Buzz is the operative word surrounding the Atlanta Hawks right now, and the lead up to Wednesday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies was no different. With one of the Western Conference heavyweights in town, the crowd was blessed with another fantastic show, as the home battled back with a late explosion in order to secure a 96-86 victory for their sixth straight win.
Things began in stellar fashion for the home team, as the Hawks scored the first seven points of the night in the blink of an eye. That all-out success was somewhat short-lived, however, as the Grizzlies rallied with eight straight of their own, which basically reset the festivities and set the stage for a competitive battle.
The first quarter was sloppy on both sides, to the point where it was certainly uncharacteristic. Atlanta issued eight turnovers in the opening frame, but still managed to lead by a 23-19 margin on the strength of 56% shooting. Memphis was equally careless with the ball, but the difference was a 9-0 run by the Hawks to close the quarter, and that became an 11-0 overall spurt as it carried through to the second quarter.
That uneven play continued for the next few minutes, but the good guys were saving an offensive barrage. In the middle portion of the period, the Hawks raced to a 22-8 run, and that spurt included six (yes, six) threes from the team, including two from a suddenly red-hot Pero Antic. That gave Atlanta an 11-point advantage with 1:38 left in the half, and even with a small Memphis push as halftime approached, the Hawks held a 5-point edge after 24 minutes, largely due to 51% overall shooting and 9-for-16 from beyond the arc.
The early moments of the second half were not exactly promising, as the Grizzlies scored the first six points. To make matters worse, DeMarre Carroll was forced to exit as a result of a right eye laceration (he would return later), and there was some level of fear in the building as Memphis claimed a slim lead. Have no fear, however, as the Hawks would awaken quickly.
A 15-3 spurt by the Hawks gave the team a 64-53 lead in the latter stages of the third quarter, and that was doubly impressive considering that the highly skilled pairing of Paul Millsap and Al Horford combined for just 2-for-16 shooting at that point in the evening. Unfortunately, the Memphis run was coming.
The visitors out-scored Atlanta by a 17-6 margin in the first six minutes of the quarter, and Memphis knotted the score at 76-76 on a lay-up by Nick Calathes. This was the first blip on the radar for the defense in the game, but it came at an inopportune time. From that point, the two sides basically traded baskets, with neither side able to build any sort of significant lead for the better part of the closing period.
With the score knotted at 84-84 and less than three minutes left, the Hawks began to "cook", as the kids say. Al Horford converted a contested 20-footer to give Atlanta the lead, and after an empty trip by both teams, Jeff Teague connected on the shot of the night. Teague knocked home a three to give the Hawks a five-point lead, and seconds later, Kyle Korver sent the crowd into a complete frenzy with another triple. With that, the score was 92-84 with 59 seconds remaining, and that was virtually that.
There were many heroes on this night, but in the spirit of this group, it was an across-the-board effort once again. Pero Antic scored 13 points on just five shots (including three made triples), Jeff Teague led the way in scoring with 25 points, and Kyle Korver was Kyle Korver, burying four threes. There were weak spots, like the Millsap-Horford pairing struggling mightily to get shots to fall, but it would be silly to dwell on the negative on this night, so we won't.
The Atlanta Hawks keep rolling, Philips Arena is alive, and this couldn't be any more enjoyable.