On a night where the Atlanta Hawks were facing a back-to-back situation and their fourth game in five nights, no one expected the team to be explicitly crisp. However, the Hawks were utterly dominant for much of the night, and that resulted in a lopsided, 105-75 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hawks came out of the gate firing in this one, and in the early going, there were no signs of a hangover following Friday night's win. Atlanta made seven of their first ten shots from the floor, including two threes, and the Hawks led 16-6 after the first five-plus minutes of action. The defense was swarming a bit in its own right, holding Charlotte to just two of their first eight from the floor, and despite some uneven moments, it is tough to argue with a ten-point early cushion.
On cue, Charlotte zoomed to a 7-0 run to climb back within four, and that invited Mike Budenholzer to call a quick timeout to settle the troops. Whatever Budenholzer uttered appeared to work, as the home team would make progress throughout the rest of the opening frame. The Hawks utilized eleven players in the first twelve minutes, including the first action from Elton Brand (who promptly gathered three offensive rebounds) in weeks, and when the dust settled, Atlanta led by a score of 28-17. Much like Friday night, it was the defense leading the way, as the Hornets shot just 7 for 23 (30%) in the quarter, and that was quite encouraging.
The positives would continue early in the second, as the good guys flew to an 13-0 run (20-0 overall between the two quarters) and, with that, Atlanta snatched a 24-point lead. That was just the beginning, though, as the Hawks continued to build on their lead until it was a staggering 36-point margin at the end of the half. Atlanta shot a blistering 61% from the floor in the first two quarters, and that was blessed with 8-for-9 shooting from 3-point land. In fairness, Charlotte was "holding up its end of the bargain" as well, as the Hornets were inept offensively to the tune of 25.6% from the floor.
It isn't every day that we can say this, but this one was effectively over at the halftime break.
For good measure, the Hawks came out of the halftime break like a team that wasn't content with a 36-point advantage. Atlanta raced to 14 points in less than four minutes, and after a Kyle Korver three-pointer with 8:11 to go in the third, the lead was an astounding 44 points. If we were to nitpick, things went a little bit sideways for the remainder of the quarter, as the home team scored only four points in the final 7:45 (!) of the quarter, but that still amounted to a 33-point advantage after three quarters.
The fourth quarter was... something. No member of the starting lineup saw action for the Hawks, and as you may expect, things weren't exactly pretty. It was nice to see the Hawks get some extended time for Mike Muscala (12 minutes), but aside from that, it was sloppy basketball on both ends, and there were a lot of prayers sent toward the rafters for a speedy finish and no injuries. The good guys cruised to a 30-point victory without the lead ever dwindling to less than 27 points, and that was that.
In limited time, the starters did yeoman's work for the Hawks on this evening. Paul Millsap keyed things with 18 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes, Jeff Teague dished out 10 assists in 20 minutes, and the trio of Korver, Carroll and Horford each cracked double-digits in scoring despite playing less than 25 minutes of court time.
On the reserve side of things, Elton Brand continues to be fantastic whenever he appears on the floor. The veteran big man had not played in weeks prior to Saturday, but he was clearly part of Bud's rotation plan (while Pero Antic had the night off), and he responded with 9 points and 9 rebounds in 27 minutes, to go along with his trademark defense. Mike Scott also poured on the offense late with 14 total points in 22 minutes, and Dennis Schröder continued his strong play with 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting in 17 minutes.
The Atlanta Hawks will return to action on Tuesday night at Philips Arena as they host the Boston Celtics. Let's all hope for a result similar to that of Saturday evening.