Heading into Tuesday night's game against their archenemy, the Chicago Bulls, there was little in the way of expectations for the Atlanta Hawks, but despite that, they battled valiantly for the whole of 48 minutes before falling by a final score of 107-103.
The Hawks came out firing on Tuesday night, both literally and figuratively. Kyle Korver kept his NBA-record streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer (now at 125 in a row) going with a first-possession three, and followed it up with another on the second trip down the floor. He didn't slow down there, though, as the sharpshooting wing knocked down yet another triple a few seconds later, accounting for the first 9 points of the night.
From there, the Hawks turned on the jets a bit, using an 11-2 run to grab a surprising 26-12 lead before settling in with a 10-point advantage to end the first quarter. The second period was not so kind, however, as Chicago was able to climb back into the game (and eventually, the lead) with a 34-point quarter that included 55% from the floor (11 of 20), 4 for 8 from three-point range, and a 14-to-6 rebounding edge.
After the break, both teams played to a virtual standstill in the 3rd quarter, but Chicago grabbed all of the momentum with yet another buzzer-beater from nearly the length of the floor. Backup point guard DJ Augustin knocked down a 50-footer at the gun that extended the Chicago lead to 5 points at 80-75, and other than the "debut" of Dexter Pittman (who did play 4 seconds in the first half) with 3 rebounds in just over 2 minutes of action.
The home team wouldn't go away quietly, though, and a strong start to the closing quarter put the Hawks back in the lead. Lou Williams converted back-to-back threes to erase a 5-point deficit and turn it into a 1-point lead at 85-84 with 8:40 to play, and there were visible signs of life, but unfortunately, those indications failed to fully bloom.
Atlanta battled down the stretch, grabbing the lead on a DeMarre Carroll bucket with 1:40 to go and retaking the lead at 103-101 with a massive Carroll three, but the Bulls were too much. Former Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich was fouled by Carroll while attempting a 3 with 43.2 seconds remaining and he converted all three attempts to give Chicago a 104-103 lead. From there, Mike Budenholzer got a timeout with 28.4 seconds remaining (in emphatic fashion) to set up a nicely designed play, but Jeff Teague was stripped before he could get the ball to Kyle Korver. Still, there was some life when Atlanta was able to steal the inbounds pass on the other end, but when Jeff Teague stepped on the baseline (sigh), it allowed Kirk Hinrich to be fouled on the other end and he made both to extend the lead to 106-103 with 11 seconds remaining. Lastly, Mike Scott turned the ball over on the final possession, and the Bulls sealed it at the line for the final, 4-point margin.
Jeff Teague submitted a very nice performance, finishing with 26 points (on 10-20 shooting) and 7 assists in 34 minutes, and his 11 4th-quarter points were absolutely key in keeping the team afloat. In support, Shelvin Mack contributed 17 points while Kyle Korver added 16 points (4-9 from 3-point distance) and 7 rebounds overall. after his hot start.
Elton Brand continued his incredible work as an ironman at the center spot, playing an astounding 42 minutes and finishing with 7 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Off the bench, Mike Scott and Lou Williams each nice solid days with 12 points each, and the fact that the offense was able to put up 103 points against this particular opponent is undeniably encouraging.
There are certainly some excruciating losses in the NBA, and this falls into that category. The Hawks battled for 48 minutes, though, and with the roster as currently constructed, that is all you can ask for.