With a rare 7:30 pm ET tip-off, it looked as if the Atlanta Hawks forgot to snap out of their post-Christmas hangover in the first few minutes on Saturday night. From that point forward, however, everything was fantastic, as the Hawks rebounded for a 117-98 win over the New York Knicks for the team's sixth consecutive victory.
As referenced above, the first few moments of the game were borderline disastrous for the home team. The Knicks raced to an 18-4 run to open the game, and New York shot a blazing 64% from the floor in the first quarter despite missing their final four shots of the period. Atlanta trailed by "only" ten points at the end of the first quarter after playing respectable basketball in the final few minutes, and that stability was much needed.
The second quarter was (much) more favorable to the Hawks, and much of that push could be attributed to Mike Scott. Scott emerged from the bench to score 9 points in just 7 minutes of court time, and he did it without missing a shot in four attempts. That spurt helped Atlanta close the gap, but the Knicks would not go quietly into the night, putting together an 11-2 run of their own to retake a 12-point lead after the Hawks had slashed the deficit to three.
Fortunately for the home team, that New York onslaught was short-lived. The Hawks closed the half in strong fashion, including a buzzer-beating three from Jeff Teague, and when the dust settled, Atlanta trailed by only three points at 63-60. That manageable deficit was borderline crazy considering that the Knicks shot 66% (!) from the floor in the first half, but the Hawks took care of the ball (3 turnovers) and shot quite well (53%) in their own right to keep things manageable.
The third quarter was, to be blunt, quite favorable for the Hawks. Atlanta used a 9-2 run to take their first lead of the game at 71-68, and following a timeout by Derek Fisher, the Hawks extended that to 12-2 with a three by Paul Millsap. From there, it was the Mike Scott show once again, as he converted three more shots without a miss, including a five-point spree to push the Atlanta lead to 81-71. All told, it was a 27-12 quarter in favor of the home team, and that gave the Hawks a 12-point lead as the closing period opened.
From there, it was virtual cruise control. The Hawks led by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter, and in a hilarious turn of events, there was exactly one lead change in an entire game that featured both teams holding 15+ point leads. New York, at times, looked to put up a fight, but the margin was too great and that was reflected in the final score of 117-98.
Aside from the opening sequence, this was a fantastic performance from Atlanta. The Hawks put together 33 assists as a team while shooting 53% from the floor, and on the defensive end, the team forced the Knicks into 23 turnovers. Individually, Mike Scott, Paul Millsap and Al Horford provided strong efforts, with Scott scoring 18 points on only 8 shot attempts, while Millsap (22 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) and Horford (19 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) did what they almost always seem to do when called upon.
The Hawks will take another break on Sunday before heading out on a difficult road back-to-back against Indiana and Houston this week, but for now, Atlanta can take solace in a six-game winning streak and another nice victory.