With a fully loaded roster, the Atlanta Hawks arrived home to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night at Philips Arena. Though it wasn't exactly a walk in the park, the team managed to keep its tremendous momentum going, as they escaped with a 107-104 win over one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
The positive momentum from previous games appeared to carry over to the early going on Tuesday night for the Hawks. Atlanta shot nearly 57% from the floor in the opening quarter, including 3 of 6 from three, and that resulted in a 31-point effort and a 6-point lead over the Clippers. Jeff Teague emerged from the bench (where he began with Dennis Schröder in the starting lineup) with some quality minutes in his first action after a three-game absence, and all was well with the world.
However, that positivity screeched to a halt in the second quarter. After a back-and-forth to begin the period, the Clippers utterly exploded, posting a 17-0 run that included eight straight points from former Hawks guard Jamal Crawford, and in a hurry, Los Angeles grabbed a 47-40 lead. Paul Millsap stopped the bleeding with two free throws, but Atlanta was unable to slash the lead, and the Clippers took a seven-point lead into the locker room for halftime at 57-50.
The Clippers stormed out of the locker room with a hot start in the third quarter, scoring 8 of the first 10 points overall to build their lead to 13 points. Chris Paul knocked down back to back threes to spur LA's onslaught, and the Clippers kept their lead at 13 points nearly midway through the period. However, at 72-59, the Hawks began to slowly chip away at the advantage.
Atlanta went on a 10-3 run that was capped by an Elton Brand lay-up, and after what seemed like 173 overtures (and 16 actual free throw attempts), the Hawks finally tied the game at 81-81 on a Jeff Teague three in the closing seconds. Jamal Crawford quickly silenced the crowd with a pull-up jumper on the other end, but the Hawks played to a stalemate for the final two possessions, and the deficit was just two as the fourth quarter arrived.
The Hawks sprinted to the first nine points of the closing period, with Mike Scott notching four points, Al Horford putting together a beautiful, driving finish and Kyle Korver converting an enormous triple that gave Atlanta its first lead in some time. Overall, the home team began the fourth by out-scoring the visitors by a 13-2 margin to claim a 9-point lead, but after back-to-back questionable calls and a technical foul by Dennis Schröder, the Clippers quickly responded by closing within 97-94 at the under-six minute timeout.
From there, the lead never fully evaporated, and the modest, single-digit cushion proved to be enough. It was never quite comfortable, as Al Horford missed three straight jump shots that would have served as "daggers", but after Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick traded free throws and there was an inexplicable jump ball called in the backcourt, the Hawks secured possession and that proved to be sufficient. Al Horford made only one of two free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining, leaving the door cracked open, but a last-stitch three-point effort from Blake Griffin fell harmlessly off the rim, and that was that.
DeMarre Carroll was the centerpiece offensively on this night, as the Junkyard Dog had a season-high 25 points (on 5-6 from three) and 10 rebounds. Carroll seemingly came up with a bucket at the perfect time throughout the evening, and to go along with his customary defense, it was the total package.
Carroll was flanked by a big night from Paul Millsap, who finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, and Al Horford, who added 20 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. It was a full-contact performance from Atlanta's frontcourt on both ends, and it was thoroughly encouraging to see the trio playing at a high level.
There were certainly some negatives on this night, including arguably the least productive performance of the season from Dennis Schröder, but it is difficult to argue with a victory against a top-flight Western Conference team, and that is what the Hawks were able to emerge with on Tuesday.