It is rare that a playoff-bound team would lose to the same opponent on back-to-back days. It is exceedingly brutal when that scenario plays out when that team blows a 20-point lead in their own building.
Hello, Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks led nearly in wire-to-wire fashion on Monday night, but the fourth quarter was disastrous for the home team. In the end, the Orlando Magic swept the back-to-back with a 117-110 victory and, well, no one in Hawks land was particularly happy about it.
Everything (and I mean everything) went right for the Hawks out of the gate, and that was reflected on the scoreboard. Atlanta came roaring out of the locker room to the tune of a 12-4 start, and after a timeout by the visiting Magic at the 8:15 mark, the lead kept growing. In fact, the home team's advantage reached twenty points at 28-8 after a stretch that included three consecutive threes by Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore and Jeff Teague, and things were going quite well.
Orlando would, as most NBA teams do, respond with a spurt of their own, and that came with a 10-2 blitz to end the quarter. That would extend to a 14-2 overall push as the second quarter began, but Atlanta did manage to hold off the charge to some degree, taking a 13-point lead into halftime, and the great majority of the first 24 minutes was positive.
After the break, it looked to be more of the same at Philips Arena, as the Hawks extended the advantage to 71-53 and forced Orlando into a timeout with 7:45 to go in the third quarter. From that point forward, however, nothing was easy for Atlanta.
The Magic responded coming out of that stoppage, putting together an 11-0 run to slash the deficit to just seven points. Atlanta tried to rally, led by two threes from Paul Millsap, but even with an 11-point lead after three quarters, nothing was safe. Orlando kept coming and coming, chipping away at the lead, until finally the Magic took their first advantage of the game after a three by Mario Hezonja at the 3:30 mark of the fourth quarter.
From there, Al Horford would answer with a jumper to tie the game, but it was a back-and-forth contest with the final result very much up in the air. Millsap brought the crowd to its knees with a monster dunk at the 2:28 mark to give the Hawks a one-point lead, and after Horford hit a jumper on the ensuing trip, the Hawks gained a three-point advantage. Still, the Magic wouldn't go away, and after a few empty offensive trips, Orlando had the ball with 21.8 seconds remaining and only a two-point Hawks lead on the scoreboard at 100-98.
Seemingly on cue, Magic rookie Mario Hezonja drained a deep (but uncontested) three, and the Hawks were in serious danger with a 101-100 deficit and only 14.8 ticks left on the clock. Following a timeout, Atlanta got the ball into the hands of Millsap, who drew a foul, but the All-Star forward connected on only one of the two shots from the charity stripe, leaving the door open for Orlando to steal a win in the final moments.
Atlanta managed to get a stop, however, as Millsap created a turnover with a beautiful steal. That allowed the Hawks to take possession with 1.2 seconds remaining, but Millsap took too much time before unleashing a would-be game-winner, sending the two teams to overtime.
The extra period started in miserable fashion for the Hawks, who strung together three inept offensive possessions on the way to a six-point deficit. However, Atlanta managed to hang close enough to make things interesting (in a hurry) after two threes from Millsap and Korver, and with 52.3 seconds left, the Hawks trailed by only two at 112-110. Unfortunately, that optimism was short-lived, as Kent Bazemore attempted to draw a charge against Evan Fournier, no call was granted, and Fournier put the game away with a clinching three on the way to the final 117-110 margin.
On the heels of a performance and a collapse such as this, frustration is warranted. Fire away, Hawks fans.