After an ugly loss in the Big Apple on Sunday, many expected the Atlanta Hawks to erase that damage with a home win on Tuesday evening. That was not to be, as the home team struggled throughout the night before staging a failed comeback bid in a 107-101 loss to New York.
It was a sluggish start for the home team, and that was a bit unsettling after the subpar showing on Sunday afternoon. The Knicks raced to a 29-20 lead after the first quarter while shooting 50% from the floor, and Atlanta scuffled to the tune of five turnovers in the opening frame.
Life came in the form of a 7-0 run in the second quarter, though, and the surge was capped by a three from Tim Hardaway Jr. (not a misprint) to close within a 31-30 margin. On cue, though, the Knicks responded with a 7-0 blitz of their own, and in the process, the Hawks received an ugly missed dunk from Mike Scott that symbolized the downturn.
While Atlanta did rally to within five points at 54-49 as halftime arrived, it was anything but a dominant showing. The Hawks generated only nine assists against eight turnovers in the first half, and aside from strong three-point shooting (44%), there wasn't a lot to point to in terms of overall positives.
That frustrating trend continued into the second half, as New York shooting guard Arron Afflalo began the scoring with back-to-back threes to push the Atlanta deficit to 11. Al Horford stopped the bleeding with a bucket, but shortly after, the Knicks produced yet another 6-0 run to take a 15-point advantage. The Hawks showed a bit of fight late in the quarter, rattling off an 11-4 run to slash the lead to single digits, but New York scored the final five points to quell that momentum and enter the closing period with a 13-point advantage.
Though it looked as if the Knicks would run away and hide with a breezy victory, the Hawks did have a run coming in the fourth quarter. Paul Millsap scored six straight points and Jeff Teague capped a 9-2 run with a three to bring Atlanta within just a six-point deficit with 5:08 remaining, and that onslaught forced a timeout from Derek Fisher.
From there, the two sides exchanged blows until Millsap converted two free throws to bring the deficit to four with 2:16 remaining, and following that, the two teams scrapped a bit with Kent Bazemore, Kristaps Porzingis and Dennis Schröder involved in a war of words. The end result was a double technical assessed to Bazemore and Porzingis, but the Knicks were blessed with two free throws (Porzingis made both) to extend their lead.
The Hawks quickly answered with an enormous three from Al Horford on the ensuing possession, and after Carmelo Anthony and Schröder exchanged buckets, Atlanta was in need of one stop. That stop came in the form of a missed shot from Porzingis and, after official review to confirm, the Hawks took over with the ball and 49.6 seconds remaining with a three-point deficit.
Dennis Schröder got to the line on the next possession, but came up short (literally) on the second attempt, leaving the Hawks in a two-point hole. On the other end, Jose Calderon beat the Atlanta defense backdoor for a layup, and with a four-point margin and only 18 seconds to play, the Hawks were in a hole they could not recover from before the buzzer. An untimely turnover arrived on the ensuing trip and that was, effectively, the end of what would become a six-point game.
On a night when the Hawks did not play particularly well, it was certainly encouraging to this group battle down the stretch. Atlanta trailed by double-figures for much of the second half before rallying, and all five starters managed to score in double-figures by the end of the contest. Still, losing to an inferior opponent in a home game is never a pleasurable experience, and that is doubly true after suffering a defeat at the hands of that opponent in the previous game.
The Hawks will aim to stop this mini-skid with a road trip to Philadelphia on Thursday night, and they will be charged with improving their overall performance in that contest. Stay tuned.