The Atlanta Hawks came back from an 18 point deficit Tuesday night to defeat the Houston Rockets and earn their 48th win of the season. The comeback effort should be celebrated but this wasn't in any way a sterling performance by the Hawks.
"A lot of credit to our players for finding a way to come back a couple of different times tonight," Mike Budenholzer said following the game. "It seems like we were constantly trying to dig ourselves out of a hole. The last one I think we went down 15 with nine or 10 minutes to in the fourth quarter. They found a way to make one more run and get over the hump."
Houston began the fourth quarter with back-to-back three-pointers to push the lead to 87-72. Budenholzer called time to stop the momentum and to rally his troops.
"I really just said 'lets make one more run," said Budenholzer. "Let's see if we can make one more.' We came out of halftime and made one or two runs. There was a lot of time, nine or 10 minutes, and we just kind of all collectively said 'lets make one more run.'
Atlanta outscored Houston 32-9 the rest of the way. Mike Scott got the comeback effort started scoring seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter. The Hawks' defense picked up with Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder playing alongside each other in the backcourt.
"We were able to sustain it and get over the hump," Budenholzer said. "It's just a lot of credit to our players. You go up and down the roster..... Dennis and Jeff playing together really helped defensively. Jason Terry had an amazing game tonight. Hopefully, I think Dennis was able to get in to him a little bit, maybe slow him down a little bit late. The we could play with a little more pace."
Terry led the Rockets with 21 points on 8-13 shooting off the bench. However, he went scoreless in the fourth quarter going 0-2 from the field.
"I think they figured it out on their own at halftime," Budenholzer added. "It's a good group that way. They're very resilient, have a lot of character. I thought Houston played really well without two of the top players in our league. That group wanted to drive us and kick, get to three's, get to the paint and they just did a lot of things well. I think we were fortunate to dig ourselves out of that hole. I'm just proud of our guys."
Still it wasn't a good start for the Hawks who have shown a lot of inconsistency of late. Atlanta trailed by as many as 14 points in the first quarter and saw that balloon to 18 points before halftime.
"We were off our game, but a lot of games recently we have been off," said Paul Millsap who finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds. "I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of the way we responded in the second half."
The Hawks might not admit it but they clearly were lacking focus to begin the game. Whether that had to do with the absence of James Harden and Dwight Howard only they know. Houston on the other hand came out focused and was the aggressor throughout the first half.
"We just have to compete," said Millsap. "The first half, we felt like we didn't compete and we made all types of excuses, coverages, putting it on them. But when it comes down to it, we have to compete and we did that in the second half."
Credit this Hawks team's resolve. As Budenholzer says, their resiliency is one of their defining aspects. The dog days of the NBA season are here and many teams are battling a lack of focus. That goes with the territory, but its important that Atlanta do its best to stay sharp. That might be the biggest challenge for this group and the coaching staff going forward.