The Atlanta Hawks aren't firing on all cylinders, and anyone who asserts that they are is mistaken. On the bright side, that did not keep the team from snapping a three-game losing streak on Wednesday evening, as the Sacramento Kings obliged to the tune of a 103-97 victory at Philips Arena.
Though Justin Holiday (making his first start for Atlanta) began the night with two consecutive threes, it was largely a sluggish start for the home team. That was especially true on the defensive end, as the visiting Kings racked up a 58% clip from the field while scoring 30 points in the opening frame. The Hawks did manage to stay afloat with 27 first-quarter points on their own, but the overall effort was eerily reminiscent of the previous (losing) performance in Brooklyn.
There were signs of life, though, and the most encouraging of the first half came just before the break. Atlanta scored the final 11 points of the half while holding Sacramento without a point in the final 3:03, and when the dust settled, the Hawks led by 10 points. Much of the damage was done by Paul Millsap, who finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds in the half, and Dennis Schröder (14 points) looked to be confident in his jump shot throughout.
Still, much of the goodwill accumulated with the late-half run evaporated in the third quarter. Kyle Korver knocked down a three to give Atlanta its biggest lead of the night at 73-62 in the early going, but from there, the Kings chipped away at the lead, using a 6-0 run late in the period to climb within two points with only one quarter to play.
The home team would, mercifully, put the game away with improved play in the fourth quarter, and it was a sight for sore eyes. A layup by Dennis Schröder with 6:31 remaining capped a 6-0 run to give the Hawks a 10-point lead, and while it was not entirely safe, the margin was placed into safer territory when Thabo Sefolosha found Lamar Patterson for a cutting lay-up to take an 11-point lead with 2:49 remaining.
Seemingly on cue, the Hawks allowed Sacramento to battle back, as the Kings scored nine (!) straight points to bring the deficit back to only two points with 31.8 seconds remaining. Fortunately, Paul Millsap came to the rescue, scoring in isolation to extend the advantage back to four, and the Kings went down with whimper following that bucket.
Millsap was, without question, the player of the game for Atlanta in this spot. The All-Star power forward finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds to go along with three steals and two blocks, and he served as the go-to offensive option whenever lulls occurred during the game. In support, Dennis Schröder added 22 points and six assists, while Al Horford contributed 17 points, but this contest was defined by Millsap, and his contributions were much needed.
The Hawks will take a much needed rest following this bounce-back win, as the team next takes the floor on Saturday in Cleveland. The break will much much more enjoyable on the heels of a positive effort, and perhaps the roster will be healthier as well. Stay tuned.