The Atlanta Hawks survived on Wednesday night.
That is the best way to put it after the Brooklyn Nets gave the home team all they could handle for 48 minutes. In the end, the Hawks improved to 2-0 in the series with a 96-91 victory, and the crowd went home pleased.
The opening minutes were very, very encouraging for Atlanta, and for a few moments, it looked as if a runaway was in progress. The Hawks zoomed to a 9-2 run to open the game, culminating with a Jeff Teague three and an alley-oop dunk by Paul Millsap, and Atlanta made their first five shots. The home team would compile a double-digit lead within the first five minutes of action, and given the ridiculous stats this season when the Hawks hold an advantage of that margin, optimism reigned.
Then, things flew off the rails a bit.
The Hawks made just 14 of their next 44 shots (not a misprint) over the body of the first half, and the Nets quite obviously were able to make a run. Brooklyn closed the first quarter with a 9-2 run to come within striking distance, and the Nets would score 12 straight points midway through the second quarter to actually claim a six-point lead at 42-36.
Jarrett Jack was the catalyst for Brooklyn, making his first five shots and going 7 of 9 overall in the half, and the former Georgia Tech standout scored 16 points in just 12 minutes before halftime. Fortunately, Atlanta would awaken a bit down the stretch of the second quarter.
The Hawks battled back to tie the game, and when Kyle Korver banged home a ridiculous fallaway three at the 1:08 mark, Atlanta led once again. The home team led 50-47 at the break, and that felt like a gift considering the aforementioned cold spell in the shooting department and the fact that Brooklyn shot 48% from the floor in their own right.
Positively, Al Horford (8 points, 5 rebounds) and Paul Millsap (10 points, 5 rebounds) looked healthy and productive in the first half. That alleviated any lingering concern about their injury status, and the backcourt duo of Kyle Korver (11 points) and Jeff Teague (11 points) made up for a shaky effort from the bench in the early going.
The third quarter was largely a back and forth affair at the start, with Brooklyn inching back into the lead and the Hawks resisting. However, Atlanta produced an 8-0 run after the Nets took the lead at 61-60. and Pero Antic was prominently involved. Antic bookended the push with a three and a dunk, and the big man finished the third quarter with eight points and an immeasurable impact on both ends.
With Atlanta leading 75-67 after 36 minutes, the crowd was engaged, but the Nets wouldn't fully go away. Brooklyn climbed within five points with fewer than four minutes to go after a flurry from Brook Lopez and Alan Anderson, and things were a bit too close for comfort. Then, Joe Johnson (that man again...) knocked down a triple to slash the advantage to just four points and the natives were fully restless and Mike Budenholzer called for timeout with 2:39 to play.
Following the timeout, Jarrett Jack continued his ridiculous play with yet another huge basket, this time a three, and when the Hawks came up empty, Brooklyn had the ball with fewer than 90 seconds to play and a chance to take the lead. Two additional timeouts (yay timeouts!) occurred between possessions, but Joe Johnson came up empty on a floater to keep the Hawks in front.
The ensuing trip resulted in a DeMarre Carroll layup to increase the lead to three points at 92-89, but the Nets quickly scored on an Alan Anderson layup to creep back within a single point. Paul Millsap got to the line on the next trip, knocking down one of two free throws, and with that, the lead was 93-91 with 27.3 seconds left as Lionel Hollins asked for timeout.
In a somewhat fitting turn of events, Deron Williams came up short for Brooklyn. The much maligned point guard had a wide open pull-up jumper go begging with less than 10 seconds remaining, and after two free throws from Kyle Korver, the Nets were unable to get up a real shot on the final trip. Atlanta survived, and the series lead is 2-0.
Al Horford was Al Horford with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists, Paul Millsap was his old self with 19 points and 7 rebounds, and the defense came up big when it mattered. More to come, but the Hawks are unbeaten in the playoffs and a new owner is in town. It was a good day.