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Jose Calderon comes up big for Hawks in Game 4 win

Calderon provided the Hawks with a big lift in Game 4.

NBA: Playoffs-Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks aren’t finished yet. After a dominating performance in Game 3, the Hawks followed through with a similar effort in Game 4 scoring a 111-101 victory to even the series at two games apiece.

Game 4 started much differently than Game 3 as it was Washington that raced out to the fast start with 35 first quarter points. However, Atlanta’s defense stiffened in the second quarter limiting the Wizards to just 15 points.

“Our defense picked up in both the second quarter and the fourth quarter,” Mike Budenholzer said of the win. “After they came out, they threw a big blow. They started out really well and had a heck of a first quarter. To hold them to 15 in that second quarter and us going to halftime up nine was big.”

Washington wasn’t finished however and mounted another charge in the third outscoring Atlanta 27-18 to tie the game at 77-77 entering the fourth. The Hawks pushed the lead back to eight early in the fourth and despite some tense moments, never lost control.

“But then we gave it right back coming out of the gate in the third quarter,” Budenholzer added. “I’m just proud of the way the guys fought. Jose Calderon, pretty special what he did tonight with Dennis in foul trouble.”

Atlanta finished the game with seven players in double figures and Calderon might have been the least likely of the bunch. Pressed into early duty due to foul trouble by Dennis Schröder, Calderon responded with 10 points and five assists off the bench in 20 minutes of playing time. He knocked down a pair of three-pointers including one right before halftime that extended Atlanta’s lead to nine at the intermission.

“We need to send a little thank-you note to the Warriors,” Budenholzer said when asked about Calderon’s performance. “Obviously they were classy. They had an injury come up and they had to go a different direction. We feel fortunate that Jose considered us and obviously chose us. Sports are like that. You have to be fortuitous, you have to be a little bit lucky, whether it’s in a game, whether it’s picking up a veteran like Jose or different things that happen throughout the course of the year.”

Paul Millsap led the way for the Hawks with 19 points and nine rebounds. They also got a good performance from an engaged Dwight Howard who added 16 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.

“Obviously it was his best game of the series,” Budenholzer said of Howard. “We needed that extra boost, and he certainly brought it. Him and Baze got a little connection for a few minutes. It really lifts our group up. I thought the defense and his activity on the boards, second and third efforts, going to offensive rebounds, all of those things. We need more of that every night, every possession. When he’s like that, it can help carry his teammates and help us take that next step forward.”

Howard was 6 of 14 from the field and 4 of 5 from the free throw line. He finished the game with one blocked shot.

Kent Bazemore also turned in a solid performance off the bench with 16 points and tied for the team lead with seven assists.

“I was just staying with it,” Bazemore said. “Continuing to work hard and watch a little bit of film. Picking my spots. The pace was amazing tonight. The ball was moving, you’re getting touches and your comfort level goes up a little bit. Your teammates are encouraging you night in and night out regardless of how you’re playing. You have guys on your team that really believe in you. Every day is a new day. You wake up positive, enthused and you play with as much energy as you can, regardless of what role you’re in. Tonight was just a product of that.”

If you are looking for differences in the last two games versus the Games 1 & 2 in Washington, then look no further than the turnovers for Atlanta. The Hawks turned the ball over 24 times in games 3 & 4. They turned the ball over 37 times over the first two games. Less turnovers means less fast break opportunities for the Wizards.

The series is now reduced to a best two-out-of-three situation with Game 5 back in Washington on Wednesday night. After appearing to be dead in the water over the first two games, the Hawks seem to have their confidence back.