In a bizarre and closely contested game, the Atlanta Hawks did what they needed to do on Friday evening. The Toronto Raptors, operating without their best player in Kyle Lowry, provided a stiff challenge but, in the end, the home team was able to prevail to close the homestand on a high note in a 105-99 victory.
Paul Millsap was the story of the early going, scoring 9 of the first 11 points for Atlanta while making his first four shots from the floor. However, the rest of the players (on both teams) began the night in sloppy fashion. In fact, the score at the end of the first quarter was 19-18 and, with the back drop of a glacial pace, there wasn’t a great deal of entertaining basketball being displayed.
The second quarter was, to be sure, more entertaining. Atlanta’s offense picked up considerably, with Tim Hardaway Jr. (who started in place of Thabo Sefolosha) and Dennis Schröder reaching double-figures before halftime. However, the defense slipped for the Hawks as well and that ensured a closely contested game with a 49-48 margin at the break.
After halftime, it was more of the same. Both teams performed competently, but neither was able to pull away. In fact, the largest lead by either team through three-plus quarters was four points and it was a closely contested game without a centralized theme or story line. As the fourth quarter arrived, the Hawks trailed by only one point with everything in front of them and that is all the home team could ask for on this night.
Atlanta managed to build a (small) four-point lead (on multiple occasions) and, with 2:19 remaining, DeMar DeRozan committed an offensive foul that created some in-arena energy. On cue, Dennis Schröder got to the line for two free throws to increase the margin to a game-high six at 94-88 and, after another stop, the talented point guard finished a lay-up to provide an eight-point cushion with 1:45 remaining.
From there, things were academic and the Hawks cruised to the final six-point margin. Dennis Schröder followed up an explosive performance on Wednesday with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead the way. In addition, Paul Millsap (21 points, six rebounds) and Dwight Howard (16 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) performed well and Tim Hardaway Jr. (20 points, six assists) provided a much-needed scoring punch.
The Hawks will travel to Memphis immediately following the win, as Atlanta takes on the Grizzlies in a back-to-back on Saturday evening. Stay tuned.