his eyes by the final buzzer. It’s a matchup the Hawks should and did win. Timely cuts by DeMarre Carroll and Cartier Martin only added to the thrashing in the paint.
Kyle Korver went bonkers in the fourth quarter, even completing a Jamal Crawford special 4-point play. Crisp passing in the semi-transition and the halfcourt option allowed the Hawks to shoot a blistering 12-23 (52.2%) from long range. Add to that a draw in the rebounding battle and sharp, responsive defensive rotation and you have a solid win cooked up by Teague, Horford and crew.
Next game is in Atlanta against the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday at 7:30 PM.
1. Paul Millsap: He had an impressive – dare I say Smoove-like – stat-line. 25 points on 20 shots, 9 rebound, 6 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal pretty much speaks for itself. He constantly proved himself as a matchup nightmare, as ready to launch a top of the arc three as he is to drive and dish to his buddy Al Horford for the jam. When the Hawks made Millsap the top target (non-CP3/Dwight division) in the free agency, they did so with a clear idea of what he brings to the table and how he would fit into the new offensive system. And boy does he ever. We replaced a top of the line stat stuffing forward with another that has legitimate range to draw respect from defenders any where within 25 feet of the hoop. Such is the reason many are lauding it the steal of the offseason.
2. Kyle Korver: Who would have thought his return would spark an offensive explosion like this? The Hawks went a disappointing 1-3 in his four game absence. Korver made it loud and clear his role on the team buring 6-9 threes on route to a 23 point explosion in 23 minutes of play.
3. Al Horford: Ho-hum. 21 points and 9 rebounds. Horford made sure DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin felt every missed rotation and blown assignment with a toss down the hatchet. Just another lunch pail day at work for the boss.