The Atlanta Hawks began Wednesday in unfamiliar territory, as they looked to avenge a loss from Monday evening in New Orleans. In the end, they were able to do just that, soundly outplaying the visiting Washington Wizards in route to a 105-96 victory to potentially begin a new winning streak.
Entering the night, offensive stagnation had been a problem for the Hawks over the last six quarters or so, and that continued in the early going on Wednesday. Atlanta made just 4 of their first 13 shots, and while they remained afloat on the strength of three turnovers by the Wizards, the execution wasn't crisp.
Then, the jet pack engaged. The Hawks zoomed to an 11-0 run capped by a Kyle Korver three, and overall, Atlanta raced to a 21-4 spurt between the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters. That was good enough to extend what was a modest deficit at times into a 34-19 and the home team never looked back.
Hot shooting was the mark of the first half, with Atlanta making 6 of their first 9 from long distance and 7 of 12 overall, but the play of Al Horford and Jeff Teague was equally impressive. Horford scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the half, and while he was only 6 of 15 from the field, he was aggressive in grabbing his own rebounds (4 offensive). Teague led the team in first-half scoring with 17 points in his own right, and as a team, the Hawks shot 50% from the field and 58% from deep on the way to a 59-46 advantage.
The third quarter wasn't quite as kind as the second, however, as the Hawks went cold offensively. Atlanta made just 7 of their 19 field goal attempts (and just 1 of 6 from three) in the quarter, and Washington took advantage. Slowly, the Wizards chipped away at what was a double-digit lead, and the visitors completed a 14-4 run to take their first lead in quite some time at 74-73 with 1:17 left. Atlanta rallied to score the final four points of the quarter, but aside from that mini-surge, there wasn't a lot of positive return over that 12-minute span.
The home team awakened, however, and that was trouble for the Wizards. Atlanta leapt to a 9-2 spurt that was capped by a Paul Millsap step-back three and a Mike Scott hammer dunk on Bradley Beal with 6:44 remaining. That push gave the Hawks a 90-79 lead, and Washington would never again close to fewer than an 8-point deficit. Teague put things away for good with a 3-point play to raise the cushion to 11 points at the 1:54 mark, and it was cruise control on the way to a 105-96 final.
Al Horford (21 points, 13 rebounds) and Jeff Teague (26 points, 8 assists) were clearly the leaders on this night, but as usual, it was a balanced effort from Atlanta. Five players reached double-digits in scoring, and as a team, the Hawks knocked down 44% of their threes, including seven different players connecting from long range. Defensively, the good guys were able to hold Washington to subpar shooting numbers (44% FG, 25% 3-PT), and with the exception of a big night from John Wall and Bradley Beal, everything was right with the world on that end of the floor.
The Atlanta Hawks will face off with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA's premier showdown on Friday night, and with this win, the Hawks will have momentum as that game approaches. Stay tuned.