Playing without three of their starters for the entirety of the night and the other two down the stretch, the Atlanta Hawks fought valiantly against the Charlotte Bobcats, but a buzzer-beater sent them to a 95-93 defeat to close the regular season home schedule.
With some of the big guns on the sidelines, it was an inauspicious start to the night for the Hawks. As a team, Atlanta missed their first 5 shots from 3-point distance and 7 of their 9 shot attempts overall, and with Bobcats center Al Jefferson lighting it up with 8 of the first 10 points for Charlotte, the Hawks looked to be in a bit of trouble. However, they responded quite well to the early adversity.
The Hawks clamped down defensively in the second quarter, allowing only 33% shooting and 18 points from the Bobcats, and with 50% from the floor offensively, the home team was able to grab a 6-point halftime lead. Cartier Martin, Mike Scott and Lou Williams were all aggressive offensively (sometimes to a fault) in the early going, and with Jeff Teague steering the ship with a steady hand, Atlanta was able to assist on 15 of their 18 shots in the opening half.
After the break, Atlanta put the pedal to the floor and surprisingly put a thumping on the visitors, especially in the final moments. The Hawks went on a 9-2 spurt to close the quarter (including 4 points from Elton Brand and a 3 from Dennis Schröder), and after that flurry, the lead swelled to 80-65 with just 12 minutes remaining. Brand paced the offense with 9 points (on 3-3 FG) in the quarter, and as a team, the "good guys" hit 55% of their shots while holding Charlotte to just 40% FG and 0-for-5 from deep.
The fourth quarter wasn't quite as pleasurable from start to finish, as the Bobcats began to close the gap in the early going. Luke Ridnour captained a 14-0 Charlotte run that close the gap and tie the game at 84-84 with 6:05 to play (Mike Muscala mercifully ended the string with 2 free throws), and from there, positives were slightly hard to come by. Mike Budenholzer elected to leave Jeff Teague and Pero Antic on the bench for the duration of the stretch run (something I would endorse), and that would have consequences on the floor, as the Bobcats began to pull away a bit.
However, Shelvin Mack wouldn't fade away quietly, as he scored 5 straight to tie the game at 91-91 with 1:16 remaining, and only the continued onslaught of Al Jefferson (who finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds) lit up the scoreboard until what seemed to be the final possession of regulation. Lou Williams came off of a high screen from Mike Muscala and delivered a game-tying jump shot with just 2.6 ticks remaining in the 4th quarter, but unfortunately, it wasn't enough. Charlotte's Chris Douglas-Roberts finished the Hawks off with a buzzer-beating floater to finish off a 2-point decision.
The offensive numbers, as a whole, were ugly for the Hawks, and that comes from players being thrust into somewhat unusual roles. Mike Scott acted as the "primary" option for much of the night, attempting 23 shots, but he converted only 8 of them in route to a team-high 20 points. Cartier Martin (10 points, 3-11 FG), Lou Williams (13 points, 5-13 FG, 6 assists) and Shelvin Mack attempted to pick up some of the slack offensively, and when guys like Teague (11 points, 4-6 FG, 5 assists) and Brand (12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks) were on the floor, they performed well. However, the Bobcats picked it up to a new level in the 4th quarter as the reserve unit, and they couldn't sustain the production level in the final 12 minutes.
With a day off before the regular season finale in Milwaukee, there will be plenty of time to focus on the upcoming playoff series with the Indiana Pacers, but until then, it is probably safe to disregard the majority of what happened in Philips Arena on Monday.