With the small matter of a potential lottery pick hanging in the balance, Saturday's game between the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets took on a level of extra meaning. Whether the team would admit it or not, the Hawks appeared to have a bit of extra focus, resulting in a monster first half showing, and the home team would ride that wave to a decisive 131-99 victory.
Atlanta's offense came out of the gate cooking and that was the common theme of the first half. The Hawks scored the first six points of the game on the way to a 10-2 overall run at the start, with Al Horford scoring 8 points on 4-for-4 shooting during that time. Later in the first quarter, DeMarre Carroll keyed a spurt of his own, scoring 8 points during an 11-2 onslaught to claim a 13-point lead.
Carroll finished the first quarter with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists to continue his stellar recent play. As a team, the Hawks shot 65% from the floor and 57% from three, and there would be more from where that came from in the second quarter.
When the second period began, it was Pero Antic's turn to shine, as the big man made two straight threes as part of a 10-2 run. The Hawks, as a group, made 7 of their first 10 threes in the game, and at one point during the second quarter, Atlanta had made 16 of 17 shots.
That virtually flawless offense opened things up for the Hawks against what looked to be a tired Brooklyn team. The home team led by as many as 27 points at 62-35, and while that slowed down to the tune of "only" an 18-point halftime lead, Atlanta was in complete control with 64% shooting from the floor (including 8-for-11 for 16 points from Horford) and 18 first half assists.
Sadly, it wasn't all positive in the first half, as Paul Millsap suffered a right shoulder injury near the close of the second quarter. The All-Star power forward was ruled out for the game at that point, and while he didn't immediately head to the locker room following the injury (usually a positive), there was no official release made during the second half.
Still, the Hawks were undeterred. The good guys built a 30-point (!) lead in what seemed to be the blink of an eye, connecting on seven of their first eight shots to begin the half, and at 84-54, the game was effectively over. Atlanta reached the 100-point milestone with more than two minutes to go in the third quarter, and the shooting continued to be utterly ridiculous, including a 4-for-5 output from three-point distance by Carroll.
The fourth quarter was the epitome of playing out the string. The Hawks began the quarter with Shelvin Mack, John Jenkins, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Scott and Pero Antic on the floor, and it was basically cruise control throughout the period. Brooklyn managed to cut the lead to as few as 28 points, but no actual "threat" was ever constructed by the visitors on the way to the 32-point final margin. In fact, Atlanta stretched the advantage to as large as 39, and the crowd thoroughly enjoyed the festivities.
DeMarre Carroll and Al Horford led the way with 20 points each, and the duo combined to shoot 17 for 22 from the field. As a unit, the Hawks generated 40 assists (!) in the game, and that number almost certainly would have been higher if not for the lazy nature of the final period. In general, this was an offensive exhibition, and with all due respect to the fact that Brooklyn was playing their fourth game in five nights, things weren't competitive.
With the win, the Atlanta Hawks generate another loss for the Nets, which is all-important in the race for (potential) ping-pong balls. These two teams will meet again next week, but in between, the Hawks will host the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday evening. Stay tuned.