Coming off of two convincing home wins, the Atlanta Hawks headed west on Wednesday night and continued their winning ways with a 104-98 National Television win against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Hawks were able to hold off multiple runs by Portland's dynamic duo in the backcourt. C.J. McCollum led the game with 28 points, while Damian Lillard added 18 points of his own.
After a slow start that saw the Blazers take an 11-4 lead in fewer than four minutes, the Hawks surged ahead on a 25-7 run to end the first quarter with an 11-point lead. Paul Millsap was effective and efficient early with eight points in the period on just two shot attempts.
The lead would extend to 13 points early in the second quarter until Portland would begin one of the many runs in the game to cut the lead to six points. Atlanta quickly countered that with its own 6-0 run. To no surprise, the Blazers again countered with a 13-2 run to cut the lead to only one point at 43-42. Four more Millsap points closed out the quarter and the Hawks would lead 48-43 heading into halftime.
The third quarter was unlike the other three as both teams traded blows instead of the run-filled game that controlled the rest. With the Hawks up 71-63 late in the quarter, the Blazers did close the period with a 9-3 run, capped off by a wild midrange jumper from McCollum to give him 24 points going into the fourth.
After the Hawks scored a quick four points to open the lead up to 79-72, the rans began again. Portland scored 12 straight to take its largest lead since the first quarter. Atlanta countered with an 8-0 run to recapture the lead at 87-84. The two teams then swapped 4-0 runs to give the Hawks a 91-88 lead with 4:27 remaining. A Millsap three-pointer and two Al Horford buckets gave Atlanta the separation it needed, and Kent Bazemore knocked down four consecutive free throws to close the game out and get the victory.
Millsap and Bazemore were once again the stars for the Hawks, which has become a very common occurrence for two players having career-seasons.
Millsap put together an incredibly efficient performance with 23 points and nine rebounds on just 10 shot attempts. He hit all three of his attempts from beyond the arc and knocked down six of his seven free throws.
Bazemore also scored 23 points and added five rebounds and five assists. He was 8-15 from the field including 3-6 from deep. Two of Bazemore's three-pointers were in-stride jumpers in the corner while falling out of bounds. It's a shot he's oddly become very effective at making. Perhaps Bazemore's best play of the night was a fantastic pass from the top of the key to a cutting Thabo Sefolosha for an easy bucket. Bazemore reacted by throwing up his "goggles" in front of his eyes as he walked away.
Atlanta's point guard play was a bit shaky, as Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder combined to shoot just 9-29 in the game with 11 combined assists and seven turnovers. Schroder's line was a bit worse with 3-13 shooting and five assists to five turnovers. Despite that, Schroder was a +5 in the game compared to Teague's -2 which can possibly be credited to Schroder being a bit more successful guarding McCollum and Lillard. Interestingly enough, Teague was 1-8 inside the paint and 5-8 outside of the paint as his struggles finishing around the rim continue.
The under-appreciated effort in the game goes to Kyle Korver, who, despite only shooting three times in the game, was a +8 on the night and finished with six points, five rebounds, and four assists. His three-pointer to give the Hawks an 87-84 lead with six minutes to play was one of the bigger shots in the game.
The Hawks will head south to Sacramento to take on the Kings on Thursday night as they continue their West Coast trip. The Kings also played on Wednesday night with a win against the Lakers.