Only the Atlanta Hawks really know if they were looking to make a statement against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday but that is exactly what went down at Philips Arena. Atlanta came into the game well rested and gave Brooklyn a glimpse of what a first round playoff series might look like between the two teams.
When the dust settled the Hawks had piled up a season-high 131 points thanks to a 59 percent shooting night and 40 assists. It was an offensive masterpiece for Atlanta who pounded way at the interior with 50 points in the paint while also knocking down 17 three-pointers.
"The unselfishness and making shots tonight really stood out," head coach Mike Budenholzer said following the game. "I think the defense, for a lot of the first half, put us in a good place also. We were fortunate on the scheduling. We had a few days off and they were on the tail end of a pretty tough schedule, so we're fortunate. They're a very good team. I'm just pleased with the ball movement and pleased overall with a lot of things."
Atlanta's defense set the tone and held the Nets to 99 points despite what was a high possession game. The Hawks forced turnovers and that fueled their offense and allowed them to take control early in the game. It was painfully apparent that Brooklyn had no answer for Atlanta in transition and Atlanta took advantage at every opportunity.
"We played great tonight as a team moving the ball," point guard Jeff Teague told reporters following the game. "We know guys can make shots and tonight we made a lot of them."
Teague finished with 17 points and led the team with eight assists. Eight of Atlanta's 13 players to play in the game finished with at least three assists. The Hawks recorded an assist on 40 of 49 made baskets.
"Usually hand in hand with assists is making shots," Budenholzer said. "I thought our guys shot the ball well. You're not always going to shoot it that well. You can't count on that. If you're moving the ball and getting good opportunities, that increases your likelihood of making shots. We had both of those things. I though we ran pretty good plays tonight."
Saturday's game was reminiscent of the way Atlanta looked during its unbeaten month of January. The Hawks haven't looked that locked in for some time now. We can't be sure if it was the days off or if it was a rare game with some meaning that helped to improve their focus.
"The most important thing tonight was our sense of urgency," said DeMarre Carroll who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists. "We came in with the mindset of really getting ready for the playoffs, tuning up. We had a meeting and a film session. The coaches stressed the importance of these games leading into the playoffs. Defensively, we came in doing the right thing, trusting each other. Everyone can play offense in this locker room. Offense is not a big issue."
Carroll is right. When the Hawks defend, offense is never the issue.
Hawks tie franchise record with 57th win
Saturday's win was Atlanta's 57th of the season tying the franchise mark with six games remaining in the regular season. Atlanta finished 57-25 during the 1994 and 1987 seasons. Both of those teams suffered losses in the second-round of the playoffs. This Hawks' team is hoping that their record breaking regular season leads to more playoff success.
Mike Scott returns to court after missing 11 games with a toe injury
Mike Scott returned to action Saturday night after missing the last 11 games with a toe injury. Scott entered the game in the third quarter and played just over nine minutes while going 1-3 from the field.
He looked a bit rusty as was to be expected but seemed to be moving well and that is what is most important at this juncture of the season.