For one quarter, the Atlanta Hawks were excellent on Monday night. For the other three quarters, the Golden State Warriors were just better, though, and that was the takeaway from a 102-92 defeat that doubled as the home team's third consecutive loss after the All-Star break.
The visiting Warriors displayed all of the qualities of their greatness in the first half, beginning with a 14-6 surge to start the game. From there, Golden State built the lead to 21-9 and, then, to 30-15 at the end of the first quarter, using a steady onslaught of indefensible offense and some stingy defense that forced Atlanta into 32% shooting and just 1 of 8 from three in the first 12 minutes.
The home team would show a bit of life in the middle stages of the second quarter, scoring eight straight points to slash the deficit to just seven, but the Warriors ran way and attempted to hide down the stretch. That manifested itself with a 13-2 run to close the half, and it was Stephen Curry in the middle of everything, scoring 19 points (on only 9 shots) to lead Golden State to a 19-point halftime lead.
On the whole, it was a frustrating half of basketball and, frankly, it looked as if the Hawks would be run off the floor by the defending champs. Then, the third quarter arrived.
A version of the Atlanta Hawks that has not been seen in some time decided to arrive, and some of the team's role players were at the center of the surge. The trio of Dennis Schröder, Thabo Sefolosha and Tim Hardaway Jr. (yes, Tim Hardaway Jr.) keyed a massive 18-2 run by the Hawks down the stretch of the third quarter, and with some help from the three-point line and a thunderous jam from Al Horford, Atlanta's run ballooned to 28-6 and Golden State's advantage was slashed to just one point.
From there, the Hawks took the lead on the first possession of the fourth quarter and Sefolosha connected on a three to end the blitz at 33-6 and give Atlanta a shocking four-point lead at 80-76. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as the champs had more than enough left in the tank. From that point forward, the Warriors were the Warriors again and, quite frankly, the Hawks couldn't continue the magic that led them to the massive comeback.
All told, the Warriors finished the game on a 26-12 spurt after they accumulated that four-point deficit, and that was the end of that. Atlanta's explosion was fun and inspiring given their recent level of mediocre play, but on this night, the right team won and they happened to inhabit the visitors locker room.
There were several strong individual performances, ranging from Al Horford (23 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists) to Dennis Schröder (18 points, 6 assists) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (12 points off the bench), and from a defensive standpoint, the Hawks can be proud of what they accomplished in holding the high-flying Warriors to only 44% shooting from the floor and 14-for-45 (31%) from three-point land. However, Atlanta picked the wrong night to put together an improved performance, and this opponent required an A+ game that the Hawks couldn't execute for 48 minutes.
Following this one, the Hawks will have three (!) off days before another home game on Friday and, perhaps, the team can recapture some of the energy and execution that exploded to the forefront in the third quarter on Monday. Stay tuned.