Nine straight victories were the background for the Atlanta Hawks as they took the floor against the Orlando Magic for the second consecutive night. The Hawks led for the great majority of the night, but unfortunately, the scoreboard finished in an unflattering direction for Atlanta, as their winning streak was snapped by a final score of 100-99.
Despite the fact that these two teams played less than 24 hours previously, the Hawks and Magic both got off to sluggish starts, albeit in different ways. Atlanta mounted an early lead at 13-10, but the Hawks made just 5 of their first 13 field goals, instead benefitting from four early giveaways by Orlando. That trend would continue throughout the rest of the period, as the Magic (somehow) committed ten turnovers in 12 minutes, with the Hawks managing to keep a five-point lead despite 9-for-23 shooting in the quarter.
With the Magic playing so carelessly, it appeared that the Hawks could run away and hide, but that did not materialize in the second quarter. In fact, Orlando scored the first eight points out of the quarter break, claiming a 26-23 lead, and only a quick, six-point spurt from Mike Budenholzer's club kept the Magic from building on that momentum. From there, the remainder of the half operated in back-and-forth fashion, and Atlanta held off the home team by a one-point margin at 48-47 as halftime arrived.
Jeff Teague was the most productive player of the first half for the Hawks, scoring 11 points, 4 assists and 3 steals, but it was a balanced effort. Kent Bazemore appeared from the depths of the bench, and he was highly productive, scoring 8 points in the first half to set a season-high for any full game. Atlanta shot just 42% from the floor in the first half, but Orlando's 13 turnovers (including 6 from Victor Oladipo alone) helped to overcome some hot shooting (55% FG) from the Magic. Coach Bud certainly could not be fully pleased with the overall effort, but holding a lead likely mitigated his anger level a touch.
Orlando won the early battle of the third quarter, responding to four quick points from Atlanta with an 11-1 run to take their biggest lead of the night at 58-53. Fortunately, Jeff Teague would not allow things to spiral out of control, scoring seven straight points (including two beautiful drives and a corner three) as part of an 11-3 run by Atlanta to reclaim the advantage. Taking their cue from the first half, neither team was able to create any real separation for the duration of the third, and a 72-72 tie was the result as the fourth quarter arrived.
Dennis Schröder did his part to begin the fourth quarter, helping to engineer an early 8-0 run to claim a five-point lead at 80-75, but from there, it was a back-and-forth battle in the truest sense. The Magic would claw within one point after two free throws by Tobias Harris with less than seven minutes to go and it was a very nervous time for Hawks fans. Orlando pushed within one (again) on a Nikola Vucevic lay-up with less than two minutes to go, and with the good guys unable to put the game away, the Magic took possession out of a timeout with 1:11 remaining and the score at 94-93.
Evan Fournier converted on that trip, putting the Atlanta deficit to three points, and when Jeff Teague came up empty on the other end, the Hawks sent Oladipo to the line for two free throws that gave the Magic a three-point edge. Teague got to the line to pull Atlanta within one with 17.3 seconds remaining, and fortunately, Tobias Harris made just one of two with 7.5 seconds on the clock. The Hawks created a Kyle Korver three-pointer that looked for all the world as if it would propel the team to victory, but Tobias Harris wanted no part of it, converting a buzzer-beater with DeMarre Carroll draped over him to seal a 100-99 margin in favor of Orlando.
As usual, balance was the word of the day offensively for the Hawks. Six players reached double-digits, including a season-high 10 points from Kent Bazemore, and Jeff Teague was the top scorer with 24 points to go along with 8 assists and 3 steals. Paul Millsap (9 points, 10 rebounds), Al Horford (18 points, 8 rebounds), Mike Scott (10 points in 17 minutes) and Dennis Schröder (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) joined the previous duo in double-digits, and that level of balance helped the Hawks to overcome an up-and-down shooting night (41.7% FG, 29.6% 3-PT).
99 points were not enough, however, as the Magic converted 49.3% of their shots and 47.6% of their three-point attempts in the game. The early turnover issues submarined Orlando's offense, but once they settled in, Atlanta's defense was not playing at the recent established level, and it came back to bite them in the final moments.
Now, the Atlanta Hawks will begin a five-game stretch that is the epitome of brutal. This one will sting for the next two days, but the team is back in action on Monday night, as they host the Chicago Bulls.