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Hawks turn 17-point deficit into victory behind strong second half

A tale of two halves, as the Hawks spoil Tim Hardaway Jr.’s return.

NBA: New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks snapped their four game losing streak by picking up a home victory against the New York Knicks, 116-104.

The Hawks were led by Dennis Schröder’s 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting and eight assists while Dewayne Dedmon added 16 points.

For the Knicks, they were led by Kristaps Pozingis’s 28 points while Courtney Lee added 26 points, 13 of which came in the first quarter, 19 in the first half.

Second half turnaround

The first quarter of this game didn’t go well for the Hawks.

The Knicks were finding it very easy to score, Kristaps Porzingis was allowed too many open looks, Courtney Lee had it going and the Hawks offense couldn’t get going at times. As a result, the Knicks raced to a 17 point lead before hanging 39 first quarter points on the Hawks on 76% shooting from the field and 67% from three.

The Hawks began to dig into that lead in the second quarter but still trailed by eight points at halftime, allowing 67 Knick points in the first half.

Then came the second half, and this was where things swung in favor of the Hawks.

The Hawks’ intensity, on both ends, was more visible to see and you could sense the momentum was swinging. In fact, Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, after seeing his team concede four quick points to begin the third period, was alert to it and called a timeout with barely over a minute played in the third period.

The Knicks recovered for a time but the Hawks, as they have often done this season, came back and eventually took the lead and took a lead into the fourth quarter.

Once there, the Hawks threatened to go up by double-digits but the Knicks kept themselves within touching distance — until the 4 minute mark (that’s four minutes remaining in the game) in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks buried a flurry of threes, as the Knicks and the Hawks basically went head-to-head in a shootout. New York lost that shootout and, with it, lost the game.

A five point quickly turned into a 14 point lead and that was it. Those final few minutes rounded off a great second half for the Hawks.

In the second half, the Hawks outscored the Knicks 57-37, made 22 field goals on 44% shooting from the field, eight three-pointers on 53% shooting, dished out 15 assists and — crucially — committed just two turnovers.

The Knicks themselves shot 36% in the second half, 33% from three, got to the free throw line just four times and committed nine turnovers.

Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, though he wasn’t happy with the first quarter, was happy to pick up the win and happy with the effort in the second half.

“Obviously great to get a win,” said Bud postgame. “The guys have been working hard to get better from the start of the game to the end of the game. Of course we’d like to start better than giving up 39 in the first quarter. But defensively, we found a way to get better. Guys played harder, competed better. The offense maintained itself throughout the game.

“The second quarter was huge, where maybe we could’ve (been) buried deep, but we were able to compete and find a way to get back in . . . Good team win. A lot of guys played well. It was great to get this win. We will get ready for another one tomorrow.”

Jeff Hornacek was also left pondering upon that second quarter.

“Well the second quarter was a killer,” said Hornacek. “You come out and you see it all the time in the NBA. The other team scores a lot in the first quarter and you just relax a little bit. You don’t think the next play is important. All of the sudden you’ve given them confidence. They scored 35 points in that second quarter. From there on out, they were hard to stop.”

The Knicks definitely missed a chance to bury the Hawks early on, because they were there to be buried at the beginning of that second quarter. But credit to the Hawks, they didn’t give up and carried their effort throughout the game.

“It was effort,” said Kent Bazemore. “We finally put together 48 minutes, a complete game. Obviously we got off to a slow start, but late second quarter and the entire second half, we kind of imposed our will, beat them to 50-50 balls.

“Porzingis had a good night, but he was making some tough shots. Those things kind of catch up. Good team win. Marco was huge down the stretch. Taurean was huge down the stretch with those big three’s. Good win for us.”

A complete game might be a bit of a stretch considering the Hawks were not good in the first quarter but they did a lot of things well after that first quarter.

It also helps when Dennis Schröder is guarded by Jarrett Jack, Jack could not do anything to stay in front of Schröder.

Jeff Hornacek was left stumped, but also impressed, by Schröder.

“Schröder does a great job coming off those pick-and-rolls,” said Hornacek. “And he’s got a lot of hesitation and he’s able to find their bigs. Other times when we did help out properly and stop him he made great passes.”

Schröder played very well offensively to lead the Hawks to a solid victory. Great effort all around for this game and a good victory for the Hawks to get back in the win column.

THJ’s return

Last night marked the first meeting between the Hawks and Knicks this season and, with it, marked the return of former Hawk Tim Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway left Atlanta to return to New York in the summer after the Hawks elected not to match the New York Knicks’ insane offer sheet.

