From the opening whistle, the Atlanta Hawks "brought it" on Saturday evening, and the results were positive. The Hawks toppled the Chicago Bulls by a final score of 120-105, and to illustrate the impressiveness of the importance, the visiting Bulls never led throughout the contest.
The Hawks began the night (er, afternoon) with a 6-0 run, and quickly built a 23-10 lead after another 9-0 spurt in the early going. Atlanta's early push unfortunately coincided with an apparent ankle injury to Jeff Teague, but the All-Star point guard later returned to action, and it was Al Horford (11 points in the quarter) who led the Hawks to an 11-point lead after 12 minutes of clock time.
In the second quarter, Atlanta would build its advantage, racing to a 16-point lead in the early going and keeping that momentum flowing thanks to bench help from Mike Scott. Scott scored 10 points in just his first seven minutes on the court, and during that time, the Hawks electrified the crowd with efficient and watchable offense.
Chicago would, of course, cut into the lead at some point, and that came with a 12-3 run that brought the margin back to ten points at 52-42. From there, though, a Paul Millsap three-point play kickstarted the home team, and the Hawks managed to hold off the charge to the tune of a 13-point halftime lead.
It was one of the better halves of the season for the Hawks, especially given the strength of the opponent. As a team, Atlanta shot 56% from the floor and 58% from three-point range, and five (yes, five) players cracked the 10-point mark before the halftime break.
Chicago would not fade away that quietly, however, and the Bulls charged again in the third quarter, closing to within a three-point margin on a number of occasions. The Hawks never ceded control in full, though, and when the third period ended on a Mike Scott tip dunk, Atlanta reclaimed the momentum and never let it slip away again.
The home team held only a five-point edge as the closing quarter began, but a 13-2 run to begin the fourth changed that quickly. Within a matter of moments, the Hawks had built a 17-point lead, and from that point forward, it was a comfortable, double-digit working margin until the final buzzer.
While there were several key contributors on this night, Al Horford was clearly the "star" of the festivities. The star big man finished the night with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, and Horford matched a career-best with 15 field goals on 21 attempts. Horford was a terror on both ends throughout the day, bringing energy and finishing with authority, and that certainly aided in inspiring the team while providing all kinds of production.
In support of Horford, Kyle Korver knocked down 5 of his 8 shots (and 3 of 6 from long distance) to finish with 13 points, while Paul Millsap added 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks in his own right. Six members of the team scored 12 or more points, and it was a full-fledged team effort.
The Hawks will return to the court on Wednesday with a road match-up against the Charlotte Hornets, and Atlanta can take take solace in a strong victory before enjoying a three-day break. Stay tuned.