The great majority of the fans at Philips Arena were not rooting for the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
The great majority of fans also went home unhappy.
The Atlanta Hawks looked dominant for a portion of the game, wretched for a spell and, generally, better than the Los Angeles Lakers on the night of Kobe Bryant's swan song at Philips Arena. It was too close for comfort in the second half, but the Hawks bounced back from a brutal loss on Wednesday with a 100-87 victory.
The home team raced to a 7-0 run to begin the game, and in general, the opening moments were a microcosm of the night. The visiting Lakers began the night by missing their first ten shots, including three from Bryant, and that allowed Atlanta to control things from the jump. While the Hawks held only a modest lead after the first quarter (due to 39% shooting in their own right), the run was coming.
Atlanta did put together a 17-5 blitz midway through the second quarter, and that brought the team's advantage to sixteen points at 44-28. During that spurt, Mike Scott scored eight points in a matter of minutes, and the Hawks were able to take advantage of a defensively inept opponent in a big way. Before the halftime break, Atlanta led by as many as nineteen points, and much of the time between the second and third quarters was spent lamenting the sheer presence of the Lakers on the court.
Of course, the moment had to be coming, and it arrived midway through the third period. Kobe connected on back-to-back threes (not a misprint) to bring the Lakers within seven points at 64-57, and the crowd erupted as if the NBA title was on the line. To make matters worse, Los Angeles would actually close within six points at the end of the third quarter, and the 12-minute period was largely marked by uninspired play (including 10 turnovers) from the home team.
Mike Budenholzer's team looked to seize control as the final period began, pushing to a 7-2 run. However, the Lakers simply wouldn't fold in this spot, knocking down jumper after jumper, and when Lou Williams (an old friend) connected on a three with six minutes left, Los Angeles trailed by only four points for the first time since the opening moments.
That was as close as the Lakers got, however, as the Hawks stepped on the gas again to the tune of a 10-0 run that put the game away. That spurt gave Atlanta a 95-83 lead with 2:05 remaining, and not even the magic of Kobe Bryant (insert laughter here) could force that lead to disappear. The Hawks held on for a 100-87 victory, and all was right with the world.
Without the benefit of a deep dive, suffice it to say that this was not the best performance from the Atlanta Hawks. The team allowed 48% three-point shooting from the opposition while committing 17 turnovers (against 24 assists), and no single player exploded for a dominant night. Still, it was a win in a spot where only a win would suffice, and there is some solace to take from that.
Kobe Bryant will never again darken the door of Philips Arena as an active player, and even with gobs of fans supporting him, the Hawks sent him out with a loss while simultaneously providing a moment of enjoyment.