The Atlanta Hawks entered Madison Square Garden tonight with an opportunity to string together consecutive wins for the first time this season. On Saturday night, the Hawks prevailed 117-110 over the Orlando Magic in Atlanta. The Knicks were looking to get back in the win column after a disappointing 104-102 loss in Chicago on Saturday night.
The Hawks were playing again without Dewayne Dedmon, John Collins and Mike Muscala. The Knicks played without former Hawk and second-leading scorer Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Atlanta used a balanced scoring approach early using a different starter to complete each of their first five field goals, the last of which was a beautiful left-handed layup in traffic from Dennis Schroder, giving the Hawks a 10-6 lead four minutes into the game. In a closely fought opening period, the Hawks did not relinquish a lead until Kristaps Porzingis hit a three-pointer to give the Knicks a 24-21 lead with a minute remaining, a score that stood until the end of the first period.
The visitors shot 10 for 21 from the field in the first quarter but made just one of eight three point attempts. Porzingis led the Knicks with seven points and six rebounds playing the entire quarter. Dennis Schroder headed to the bench earlier than usual after getting his second foul mid way through the opening period.
The Hawks’ offense hit the skids early in the second period as the Knicks built a seven point led. Hustle plays from Taurean Prince and Tyler Cavanaugh kept the lead from going to double digits. Prince had an impressive put-back dunk as well as three-pointer. Cavanaugh knocked down two free throws after beating the Knicks down the floor in transition and drawing the foul from Michael Beasley then got a put back of his own to pull the Hawks within two at 37-35.
After a 7-0 Knicks’ run to go to 44-35, Schroder hit a runner to end the run but was then called for his third foul on the next Knicks’ possession with 3:17 to go in the half. With Schroder on the bench, the Hawks scored on their next six possessions to stay with the Knicks and eventually take the lead on a three-point shot by Luke Babbitt with four seconds left in the half to give the Hawks a 52-51 lead at the break. After struggling from the three-point line in the first quarter, the Hawks made five of 11 from behind the arc in the second.
Porzingis logged heavy minutes in the first half playing 19 minutes one night after playing 36 minutes. It was clear Jeff Hornacek was looking to exploit the Hawks’ shortage of bigs by playing Porzinguis extended minutes, even on the back of end of back-to-back games. Porzingis led the Knicks with 15 points and six rebounds in the first half.
The Hawks were led by the hustle and scoring of Prince who delivered 13 points, three rebounds and two assists in the first half. The under-sized Hawks limited the Knicks on the offensive glass allowing just two second chance opportunities in the half to a team that averages 11 offensive rebounds per game.
After the Hawks jumped out to a 58-53 lead early in the third, Jarrett Jack, taking advantage of Schroder’s effort to avoid his fourth foul, took over on the offensive end scoring consecutive buckets then assisting on consecutive baskets, one to Enes Kanter and the second to Porzingis who tied the game 61-61 with 6:57 to go in the third quarter.
Schroder eventually picked up his fourth foul on the offensive end with 4:03 left in third quarter. But after Schroder left the game, the Hawks took advantage of being in the bonus drawing multiple non-shooting fouls including a flagrant on Kyle O’Quinn converting five of six free throws to take a 73-69 lead. However, the Knicks finished the quarter on a 5-0 run to lead 76-75 heading to the fourth.
The Knicks opened the fourth with four quick points to extend the run to 9-0 forcing Mike Budenholzer to use a time out just one minute into the period with the Hawks trailing 80-75. Coming out of the timeout, Schroder scored the Hawks’ next seven points but the Hawks couldn’t get stops on the defensive end. Lead by the scoring of Doug McDermott and Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks increased their lead to 93-84 lead with 7:00 remaining in the fourth period.
After scoring the Hawks’ first seven points of the final quarter, Budneholzer pulled Schroder from the game with 8:14 remaining with Hawks trailing 89-83, though Schroder had managed to keep himself from earning his fifth foul to that point. Without Schroder in the game, the Hawks struggled to close the gap as the Knicks led 103-94 with 2:22 to go in the game.
The Hawks used a three-pointer from Ersan Ilyasova and three free throws from Belinelli to pull within three at 103-100 with 1:40 to play. Porzingas and Ilyasova exchanged baskets before the Knicks called a timeout up 105-102 with possession with 42 seconds to play.
After the timeout, Jack made a long jumper to give the Knicks a five-point lead with 29 seconds to go. Following a subsequent Hawks’ timeout, Porzingas committed a loose ball foul leading to two Belinelli free throws to pull the Hawks within three with 20 seconds to play. The Hawks put Ntilikina on the line where he made one of two to make it a two possession game with 12 seconds left.
Kent Bazemore was fouled and converted two free throws with eight seconds to go. On the other end, Jack made one of two free throws keeping Hawks’ hopes alive as they trailed by three seven seconds to go.
Bazemore was again fouled, made the first, intentionally missed the second but was called for a lane violation trying to get the rebound. The Hawks then fouled Porzingas who made two free throws to ice the game and give the Knicks the win 111-107.
Playing without their starting point guard, turnovers plagued the Hawks as the team turned the ball over seven times in the final period leading to 13 points for the Knicks.
For the game, the Knicks were led by Porzingis who played 38 minutes and delivered 30 points and eight rebounds. McDermott contributed 23 points from the bench while Jack added 19. Though sitting for the final eight plus minutes, Schroder led the Hawks with 21 while Ilyasova added 20.
The Hawks take on the Cavs in Cleveland on Tuesday night. Stay tuned.