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Hawks hold off Mavericks for close-fought 100-95 victory

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That was closer than it probably should have been.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It was not a conventional performance for the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday evening. In fact, it was almost completely the opposite of one. In the end, however, the showing was good enough to pick up a home win, as the Hawks outlasted the Dallas Mavericks by a final score of 100-95.

In a switch from previous performances, the Hawks were absolutely lights-out on the offensive end in the first half. After a bit of a slow start for both teams, Atlanta’s offense came to life, shooting 71 percent from the floor in the first quarter. That performance was good for “only” 27 points and a five-point advantage thanks to a slow pace but it was encouraging to say the least.

Things did not slow down in the second quarter either, as Ersan Ilyasova connected on his first four shots and the Hawks used a 10-0 run to build a double-figure lead. While Dallas did not fully fade away, Atlanta’s scoring barrage continued to the tune of a 72 percent shooting clip for the full half.

That, in conjunction with 6 of 8 shooting from beyond the arc, allowed the Hawks to score 63 points before halftime and that was good for an 11-point lead. Dwight Howard scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds before halftime, Dennis Schröder added 13 points and, despite some porous defense, it was a comfortable working margin for the home team.

In short order, though, Atlanta’s breathing room evaporated. The Mavericks began the second half with a 10-2 run (as the offense scuffled mightily) and, while the Hawks responded with a 10-2 answer of their own, the remainder of the quarter was a slow bleed. In fact, Dallas looked to end the period with seven straight points, but Tim Hardaway Jr. beat the buzzer with a bucket to stop the bleeding and keep Atlanta in front by an 81-76 margin.

That brief uptick did not prove to keep Dallas at bay, though, as Atlanta’s offense stumbled all over itself in the fourth quarter. The Hawks scored six points in the first eight (!) minutes of game time and the Mavericks chipped away as a result. Seth Curry knocked down a three to knot the game at 87-87 with 5:47 left and, moments later with the help of some offensive impotence from Dennis Schröder, Harrison Barnes gave Dallas the edge with a long-distance connection of his own.

From there, Curry hit another three to give Dallas its largest lead of the night at 93-89 but Hardaway Jr. answered with one of his own to keep Atlanta within striking distance. Ilyasova then connected on a fadeaway jumper to give the home team the lead but, on the ensuing trip, Curry got to the line and converted both at the charity stripe to reinstall the Mavericks with a 95-94 lead with less than a minute remaining.

Paul Millsap then took matters into his own hands after a timeout, converting a (very) tough shot to give Atlanta the advantage once again. After a Harrison Barnes miss, the visitors committed a loose ball foul, sending Ersan Ilyasova to the line, and two free throws gave the Hawks a three-point cushion with 11.1 ticks remaining.

Millsap led the way individually for the Hawks with 18 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, while Dwight Howard (14 points, 12 rebounds), Ersan Ilyasova (18 points off the bench) and Dennis Schröder (17 points and six assists despite seven turnovers) produced effective performances. All told, the Hawks finished with a lights-out 56 percent shooting clip and, despite flaws elsewhere (23 turnovers and ugly defensive moments), the total package was enough to win.

After a day off on Thursday, the Hawks will welcome the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers to Philips Arena on Friday in the return of Kyle Korver. Stay tuned.