The Hawks also prepared a video tribute for THJ:

THJ had a THJ-like game: 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting, 3-of-9 from three (including some classic/bad THJ shots) and five assists.

Who knows where Tim Hardaway Jr. would be had the Knicks not decided to go berzerk with their offer sheet for him, Hawks GM Travis Schlenk talked about wanting to keep him (also said the same thing about Paul Millsap yet didn’t even make an offer in the end but, alas...

Bench/collective effort

Dennis Schröder led the Hawks with 26 points but behind that was a great supporting cast from both the starters and the bench.

First, the starters.

All five starters notched double-figures — 16 for Dedmon (in 25 minutes), 13 for John Collins (in 23 minutes) and Taurean Prince and 11 for Kent Bazemore.

The ball was moving well (30 assists) and everyone was getting touches/opportunities to score.

“The shot distribution was great,” said coach Bud. “Everybody was getting to touch it and play. Marco off the bench and Ersan off the bench. It’s great when you have seven guys in double figures. Everybody is participating. It’s when we’re at our best is when everybody’s part of it.”

Let’s get to that bench, it came up big — 15 points for Marco Belinelli and 10 points for Ersan Ilyasova, who definitely played his best game of the season by far (and looked very bad in the first half at times).

“Clearly his (Ilyasova’s) best game since he’s come back from the injury,” said Bud of Ersan. “. . . Hopefully Ersan is knocking off the rust a little bit and can continue this going forward.”

The Hawks’ bench outscored the Knicks’ bench 37-16, and this was hugely important in the context of this game as the Knicks’ starters (bar Kyle O’Quinn) all played heavy minutes.

Part of this lack of production for the Knicks’ bench was because Enes Kanter missed this game due to back spasms. Kanter does a lot for this team, not only scoring the ball but gathering rebounds too (more on that later).

For the Hawks, just a great collective effort and team play.

Turnover story

Turnovers played a big part in this game.

The Hawks did a great job taking care of the ball — just 10 turnovers (one of those coming at the end of the game as the Hawks waited for the clock to expire) for the Hawks in this game and just two in the second half.

The Knicks, meanwhile, committed 20 turnovers which led to 19 Hawks points. Not only did it lead to 19 Atlanta points but the turnovers also limited the Knicks to just 79 shots — when you commit turnovers, you lose the opportunity to get a shot up yourself.

Mike Budenholzer was certainly happy with his side’s defensive effort to force turnovers.

“Tonight we did a better job of capitalizing,” said coach Bud. “We turn teams over a pretty good chunk some nights, and we fail to capitalize on them. But tonight we did a good job of being consistent. The ball was moving, bodies were moving. It was different guys tonight, and everyone played for each other on the defensive end.”

So, that was one reason why the Knicks only shot 79 shots while the Hawks shot 99. Here’s another...

Second chances

Another key part of this game was the Hawks bossing the offensive glass and scoring off of those opportunities — 13 offensive rebounds leading to 24 second chance points while the Knicks snatched just five offensive rebounds for five second chance points.

As Kent Bazemore said, the Hawks showed effort and won those 50-50 balls and made the Knicks pay. Plays like this came back to bite the Knicks:

This was a big one, one of the threes that sent the Hawks on their way:

The Knicks couldn’t buy a second chance opportunity if they wanted to, and the absence of Enes Kanter definitely played a part in that.

“I saw a stat that they (the Hawks) were last in defensive rebounds,” said coach Hornacek (a wrong stat, it should be added). “That could’ve been an opportunity for Enes to get some offensive rebounds and maybe get us some extra shots.

“But they did a good job of keeping us off the boards. We only had five offensive rebounds. We shot a higher percentage, had just as many assists, but we turned the ball over 10 more times and they got 10 more offensive rebounds. It’s hard to make up 20 shots.”

Between the turnovers and the Hawks’ second chance opportunities, it is, indeed, no wonder that the Hawks shot 20 more shots than the Knicks.

They were both huge for the Hawks last night.

Malcolm Delaney: DNP-CD

Malcolm Delaney was a no-go for this game, not because of an injury (Delaney wasn’t listed on the injury report) but because coach Bud decided against playing him, favoring Josh Magette instead.

I wouldn’t read much into this, Bud has been known to do this at times and Magette — due to his two-way contract limiting him to 45 days with the Hawks — won’t be with the team all season.

The Hawks (4-15) are back in action tonight at Philips Arena, where they’ll take on the Toronto Raptors.