The Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers played a closely contested basketball game on Wednesday night. While it was certainly competitive, it was anything but aesthetically pleasing, and in the end, the home team came up just short in an 85-83 loss.
While the opening moments of the game reflected the entire body of the contest, the one (and only) highlight of the first quarter came near the end of the period. The Hawks raced to a 12-0 run that included a dunk from Al Horford and back-to-back threes from Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schröder, and when the dust settled, Atlanta held a six-point lead at 23-17.
However, the Clippers would quickly erase that deficit with a monster run of their own, taking the air out of the ball to the tune of an 18-5 spurt and a 33-28 lead midway throughout the second quarter. The remainder of the half was largely uneventful in back-and-forth fashion, and despite the fact that the Hawks held Los Angeles to only 39% shooting in the first 24 minutes, Atlanta held just a two-point halftime advantage.
Coming out of the break, the Hawks strung together one of their better stretches of the night, executing offensively with ball movement and spacing while accumulating a 63-54 lead. That positive performance was short-lived, though, as Los Angeles put together a plodding 8-0 run between the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter, and Mike Budenholzer's team began to turn the ball over at an alarming rate.
That trend continued (15 turnovers in the second half), but the Hawks found themselves in a battle down the stretch thanks to equally impotent offense from the visitors. Budenholzer elected to intentionally foul Clippers center DeAndre Jordan beginning at the 3:36 mark in a two-point game, but even as Jordan made four (!) straight, Jeff Teague kept Atlanta close with back-to-back layups. The result of that trade-off was a 79-77 game with 2:32 remaining and a timeout on the floor as the game headed to the stretch run.
After the two teams traded baskets out of that break, four consecutive empty possessions (including two ghastly ones from Atlanta) led to another break in the action with 33.4 seconds remaining and the Hawks holding the ball. Though the play did not exactly work to perfect aesthetically, Kyle Korver connected on an off-balance three with 24.6 seconds to give the Hawks an 82-81 lead. The defensive end was not quite as kind, however, as Chris Paul connected with DeAndre Jordan for an open dunk to give Los Angeles the lead again with 15.2 seconds on the clock.
On the ensuing possession, Korver found Millsap for what looked to be a quality opportunity, but Millsap's push shot went begging (with some contact from JJ Redick) and the Hawks were forced to foul Jamal Crawford. The former Hawks guard connected on both shots from the charity stripe, and with a three-point lead, the Clippers fouled Al Horford rather than succumbing to a three-point attempt.
Horford made only one of his two shots, but Jeff Teague jumped the inbounds pass and created a turnover, setting up a final opportunity for Atlanta with a two-point deficit. Unfortunately for the home team and its fans, Paul Millsap's final look clanged off the rim and the Hawks fell by a final score of 85-83 in disappointing fashion.
On a night where virtually nothing was enjoyable from the viewer's perspective, it was an encouraging defensive showing from the Hawks. The Clippers were held to just 39% shooting from the floor and 18 assists in the game, but Atlanta couldn't take full advantage by nature of 42% shooting and 23 total turnovers to result in just 83 points.
A back-to-back with travel against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night is not anyone's idea of an ideal situation following what was a brutal home defeat, but that is what awaits the Hawks. Stay tuned.