The Atlanta Hawks honored the greatest player in franchise history Friday night in the best way possible (well, second best) — with a win.
It was “Dominique Wilkins Night” Friday night in Philips Arena as the Hawks honored the Hall of Famer with a statue (the best way), which was unveiled Thursday, and concluded the celebration with a marquee matchup against LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Hawks wore throwback uniforms from ‘Nique’s glory days, and the sentiment was felt by the players as the whole team played inspired basketball.
Al Horford was one of six Hawks to score in double figures, leading the balanced effort with a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds.
Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague had 16 points each, Dennis Schroder added 15 off the bench, Mike Scott poured in 14 in a limited 17 minutes, while DeMarre Carroll chipped in with 11 points.
Carroll had an excellent all-around game, adding seven rebounds, two steals and one assist while shooting five-of-eight from the field, but his presence was felt most on the defensive end locking up LeBron James.
“I wanted to be a gnat,” Carroll said. “You know, when you’re outside in the summer, and you can’t get that gnat away from you.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the “Junkyard Dog” limited “King James” to just to five points on 14.3 percent shooting while forcing four turnovers as his primary defender.
LeBron finished the game with nine turnovers and 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting overall.
The Hawks started the game on fire and ended the period with a 36-19 advantage. The 36 points were the most points they’ve scored in a first quarter all season, and they did that while making an absurd 70.8 percent (17-of-24) of their shots.
Cleveland chipped away in the second to cut the deficit to 53-43 by halftime, and continued fighting in the third as they captured the lead 77-75 on a pair of free throws by Tristan Thompson late in the period.
However, Atlanta responded with a 6-2 spurt to reclaim the lead and ended the third quarter with a 81-79 edge.
They carried that momentum into the fourth and opened the period on a 17-4 run capped off by a long Mike Scott jumper to put the Hawks back up by double-digits and give them a commanding 98-83 lead with just under seven minutes left to play.
Atlanta cruised down the stretch and Horford iced the game with a pair of free throws with 29 seconds remaining to seal the win.
This was the Hawks’ third straight win over the Cavs this season, as they took the season series 3-1. Cleveland won the first meeting on the year in a blowout, but have been beaten by Atlanta every time since then.
Kyrie Irving led the Cavs in scoring with 20 points.
Kevin Love had 14 points, J.R. Smith finished with 12 and Iman Shumpert chipped in with 10 off the bench.
Cleveland will look to rebound at home Saturday against the Suns.
Meanwhile, the Hawks will look to extend their win streak to seven in a row when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
STAT OF THE GAME
“The Hawks outscored the Cavaliers by 30 points in the paint Friday, their largest difference in a game this season (54-24).” — ESPN Stats & Information
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