For 24 minutes, the Atlanta Hawks appeared to be wholly inept on the defensive end Tuesday night. However, their second half effort on both ends more than made up for the early lapses, and the team emerged with a 109-105 victory over the Boston Celtics to improve to 10-6 on the season.
The first half was... less than ideal for the home team. After a 5-0 start by Atlanta generated some buzz in the building, things came to a crashing halt in a relative hurry. Boston mounted a 16-4 run to snatch a 26-14 lead with 4:56 lead in the quarter, and that caused Mike Budenholzer to call a quick timeout. At that point, the Celtics had made 11 of 15 shot attempts, including all three of their three-point attempts.
Things would get worse before they would get better.
Boston closed out the first quarter with a blistering 77% shooting from the field, including 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. Things wouldn't stop there, either, as the Celtics built their lead to as many as 23 in the second quarter, and the shooting was comical as the Hawks mounted little resistance. Atlanta would respond (at least to a point) with a 7-0 run capped by a Pero Antic three-pointer, and the Hawks managed to whittle the lead down to 13 before a Jared Sullinger three at the halftime buzzer.
All told, it was a defensive calamity for Atlanta in the first 24 minutes. Boston shot 61% from the floor and 64% from beyond the arc, and while some of that (namely, shots by Avery Bradley and Evan Turner) was unavoidable, Budenholzer certainly could not be happy with the effort and execution on that end of the floor. Both Paul Millsap (10 points) and Kyle Korver (11 points) scored in double-figures before the break as the Hawks scored 50 points in their own right, but allowing 66 points in 24 minutes was anything but ideal.
The second half, thank goodness, was much more accommodating for the Hawks. After a brief hiccup that allowed Boston to get back-to-back open looks to open the third quarter, Atlanta went to work. Eventually, the good guys slashed the lead to just seven at 79-72 after a Kyle Korver three with less than four minutes remaining in the period, and that was the cap to a 15-4 run by Atlanta.
With the lead cut to just five as the fourth quarter opened, there was life in the building for the first time since the opening moments. In quick order, Atlanta assumed the lead behind incredibly strong play from Dennis Schröder, and after a mini-spurt by Boston, the Hawks zoomed to an 8-2 run to claim their first "significant" advantage of the night at 98-92 with less than five minutes remaining.
Dennis Schröder continued to absolutely cook in the second half, creating a steal at one end and knocking down a pull-up jumper to build Atlanta's largest lead of the night at 103-94, and that gave the second-year point guard nine points in the fourth quarter. Still, there was some work left to be done, and the newfound advantage was not "safe" until Kent Bazemore connected on a lay-up to stretch the lead to four and overcome a Boston team that had gamely fought back within two with less than 30 seconds remaining.
From an individual standpoint, this was a huge night from Kyle Korver. The sharpshooter scored 24 points on 8-for-9 shooting, including 6-for-7 from beyond the arc, and his defense against Boston's Rajon Rondo was highly impactful. In support, Paul Millsap (19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks), Al Horford (16 points, 6 rebounds) and the aforementioned Schröder (career-best 15 points) had very solid nights, but Korver's impact was immeasurable.
Defensively, the Hawks went from an atrocity to a high point from half to half. The first half was wholly unacceptable, especially with the 40-point opening quarter, but after the break, Atlanta allowed only 39 points (and 35% from the floor), and that was a God-send on this particular evening. Snatching a home win over Boston isn't something to grab hold of long-term, but the second half was very encouraging on multiple fronts.
The Atlanta Hawks will return to action immediately, as the team travels to south Florida to take on the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. Stay tuned to Peachtree Hoops for all the latest.