The Atlanta Hawks struggled out of the gate on Saturday night, but in the end, the results were very positive. Atlanta fought back valiantly from a reasonably deep deficit, and with a strong second half, the Hawks improved to 2-3 on the season with a 103-96 victory over the New York Knicks.
To open the night, the Hawks certainly had the look of a team that played a double-OT thriller on Friday. The Knicks exploded out of the gate to the tune of a 17-7 lead, shooting 7-for-10 from the floor to just 2-for-10 for Atlanta. That less-than-ideal play continued throughout the remainder of the opening period, and after a flurry from the visitors late, the Hawks trailed 32-20 after 12 minutes of action.
There was a run coming, however, as the home team did string together a 12-2 spurt to cut the deficit to 38-35 midway through the second quarter. There was a bit of life on the offensive end, and defensively, this was the only time period during the first half that could be described as passable. On cue, however, the Knicks countered with a barrage of accurate jump-shooting, and before Atlanta could limp into halftime, they trailed by a score of 61-48.
For 24 minutes, this was an utter mess. The Hawks shot just 35% from the field in the half (14 for 40), and they allowed the visiting Knicks to make 27 of their 46 attempts for a 58.7% clip from the floor. Beyond that, New York also dominated in the energy stats, including 9 offensive rebounds that created 10 second-chance points, and a 26-15 edge in overall rebounding. In addition, the trio of Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Jeff Teague combined for just 16 points on 5 for 16 shooting, and that won't benefit anyone.
On the bright side, the ill will created by the first half was short-lived, as the Hawks picked up the pace after the break. Atlanta scrapped their way to 27 points in the third quarter, but more importantly, the defense was much improved in the third quarter, limiting New York to just 13 total points on 5 for 18 shooting. The quarter began with an 11-4 run by Atlanta, and when the dust settled after the period concluded, the Hawks held a 1-point lead after a big-time comeback effort.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth contest to the highest degree. New York stormed ahead by six points in the early going, but that was quickly erased by back-to-back threes by Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll to knot the game at 85-85, and Al Horford finished off a lob to give Atlanta an 87-85 advantage with 6:20 remaining in the game. Then, Jeff Teague saw a lay-up counted on a goal-tending call against Samuel Dalembert, and Carroll found Korver for an enormous three that provided a four-point cushion at 92-88.
From there, the ball was rolling downhill in a good way. Jeff Teague converted a lay-up to extend the advantage to six at 94-88, and after both teams traded several defensive stops, that advantage held up for quite some time. Iman Shumpert did slash the lead to four with a driving lay-up with under 2 minutes to go, but that was the last gasp for New York, and the "dagger" was driven home on a DeMarre Carroll three with 1:25 remaining to give the Hawks a 97-90 lead.
Kyle Korver led the way for Atlanta with 27 points on 7 for 12 shooting, including a dazzling 6 for 9 from beyond the 3-point arc. In addition, Paul Millsap added a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Dennis Schröder put together yet another strong performance off the bench, finishing with a career-best 11 points and 5 steals in 20 minutes. It was not an ideal day at the office for Atlanta's stars (including a 6-for-24 combined effort from the field for Millsap and Horford), but the supporting cast was strong, and it never hurts to hold Carmelo Anthony to only 20 points, including just 6 after a 14-point first quarter.
The Hawks and Knicks will "run it back" on Monday evening in New York, as the same two teams will face off at 7:30 pm ET in front of a national audience on NBA-TV. Stay tuned.