The Atlanta Hawks did not play well on Monday afternoon.
It didn't matter.
The Hawks won their 13th consecutive game on the strength of competent defense and late execution, as they outlasted the Detroit Pistons by a final margin of 93-82 on Martin Luther King Day in Atlanta.
Things got off to a flying start in Philips Arena, from fantastic pre-game festivities to strong on-court performance. The Hawks leapt to an 11-2 early lead on the strength of strong defense, holding the visiting Pistons to just 1 of 10 shooting over the first six minutes. Sadly, that ugly shooting would then begin to plague Atlanta in their own right.
Detroit responded with an 8-0 run of their own, and the home team went scoreless over nearly five minutes in the latter stretches of the first quarter. The Hawks did answer with a bit of a flourish to end the first quarter with a four-point lead at 16-12, but the first 12 minutes were fairly abysmal for the viewer. Atlanta shot just 32% against 24% for Detroit, and only Andre Drummond (8 points, 11 rebounds) and Al Horford (7 points, 4 rebounds) posted strong individual showings in the early going.
The second quarter was more of the game from an aesthetic perspective. Detroit mounted their inevitable surge in a hurry, outscoring the Hawks by a 13-4 margin at one point to claim their first lead of the night at 29-28, and in that stretch, the Pistons made a trio of three-pointers. Atlanta came back with an 8-2 spurt of their own after Paul Millsap snapped Detroit's run, and from there, it was a back-and-forth affair until halftime arrived with the Hawks leading by a 44-41 margin.
The first half was marked by strong defense by the home team, but the rebounding margin was heavily in favor of Detroit. The Pistons out-rebounded the Hawks by a 35-20 margin, including a comical 10-0 edge in offensive rebounding, and that allowed Detroit to generate 8 second-chance points to keep the scoreboard closer than it should have been. Still, Atlanta's defense held the visitors to only 34% shooting and 25% from deep, and that was enough to mitigate a 13-point, 11-rebound half from Andre Drummond and an ugly, 1-for-9 showing from Jeff Teague in 15 minutes before the break.
Much of the third quarter was highlighted by the "same old story" from earlier in the day. The Pistons continued to utterly dominate the glass, while Atlanta held them in check with great defense and struggled to push ahead offensively. Then, the Hawks put together a quality run at the end of the half that seemed to spark things. Thabo Sefolosha snatched an impactful offensive rebound, and when he came down, he found Mike Scott for a three to give Atlanta a four-point lead with 1:39 left in the quarter. From there, Atlanta forced Drummond to the line (where he, once again, struggled) on numerous occasions, and allowed the Hawks to race to a 7-point edge at the end of the period.
Mike Scott continued his individual onslaught in the fourth quarter. At one point, the versatile forward scored eight straight points for Atlanta, and that was strong enough to hold the Pistons at arm's length. Kent Bazemore punt a punctuation mark on that showing from Scott with a three-pointer of his own with just over six minutes to go, and that gave the Hawks their largest lead of the night to that point at 83-74.
From there, Detroit would never climb closer than a seven-point deficit, and Atlanta's execution peaked at the right time. Jeff Teague put a nail in the coffin with a three-point play to give the good guys a 13-point lead with less than 2:30 to play, and the result was academic at that point in time.
On a largely inconsistent and maddening offensive day for the Hawks, Mike Scott was tremendous off the bench. In only 19 minutes of court time, Scott scored 20 points on 9 for 14 shooting, and he was supremely active on the defensive end as well. In addition, Paul Millsap added 20 points and 7 rebounds, Al Horford put together a solid day with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, and Kyle Korver did his Kyle Korver impression, knocking down three triples on the way to 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists
It wasn't all positive for the Atlanta Hawks, though, as Jeff Teague struggled mightily (4-for-15 FG, 0-for-5 from three) and the rebounding was an issue from the opening tip. There won't be many nights when the Hawks can win semi-comfortably with Teague playing this way and a massive rebounding disadvantage (61-42), but the bright spot of this team is balance and depth, which were both on full display here.
The Atlanta Hawks will continue their seven-game homestand on Wednesday with a game against the Indiana Pacers. Stay tuned to Peachtree Hoops, and until then, take solace and joy in a 13-game winning streak and the best team in the Eastern Conference.