Monday night marked the final preseason home game for the 2014-2015 Atlanta Hawks, and while it was a bit of a roller coaster, the final result was a positive one. The home team needed overtime after a lackluster second half, but in the end, the Hawks held serve for a 117-114 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
The first half was extremely productive for Atlanta, though the game started in relatively innocent fashion for both sides. Mike Scott and Paul Millsap led the way with 6 points each in the quarter, but while the Hawks shot a blistering 10-for-17 (58%) from the floor, the Hornets hung around on the strength of six turnovers from the home team. However, the turnover issues would quickly subside, and the score would shift in favor of Atlanta.
Mike Budenholzer's club scored the final four points of the first quarter to tie the score at 24-24, and from there, the Hawks scored the first 16 points of the second quarter, completing a 20-0 run to zoom to a 16-point advantage. Dennis Schröder and Thabo Sefolosha were each key in jumpstarting the run, including the fact that the duo connected on a brilliant alley-oop, and when the dust settled, the Hawks were staked to a 58-43 halftime lead on the back of 57% shooting in the half.
Sadly, the offense onslaught came to a screeching halt after the break, as the Hawks couldn't find the net. Atlanta converted just 7 of their 22 field goal attempts (including 1 of 5 from three-point distance) in the quarter, and with some assistance from improved Charlotte offense, the lead fully evaporated late in the quarter before extending to five at 82-77 at the end of the period. Much of the quarter was marred by inconsistent ball movement and spacing, and for the majority of the floor time, the offense did not resemble the crisp unit from earlier in the night.
The fourth quarter was a bit more interesting than Atlanta fans would have preferred. The Hawks lengthened the lead to as many as eight at 99-91, but after Charlotte made things a little bit too interesting with a 6-0 run, Atlanta was forced to respond. Paul Millsap converted a lay-up to increase the lead to four, but after Millsap also drew a charge against Charlotte's Cody Zeller, the lead wasn't as safe as it appeared.
Kyle Korver was whistled for a flagrant foul (that was an inexplicable call), and when the Hornets scored four points in the equivalent of a single possession, the game was tied at 101-101 with less than two minutes remaining. Then, Charlotte's Gary Neal knocked down two free throws to give the Hornets the lead, and Kyle Korver responded with a lay-up after a nice dish from Dennis Schröder to knot things up at 103-103. Atlanta proceeded to generate a stop on the other end, and when Paul Millsap was fouled on a dunk attempt, he made one of two free throws to snatch a 1-point advantage with less than 40 seconds remaining.
The questionable officiating continued in the final seconds, as Schroder was whistled for a foul against Cody Zeller that led to the Hornets tying the game at 104-104 with under 15 seconds remaining. Fortunately, Zeller mirrored Millsap in making just one of two at the line, and the Hawks were granted the opportunity to hold for the game's final shot. To the dismay of every member of the media, however, Atlanta came up short on that trip, as DeMarre Carroll's fadeaway went begging at the buzzer.
After a disastrous second half that saw the Hawks convert just 13 of 42 field goal attempts (yikes), the overtime could not end quickly enough for the Atlanta faithful. The "good guys" never trailed in the period despite several ties, and when Elton Brand converted a jump shot to give the Hawks a 114-112 lead with less than a minute remaining, the advantage was (finally) safe. Sefolosha knocked down two free throws for a 116-112 margin, and despite the fact that the Hornets clawed within two, the game was preserved when Thabo made another free throw with less than 3 seconds left and Charlotte came up empty on the other end in route to the final score of 117-114.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 38 minutes, and he was every bit of the 2014 All-Star that we all expect. In support, Al Horford played 24 minutes while contributing 10 points and 6 rebounds, and Kyle Korver (17 points), Mike Scott (16 points), Dennis Schröder (12 points, 5 assists) and Thabo Sefolosha (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) each added double-digits in scoring on the night.
Atlanta is back in action on Wednesday evening, as they travel to San Antonio for the final preseason game of the season against the Spurs. Stay tuned to Peachtree Hoops for all the latest as the regular season approaches.