The Atlanta Hawks needed a win on Monday after a brutal four-game stretch that ended with a thud on Saturday night. Mike Budenholzer and his team needed all 48 minutes and some big plays to do it, but in the end, it was a 106-100 victory in what was a highly entertaining basketball game.
Monday's game started out quite well for the Hawks, as the team put together an 8-2 run to begin the game. Later in the first period, Atlanta raced to seven consecutive points to claim an 18-6 lead, and from that point forward, the Hawks were in control for the duration of the half. Atlanta shot a blistering 57% from the floor on the way to a 10-point lead after the first quarter, and defensively, the Hawks held OKC to just 8 for 22 shooting.
Though much of the second quarter was owned by the Hawks, the waning moments were not, and that burned the home team. Oklahoma City sprinted to an 18-3 run to close the half, and it was borderline disastrous for Atlanta after holding a 50-34 lead at one point in the quarter. Still, the Hawks maintained a one-point halftime lead, and with Russell Westbrook going off to the tune of 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, that margin felt slightly fortunate.
Clearly bothered by the events of the final few moments prior to halftime, the Hawks came out firing in the third quarter, and Jeff Teague led the way. Atlanta scored the first nine points of the half, and Teague himself capped that run with seven consecutive points to push the lead back to double-digits. While Oklahoma City would battle back (as they are prone to do), the Hawks never trailed in the third period (while holding the visitors to 32% shooting), and a five-point lead after 36 minutes was the result of that strong effort.
With Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on the other side, no lead is ever "safe" and, frankly, it never felt that way. Seemingly on cue, the Thunder put together an 8-0 run to knot the game at 92-92 with 3:53 to play, and it was Westbrook at the controls in scoring the final six points during the spurt. Not to be outdone, Westbrook came back with four additional points (10 straight in all) and, suddenly, the Thunder led for the first time in a (very) long time.
Teague, mercifully, answered back with a bucket to stop the bleeding, and when Millsap connected on two free throws with 1:35 to play, the game was once again tied at 96-96. After a beautiful block by Millsap against OKC's Serge Ibaka, Teague gave the Hawks the lead at 98-96 with a tricky lay-up, and on the other end, the Hawks got yet another stop after a phenomenal substitution from Mike Budenholzer. The head coach inserted Kent Bazemore defensively against Westbrook, and the possession ended with a block that helped Atlanta extend the lead with another Teague lay-up on the other end.
Naturally, Durant would not let the Thunder go away quietly, as he finished an all-too-easy layup with 23.3 seconds to go, slashing the lead back to two. Fittingly, it was Teague that converted both free throws on the other end, and when Westbrook missed a desperation three-point attempt, it became academic with two more points at the charity stripe from Al Horford. From there, it was cruise control to a 106-100 victory and the raucous crowd could celebrate with a post-game concert from Jeezy.
The trio of Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Jeff Teague stood out in a big way in this one, especially in the case of Teague down the stretch. The point guard scored 10 of his 25 points in the final period, while Millsap (26 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists) and Horford (21 points, 13 rebounds) certainly aided in the cause toward grabbing a win. It is never easy to outlast one of the most talented teams in the NBA, but on this night, the Hawks did just enough.