The Atlanta Hawks went into the Thanksgiving holiday reeling a bit, after an unsightly loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday evening. However, the team responded in a very positive way on Friday evening, and when the scoreboard turned to triple zeroes, Atlanta emerged with a 100-91 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
If you like offense, the first quarter of Friday night's game probably wasn't for you. Neither team led by more than six points in the period, and with the Hawks shooting just 43% from the floor against 35% from the Pelicans, it wasn't a surprise to see a 19-15 margin after 12 minutes. On the bright side for Atlanta, the effort level was high on both ends, resulting in a 13-8 rebounding advantage, but aside from 8 points on 4-for-5 shooting from Jeff Teague, it was a less than aesthetically pleasing quarter.
It didn't take long for the offense to improve, however, as the home team sprinted to a 8-0 mini-run to build the lead to 12 in a hurry. Dennis Schröder was in the midst of it all with four points and a hockey assist, and the tempo was brisk, which surely was to the liking of Mike Budenholzer. New Orleans would respond with a 7-0 blitz of their own, however, as the Hawks (unsurprisingly) could not continue to all-out assault.
Still, the Hawks were able to turn on the jets once again to close the half with a flourish. Jeff Teague submitted a big-time highlight play with a behind-the-back, reverse finish on the fast break, and that play keyed a 8-0 closing run to give Atlanta a 41-28 halftime lead.
Defense was, certainly, the key in the first half, as the Pelicans shot just 29.7% from the floor (25% in the second quarter), including 1-for-10 from 3-point distance. Obviously, that was aided by some incompetent offense from New Orleans, but the energy was huge on both ends, and Al Horford (7 first-half rebounds) helped to pace a dominant effort on the glass.
It wasn't all sunshine for Atlanta, however, as the Pelicans began the second half in ideal fashion on their side and in disastrous fashion for the Hawks. Jeff Teague turned the ball over on the first possession, and that was followed by a Tyreke Evans lay-up, a missed free throw on a 3-point play attempt (yay!) and an Anthony Davis bucket after an offensive rebound. In a blink, the lead was nine, and Coach Budenholzer, who called the quickest timeout in history, did not like the prognosis.
The home team came up empty on its first five possessions of the half, but mercifully, Kyle Korver stopped the madness with a transition three to increase the margin back to ten points. DeMarre Carroll followed with a bucket of his own, Jeff Teague finished a three-point play and the early pain was virtually erased. Still, the Pelicans would not go away quietly in the third, battling within ten points on a number of occasions, and the Hawks needed some high-level acrobatics from Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder to keep an 11-point lead after three quarters.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Pelicans were shooting an insanely low 33% from the field, and the entire building had the sense that a run was coming. However, the Hawks responded in a big way, as New Orleans shot their wad with a 5-0 mini-run early in the fourth, but Atlanta fought back with an 8-0 spurt of their own, capped by a Kent Bazemore three-point play to give the good guys a 16-point cushion with 8:54 remaining.
The visitors would, again, surge to within ten on the strength of a 6-0 blitz, but the Pelicans would never get closer than a 7-point deficit for the duration of the evening. New Orleans began to make shots in the fourth quarter, shooting 15 for 26 (58%) in the period, but Atlanta used their somewhat sizable cushion to keep things steady.
It wasn't as easy as you may think, but not even a streak that saw eleven straight possessions that ended in points for the opposition could sink the Hawks on this night. Paul Millsap put his seal on the proceedings with a thunderous dunk for a 3-point play, and when he followed that with two free throws to extend the lead to 92-80 with 2:05 left, it was effectively over.
Jeff Teague paced the Hawks with a team-high 26 points (10-15 FG) and 7 assists, while Al Horford contributed a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds despite an ugly shooting night (5-15 FG). Atlanta placed six players in double-figures on this night, including Dennis Schröder with 11 points off the bench and Paul Millsap with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals, and team-wide, the offense was effective to the tune of 50% shooting from the floor. The overall defensive effort was the key, as New Orleans shot just 40% from the floor and 29% from beyond the arc, and this was a solid victory across the board.
The Atlanta Hawks will be back in action with a quick turnaround on Saturday night, as they host Southeast Division rival Charlotte for a 7:30 pm ET tip-off. Stay tuned.