The Atlanta Hawks entered Wednesday night's contest with a four-game winning streak, and while they performed in relatively mediocre fashion for much of the night, that streak remains active. The Hawks pulled away late from the Brooklyn Nets, and when the dust settled, Atlanta improved to 5-1 on the young season with a 101-87 victory.
From a visual perspective, the first half of Wednesday's game was... appalling. The Hawks grabbed a six-point lead after the first quarter largely on the strength of lockdown defense (38% FG, 6 TO from Brooklyn), and offensively, Atlanta was little more than subpar in the first 12 minutes. On the bright side, the Hawks put together four steals and four blocks in the first period, flying around with activity, but the offense was uninspiring (outside of 3-for-3 for 6 points from Tiago Splitter) and that sadly continued in the second quarter.
A 6-0 "run" from the Nets over three mid-quarter minutes knotted the game at 34-34, and from there, the Hawks simply couldn't establish any cushion because of their offensive limitations. On the whole, Atlanta shot just 6 of 17 in the quarter on the way with 18 points, and with an uptick from Brooklyn (26 points!), the home team actually went into the half with an inexplicable two-point deficit.
After the halftime break, though, things changed considerably... on both ends. The Hawks came out of the gate flying around offensively, putting together a sequence with three consecutive threes (two by Dennis Schröder, one by Al Horford), and the team scored 15 points in the first 3:58 of the third quarter. Al Horford was the engine, scoring 19 points in his first 20 minutes of game action after that strong start to the half, and a 7-0 run eventually gave Atlanta a 56-50 lead.
The defense became an issue, however, as the Nets immediately reeled off a 9-0 run to reclaim the lead. Brooklyn scored 27 points of their own in the third period, and while Atlanta was able to build a lead based on 31 points (on 22 shots) in the quarter, it wasn't as large as it would have been otherwise. Still, Dennis Schröder was must-see TV throughout the period, scoring 13 points and knocking down three triples, and that was undeniably fun.
While the fourth quarter kept proceeding along the lines of the third, the Hawks began to take control with a 6-0 run that ended with a 90-82 lead with 6:45 to play. From that point forward, Atlanta never led by fewer than six points, and the home team built the lead to an insurmountable 14-point margin in the closing moments. It was a highly encouraging end to an otherwise so-so overall performance, but it is better to be good late than to be good early.
It was also a wild individual night for the Hawks, including the fact that Paul Millsap posted an NBA season-high with five steals. As a team, Atlanta compiled 15 steals and 10 blocked shots in the game, both of which stood out significantly, and Justin Holiday added four (!) blocked shots on the wing for good measure. Al Horford was the "star" of the night, finishing with 21 points and 8 rebounds, with Dennis Schröder scoring 20 points and Jeff Teague adding 16 points and 6 assists.
The Hawks will continue their schedule on Friday night with a quick road trip to New Orleans before hosting Washington on Saturday night. Stay tuned.