The west coast continues to treat the Atlanta Hawks without a great deal of love. On a night headlined by the return of Paul Millsap after a 5-game absence, the Hawks battled valiantly against the Golden State Warriors, but fell short in a 111-97 defeat.
Out of the gate, the Hawks were impressive on the offensive end, scoring 31 points in the first quarter while shooting 13-for-20 (65%) from the field. Elton Brand led the early charge with 8 points in the 1st, and the aforementioned Millsap got out of the gate in a big way with 7 points. Unfortunately, Atlanta was out-gunned in the first quarter despite those numbers, and Golden State got 12 points from David Lee in route to a 1-point lead after 12 minutes.
The second quarter was the polar opposite for the Hawks from an offensive standpoint, as their red-hot shooting in the early going became a distant memory. Atlanta shot just 8-for-24 (33%) in the second quarter, and things got even uglier as the period wore on, resulting in a 14-point halftime deficit after the Warriors closed the half on a 10-0 run. On the whole, the Warriors shot 60% from the field in the half, and that's not going to get it done.
On the bright side, the Hawks responded to the late 1st half collapse with some inspired play in the 3rd quarter. Atlanta scored the first 6 points of the quarter to cut the lead to 8, and after a Kyle Korver 3 (the streak is at 1) and Pero Antic jumper cut the lead to 4 at 74-70 with 4:16 to play, there was a bit of optimism. Sadly, though, that was as close as the margin would get for the Hawks, as the Warriors ran away down the stretch after a 15-0 spurt lengthened the lead to an insurmountable 20 points at 97-77, and the rout continued from there.
The Hawks were led offensively by Millsap, who scored 16 points in just 24 minutes of play in his return. The team was vastly different with him on the floor, and for the most part (with the exception of his 6 turnovers), he picked up right where he left off prior to the injury. Outside of Millsap, though, there wasn't a lot in the way of standout performances, and only Mike Scott (14 points) and Pero Antic (10 points) reached double-digits.
Coach Budenholzer made the interesting choice to use both Shelvin Mack (21 minutes) and Dennis Schröder (19 minutes) in front of Lou Williams, and he did so to the point that Williams never entered the game. It remains to be seen whether there is an injury/other explanation for this "DNP", but it was a mild surprise.
Defensively, the Hawks had severe problems once again, and the final numbers reflected those struggles. Golden State shot 54% from the field as a team, and for long stretches, it appeared as if they could do anything they wanted on that end. There wasn't a single, dominant performance for the Warriors (David Lee led them in scoring with 18), but Atlanta offered little in the way of resistance.
With the defeat, the Hawks have now lost 5 straight and 13 of their last 14 games, leaving them with a somewhat dismal 26-34 record. Fortunately, the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers both dropped decisions on Saturday, and that leaves Atlanta with a 3-game lead in the race for the 8th spot as they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers on Saturday night. Stay tuned.