Things did not start well for the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.
Andrew Wiggins was doing stuff like this.
WIGGINS. pic.twitter.com/I53Iw3H4FJ— Zach Bennett (@ZacharyBD) November 10, 2015
And, well, the Hawks were shooting themselves in the foot with plays like this.
#Rebounding #Shaqtin https://t.co/Z2ywQtHxeR— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) November 10, 2015
The result was a 30-point (not a misprint) halftime deficit for the team against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and while we could trouble you with the grim details (including a 64% shooting clip for the visitors and a 34-point deficit at one time), the reader is better served by zooming ahead to what was a wild and eventful second half.
As you may surmise from the title of this post, things went quite a bit better after halftime. The march to redemption began with a 19-2 run in the middle stages of the third quarter, as the Hawks slashed the lead to 87-71 thanks in part to nine points from Jeff Teague. Later in the quarter, Atlanta raced to another (!) 13-2 run that would, in short, bring the team back into the game with only a nine-point deficit at 93-84.
All told, it was a 32-8 blitz to end the period, and the Hawks tallied 42 points in the quarter while shooting 72% from the floor and 5 of 7 from three. With 14 points from Teague and a 4-for-4 stretch from Millsap, there was, quite suddenly, life in Philips Arena.
From there, the home team wasn't done, scoring the first five points of the closing period to bring the deficit to just five, and in short order, an 8-1 run that included a monster three from Al Horford narrowed the margin to just three. Finally, Millsap's three-point play at the 4:25 mark, somehow, tied the game at 105-105, and the somewhat sparse crowd turned things up to the point of a playoff-level atmosphere.
Enter Andrew Wiggins.
The reigning Rookie of the Year scored seven straight points to give Minnesota a 113-107 lead that the visitors would never relinquish, and Atlanta's lights-out shooting for the majority of the second half vanished at an inopportune time. Mike Budenholzer was quick and intentional in crediting Wiggins for putting the game away in the post-game press conference, and in short, he was the reason that Minnesota was able to close the game and hold off what would have been the historic comeback. To make matters, worse, Jeff Teague was seen throwing what appeared to be a punch in the final moments, and the league office will undoubtedly be made aware of that action.
The Atlanta Hawks nearly pulled off the largest comeback in franchise history and the third-largest comeback in NBA history. Instead, we are left with an empty feeling of what might have been and, to be positive, a strong feeling of confidence moving forward given the effort of the team after halftime. The Hawks will return to action on Wednesday in front of the same fans at Philips Arena, and if Mike Budenholzer has his wish, the second-half effort will be stretched across 48 minutes.