Coming off of back-to-back losses, the Atlanta Hawks took advantage of a golden opportunity on Thursday night to get back into form against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
Atlanta did just that by scoring a season-high 126 points, as it shook off a slow first quarter by gaining an insurmountable lead thanks to a 19-0 run that started late in the first period.
Once down 21-16, the Hawks scored 39 second-quarter points to take a 61-44 lead into halftime. After that, the 76ers showed little sign of life, with the exception of one short run that brought Philly back within 11. It was short lived though, as the Hawks extended the lead back to 20-plus within a couple of minutes. That lead would stick, and Atlanta won with a final score of 126-98.
A huge positive of a blowout like this one was the extended minutes given to Hawks' reserves, including some nice playing time for the recently recalled Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway played 18 minutes in the game and finished with eight points, three assists, and two rebounds on 3-5 shooting. He was a plus-19 on the night, which was a trend for the Hawks impressive second unit in the game. While his defense may still be a work in progress for the Hawks' coaching staff, Hardaway looked much more comfortable in the Hawks offense by moving the ball and taking shots within the flow of the system. There's never been a doubt about his ability to knock down open shots, but if Hardaway can be a dependable player in the second unit for Atlanta, it will be a huge addition.
Perhaps the most impressive performance from Atlanta in the game was Kent Bazemore. In that third quarter run by Philadelphia to cut the lead to 11, Bazemore responded with 12 points, two steals, and three assists to quickly extend that lead back to a comfortable margin. Bazemore finished the game with 22 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 8-15 shooting. As the season has gone on, Bazemore has looked more and more confident not only with his three-point shot, but also with putting the ball on the floor and driving to the rim, which is something Atlanta could use from its wings.
It was another solid game from the Atlanta big men. Al Horford started the game 7-9 from the field and hit some much needed shots in the first half. He finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, three steals, three assists, and three blocks while being a plus-32. That's a box score that Paul Millsap would be proud of. Millsap was his dependable self finishing with 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals on 7-12 shooting.
As for the curious case of Hawks' point guards, there was no crunch time to determine who would be in the game on Thursday, but Dennis Schroder played an impressive game off of the bench. Though he did turn the ball over four times, Schroder had 14 points, six assists, four rebounds, and two steals on 5-8 shooting in 19 minutes. He was aggressive on both sides of the ball from the minute he stepped in, and he was on the court for both of Atlanta's huge runs, which is evident by his plus-35 line in the box score. Jeff Teague on the other hand was a minus-3 and finished with seven points and four assists on 3-7 shooting in 22 minutes. Teague struggled to finish a few times in the lane, but it's not necessarily easy to do so with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor contesting shots.
Overall, the Hawks did what they were supposed to do against an inferior opponent. Although the 76ers are obviously bad, it was encouraging to see Atlanta put together a dominant win while resting starters and getting productive play from its reserves.
Atlanta will be back in action on Saturday at home against the Chicago Bulls for a big Eastern Conference matchup at 5 p.m.