The Atlanta Hawks weren’t supposed to even hang around, much less win, in Oakland on Monday night, but for the great majority of the evening, they looked the part of an upper-tier NBA team. Unfortunately, the team ran out of gas late in succumbing to the ever-dangerous Golden State Warriors by a final score of 105-100, but this was the best possible defeat... if that is even a thing at the professional level.
At the outset of the night, the Hawks took control by clamping down on the defensive end. Atlanta grabbed a 14-8 lead by holding Golden State to just 3 of 10 shooting and, on the other end, Dennis Schröder came out aggressive and effective with seven points in the first handful of minutes.
Seemingly on cue, the Warriors responded with a 15-1 spurt that likely injected a healthy level of fear into every Hawks fan’s heart. That run provided the home team with an eight-point lead, but Atlanta didn’t falter, staying within just a two-point margin at 29-27 at the end of the first quarter.
The Hawks shot 53 percent from the floor in that first quarter and that was enough to stay afloat despite seven turnovers. While the offense would slow down in the second period, the defense would ratchet things up in particularly impressive fashion given the aptitude of the opponent.
Atlanta held the Warriors to just 40 percent shooting and 21 points in the second quarter, morphing into a more switch-happy defensive scheme that proved to be effective. On the other end, Malcolm Delaney was a huge spark off the bench, scoring nine points (on 3 of 3 shooting) and dishing out four assists in just eight minutes, and the Hawks were able to build a seven-point lead before a late flourish slashed that edge to 53-50 at the halftime break.
The third quarter wasn’t quite as kind to the Hawks as the second, but it was certainly passable. Atlanta’s lead vacillated between zero (at 62-62) and seven points throughout the period, as the offense stepped up while the defense sagged a bit in allowing 30 points to the Warriors. The final sequence of the quarter, with Tim Hardaway Jr. going too early and missing to allow a buzzer-beating three from Ian Clark, was sub-optimal, but in the end, the Hawks took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, the start of the fourth quarter set the tone for the rest of the evening, as the Warriors scored the first eight points, partnering with the final three of the third quarter for a 11-0 run to claim a crippling seven-point lead. The Hawks would battle back, closing within a two-point margin at 91-89 with less than six minutes remaining, but that was as close as Atlanta would get to reclaiming the lead.
Golden State scored six straight points (though it took longer than you might think) to put the Hawks in scramble mode, and the Warriors made enough shots down the stretch to preserve victory. The Hawks did close within three points (at 102-99) with 90 seconds remaining, but Kevin Durant immediately flushed home a dunk after a timeout and Draymond Green denied both Schröder and Kent Bazemore in isolation defense to effectively seal the result in the final minute.
In terms of individual performances, Dennis Schröder was phenomenal for the Hawks in a game in which his presence was desperately needed. The young point guard finished the night with 24 points (10 of 20 shooting) and six assists in 34 minutes, and Schröder also did a tremendous defensive job on Stephen Curry. In short, this was the best of Schröder and a player that Hawks fans certainly would like to see more of in the near future.
There is absolutely no shame in losing to the Warriors on the road on a back-to-back and this was the best performance for the Hawks in quite some time. There is little solace to be taken, though, as Atlanta must finish off the road trip on Wednesday in Phoenix and the Hawks will be attempting to snap a skid that extends to six losses in the last seven outings.