When a team loses seven straight games, any win will do, and the Atlanta Hawks picked up a victory on Wednesday evening. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Hawks avoided a late meltdown and preserved a solid 103-95 victory over the Miami Heat to snap the aforementioned losing skid.
In a refreshing change, things started well for the Hawks on Wednesday evening, as a 10-2 early run provided an 18-9 lead for the home team. Dwight Howard contributed eight points within the first five minutes of game time, and Atlanta led by as many as 11 points prior to the end of the first quarter.
The Heat did close that period on an 8-2 run to slash the lead to just 29-25, but the offense looked crisp for the Hawks, including 11 assists in those 12 minutes. From there, Atlanta would build on their lead on the strength of a 14-3 run early in the second quarter, and the team threatened to run away and hide a bit prior to halftime.
Miami did battle back, though, as the Heat chipped away at the margin until it was just seven points at 53-46 during halftime. The Hawks scored at a highly encouraging clip of 112.6 points per 100 possessions in the first half, and the team was led by its bigs, with Howard scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds, while Paul Millsap added 12 points and five boards.
Coming out of the break, the third quarter was (quite) kind to Atlanta, and it began right away. The Hawks scored the first six points of the quarter to take a 13-point lead, and while Miami quickly erased that early push, the home team pecked away until a 15-point advantage was in the cards after 36 minutes of court time. Defensively, the Hawks held the Heat to 17 points (and 7 of 19 shooting) in the quarter, and the Hawks fought off a couple of instances in which Miami threatened to make mini-runs.
Just when it seemed to be a “safe” margin, things began to unravel for the Hawks. Miami zoomed to a 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, and that push closed the visitors within a three-point margin at 83-80 with 7:06 remaining in the game. In short order, though, Thabo Sefolosha completed a beautiful put-back dunk to restore some semblance of order and Paul Millsap then knocked down a pull-up jumper to send the lead back to seven with 5:48 on the clock.
The Hawks kept coming from that point, churning out four more points before Miami could stop play with another timeout. From there, Atlanta’s 11-point advantage ultimately proved to be enough, though the Heat did cut that margin to six before (finally) surrendering to the 103-95 final score.
Dwight Howard was the big story individually on Wednesday night, exploding with 23 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and two blocks in 34 minutes of work. His performance in neutralizing Hassan Whiteside on both ends was quite valuable, and Paul Millsap (21 points, nine rebounds) provided big-time help in the frontcourt. On the perimeter, Dennis Schröder (17 points, seven assists) put together a nice game, with Atlanta’s defense (102.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) doing enough to preserve the win.
The Hawks will have an off day on Thursday before taking on the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday and, for the first time in a while, Atlanta will have the opportunity to string together a winning streak. Stay tuned.