In a game that almost didn't happen due to inclement weather, the Atlanta Hawks were able to shake off a slow start and rally for a 104-87 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
With snow and freezing rain in the forecast for the metro area, it looked like for a moment that Wednesday's game would not be happening. Arena staff and the players were originally told that the game would be cancelled but that decision was reversed a little later. Even with the bad weather outside, the Hawks announced an attendance of 16,121. Their wasn't that many inside the building but those that were there were loud and enthusiastic and seemed to give the team a boost as they recovered from a slow start to get the win.
"I would like to start off my thanking our fans for coming out," said head coach Mike Budenholzer. "They really helped us. We did not start well but they stuck with us. The players stuck with what we do. We were able to get our defense in a better place - 19 and 15 point quarters in the second, third and fourth quarters. It was great to see that many people come out in not the most ideal circumstances. Very appreciative of that and that our defense picked up after the first quarter."
It couldn't have been a much worse start for the Hawks. With the unusual circumstances surrounding the game and Dallas missing several key players, the defensive edge wasn't there for Atlanta from the start. The Mavericks shot 64 percent from the field to start the game and led 34-22 at the end of one.
A better second quarter got the Hawks back into the game but they clamped down after halftime and took control of the game in the third quarter.
"Our aggressiveness to start the third quarter and the players got comfortable with what we were doing and sticking with our basics and activities and our hands and getting turnovers," said Budenholzer. "I think the energy changed. Dallas is in here on some tough circumstances and we were fortunate that we could turn it."
Atlanta held the Mavericks to just 15 points in the third quarter and turned a six point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead heading to the fourth. The Hawks continued to pour it on from there holding the Mavericks to just 29 percent shooting in the final period and pushing the lead to as many as 23 points before emptying the bench down the stretch.
"I felt like we started playing better defense, said Al Horford. "We were really sloppy at the beginning and kind of running all over the place. Once we settled down and started playing our style of basketball everything became easier."
Its a good sign for a Hawks team that hasn't been quite as crisp defensively of late. Two solid defensive performances in a row has to give them confidence that they are getting closer to the high level they played at during the first half of the season.
Dennis Schröder continues to impress
One of the big factors in the Hawks rebounding from that first quarter deficit was the play of their bench in the second quarter. Atlanta's bench came into the game late in the first and was able to provide some energy and stopped the bleeding. That carried over into the second as they were able to cut into the deficit and pull the Hawks back into the game.
"I thought Dennis early, middle, late was really a big factor," Budenholzer said. "Seventeen points, four assists, he hit shots, he guarded, he did a lot of things well. We needed him tonight."
With Jeff Teague slowed due to an illness, Schröder again picked up the slack. His aggressiveness on both ends of the floor was key as was his shooting where he knocked down 3-5 three-point attempts.
"Dennis was great," Horford said. "People are going to start learning that he can shoot the ball. He can do a lot of good things. They were going under on him on screens and he was making them pay. He made some big shots for us.
"Dennis keeps on getting better and he keeps working on his shot," Kyle Korver said. "He is so tough when he gets his momentum going to the basket.
Atlanta bench unit finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists to go along with just three turnovers.