The Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic got together for the second time in 72 hours on Saturday evening. While it was a much different game than the contest on Wednesday, the result was far better for the Hawks, as the team emerged with a 117-110 victory in memorable fashion.
The early going featured an explosion from Ersan Ilyasova, who scored 13 points (on perfect shooting) in the first eight minutes. The veteran forward capped an 8-0 Hawks run with a three that gave Atlanta a 24-16 lead and moments later, the Hawks extended that advantage to 10 points.
After 12 minutes of action, the Hawks led by a 32-22 margin and, offensively, things went quite well in the opening period for the home team. The Magic, seemingly on cue, returned the favor with a 14-5 opening run in the second quarter and, briefly, the visitors took a 1-point lead. From there, however, the Hawks were able to hold off the charge and the result was a three-point halftime lead.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair to say the least. Atlanta launched the first salvo with a 9-0 run that included two threes from Kent Bazemore and that provided a nine-point cushion. From there, it was the Nikola Vucevic show for Orlando, as the big man scored 18 points in the period and pushed the Magic into the lead.
Then, on the final play of the quarter, Isaiah Taylor finished over Vucevic’s outstretched arms to give the Hawks a two-point cushion again with 12 minutes remaining. Defense was certainly a challenge for Atlanta in the quarter but, in the same breath, the offense did just enough to keep things stabilized.
In that vein, more offensive heroics were to come and it was Marco Belinelli, knocking down two threes in 16 seconds (!), that would provide them breathing room early in the fourth. That mini-run propelled the Hawks to a seven-point lead and, moments later, Bazemore (with some help from high-end passing) followed that up with another three of his own.
That momentum would not continue, however, as the Magic immediately rattled off six consecutive points to inspire a timeout from Mike Budenholzer at 104-102 with 6:27 to go. After a few empty trips, that run ballooned to 9-0 and the Hawks were suddenly in a hole with less than five minutes remaining at 106-105.
Atlanta would take the lead back (albeit briefly) but, after a Dennis Schröder missed lay-up in agonizing fashion, the Magic knocked down a three to reclaim the advantage. After that, the Hawks squandered a few opportunities to hop into the driver’s seat and that continued as Ilyasova converted only one of two free throws with 1:33 remaining to even the score at 108-108.
Vucevic then scored on the other end to give Orlando the edge once more and Budenholzer called timeout with 1:06 remaining and a two-point deficit. Following the break, Schröder got to the free throw line and knocked down both to even the score with 56.5 seconds remaining and that prompted a timeout from the Magic.
The rest of the game, in short, was favorable for the Hawks.
Bazemore stole a pass near mid-court and converted a highlight dunk on the fast break to give the Hawks a two-point edge. Then, old friend Shelvin Mack had his shot blocked and, after Bazemore was fouled, he nailed both free throws to give Atlanta an insurmountable four-point lead. Finally, Bazemore punctuated things with another dunk after a turnover and that was the end of that.
In totality, this was a wild game for a number of reasons, including a standout performance from Ilyasova. He finished the night with 26 points without missing a single shot from the field (9-9 FG, 5 of 5 from three) and he was supported by six players in double-figures for the home team. While Orlando received incredible showings from Vucevic (31 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) and Jonathon Simmons (29 points, seven rebounds, five assists), it wasn’t enough, and the Hawks were able to garner some level of revenge for the loss on Wednesday.
The Hawks will now travel to New York for the second game of a back-to-back on Sunday evening. Stay tuned.