When it was announced that the Portland Trail Blazers would be without their top two scorers on Monday night, fans of the Atlanta Hawks raised expectations for the team. Nothing short of a lopsided win would have been "acceptable" to most in this spot and, well, the Hawks responded in a big way. After something of a sluggish start to the night, the Hawks slowly built a big-time advantage, and without the benefit of offensive firepower for Portland, the visitors could mount little resistance on the way to a 106-97 final score.
The big shift of the night took place at the close of the first half. Portland had fought valiantly throughout the beginning of the contest, to the point where they cut Atlanta's advantage to just one at 40-39. From there, though, the Hawks raced to a 15-4 spurt to close the half, and seemingly in the blink of an eye, Atlanta was in full control with a 12-point halftime advantage.
After the break, the biggest hiccup actually came in the form of an injury, as Paul Millsap hobbled to the bench and eventually to the locker room with a left ankle issue. Fortunately, his trip through the halls of Philips Arena did not last long, and the Hawks actually built on the lead in his absence. Millsap returned to the floor in the midst of a big run to end the third period, and Dennis Schröder punctuated that push with a buzzer-beating three to give Atlanta a 19-point lead as the fourth quarter opened.
The final quarter was... less than stellar, but it was likely a product of coasting. Portland was able to close within as few as 8 points in the final moments, but the game was never really in jeopardy, even if things got a bit tense in the arena. In the end, it was a ho-hum, 9-point victory, and nothing was harmed with the sluggish finish.
Dennis Schröder provided the biggest spark, scoring 18 points on 7 for 10 shooting (3 for 4 from three) in only 17 minutes of action. He was flanked by strong showings from Thabo Sefolosha (13 points, 6 rebounds) and Tiago Splitter (+19 in 19 minutes), and the starters breezed through without heaving to shoulder an immensely difficult workload.
On a night when nothing short of victory would do, the Hawks took care of business for their fourth straight win. The team will put that streak on the line on Wednesday, as Atlanta hosts the Detroit Pistons at Philips Arena. Stay tuned.