The Atlanta Hawks beat the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night behind 29 points off the bench from Tim Hardaway Jr. None of Hardaway’s 11 makes were bigger than his three-pointer to tie the game at the end of the fourth quarter:
Mike Budenholzer is known around the league as one of the better coaches in late-game situations; he seems to churn out a new after time-out (ATO) play every game. With the Hawks down three with fewer than ten seconds on the clock, it was time again for Budenholzer to work his magic.
"It's one of the primary options, him coming off some screens,” Budenholzer said of the play after the game. “I have to look at it on tape. They may have been trying to switch. Kyle and Muscy screened their own guys, or whoever it might have been. Tim just kept coming, and Dennis' patience got him a look. He was most likely the primary. There was a second, a guy coming off another screen too. But that's the first option."
After a deflection on the previous inbounds attempt, Kyle Korver has to inbound the ball from deep in the corner. He throws the ball in short to Mike Muscala, who immediately turns and gets the ball out to Dennis Schröder at the top of the key. Meanwhile, Korver cuts to the rim to set a screen from Hardaway. Muscala sets a second screen for Hardaway, who flies around both screens and nails the open three. It’s a simple set, but you have to credit Budenholzer for going to Hardaway in such a big moment. Up three this late in the game, Korver or even Paul Millsap would have been higher on the Spurs’ priority list than Hardaway.
Given the situation and personnel that the Spurs had on the floor, Budenholzer and the Hawks knew they would be switching every screen to prevent an open three-pointer. This means it’s more important for Korver and Muscala to screen their own defenders than Hardaway’s defender. Watch again how Korver drives Kawhi Leonard back to make it harder for him to switch out onto Hardaway. Similarly, Muscala never makes contact with Leonard nor Danny Green, he’s solely focused on the incredible pancake block he put on Manu Ginobili to prevent Ginobili from getting anywhere near Hardaway. Hey, it’s only illegal if you get caught, and the referees let screeners get away with murder at the end of games.
And of course, we couldn’t break down this play without shouting out Mike Budenholzer’s son, who shows up briefly at the end of the above video but can be seen in his full bench-celebration glory below:
Hardaway’s three completed a 10-4 run for the Hawks in the last 2:46 of regulation and Atlanta rode the momentum of Hardaway’s shot to a 114-112 overtime win.
Thanks to NBA Reddit user KATgonnaGetThatYarn for the video of the play and for having an awesome username.