Remember the apprehension that accompanied the Atlanta Hawks and an appearance on TNT on Tuesday night?
Have no fear.
The Hawks played high-end basketball throughout the evening, outpacing a quality opponent in the Boston Celtics, and the final margin was indicative of that effort. Atlanta led virtually from start to finish, and in the end, it resulted in a 121-97 victory.
In a welcome change from recent performances, the Hawks came flying out of the gate. Atlanta raced to an 11-0 run in the early going to claim a 16-6 lead, and from that point forward, the Hawks would not trail for the remainder of the half. That was not the only push, as an 8-2 run (capped by a three from Lamar Patterson) would stretch the advantage to as many as 13 points in the first quarter, but a 10-2 spurt by the Celtics to close the quarter would cut into Atlanta's lead at 33-28.
Perhaps the biggest "storyline" of the first quarter was the first appearance of the season from Tim Hardaway Jr. While the swingman did not score in his first five-minute stint (0-for-1 shooting), it was definitely noteworthy to simply see him on the floor, and his entry with 59.4 seconds left in the first period will serve as a landmark for the history of mankind (or something like that).
The second quarter was less eventful than the opener, but it was largely productive for the Hawks. Atlanta managed to hold off a small charge from Boston, and in the latter stages of the half, the Hawks stretched the lead to 57-48 (on the strength of 58% shooting) despite committing 12 turnovers before the break. On the whole, Paul Millsap was the best player on the court for Atlanta, scoring 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting, but Thabo Sefolosha contributed in a big way as well, racking up 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in the half while making all four of his field goal attempts.
In short order, the home team would push the lead back to 13 points after an Al Horford three (!) but Boston wasn't going away in the early going of the second half. Atlanta's propensity to turn the ball over (17 TO's in the first 33 minutes of game action) allowed the Celtics to remain afloat, and only hot shooting kept the advantage safe for the Hawks in the midst of the ball security issues.
The "put away" run was coming, though, and it finally manifested itself in the middle stages of the closing period. Lamar Patterson knocked down his third three of the night and when Mike Scott followed that with a lay-up of his own, the Hawks capped a 7-0 run to take a 95-79 lead with less than eight minutes remaining. They weren't done there, either, as Atlanta extended the blitz to 13-1 with a three-point bomb from Kyle Korver and a pretty three-point play by Jeff Teague to take a 21-point lead and virtually put the game away.
From there, it was academic, but the Hawks kept clawing, increasing the lead to as many as 29 points before settling on the final 121-97 margin. It was a banner night for Atlanta on both ends of the floor, as the Celtics were held to 42% shooting on one end and the Hawks were blistering to the tune of 56% from the floor and 50% (12-for-24) from downtown on the other. Paul Millsap's final numbers (25 points, 10-14 FG, 9 rebounds) stood out above the rest, but this was a balanced, dominant effort from the Hawks, which was highly encouraging against one of the league's best defenses entering the night.
The Atlanta Hawks will be back in action on Wednesday as they continue this four-game, five-night stretch with a road contest in Minnesota. Stay tuned.