Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen.
The Atlanta Hawks went into Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers missing several players. Paul Millsap, Dennis Schröder, Dwight Howard, Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore were all unavailable due to injury or rest and, as a result, the team was a severe underdog against LeBron James and the reigning champions.
48 minutes later, the Hawks were victorious and, frankly, it wasn’t close.
The Hawks led for the majority of the evening and, in the fourth quarter, turned on th jets. The final result was a 114-100 win that left everyone either speechless or overcome with hysterical laughter and fun was had by all.
In the early going, it was actually the defense that had things going for Atlanta, holding the Cavs to an 85 offensive rating in the first quarter. The Hawks used an 11-2 run to take a double-figure lead early in the second quarter and, while Cleveland responded with a 15-2 of their own, it was largely a productive half. A
From there, the Cavs threatened to take control in the early stages of the third quarter, taking a nine-point lead. However, the Hawks would not be outdone and a 10-0 response soon followed that reinstalled the road team in the lead.
After a back and forth stretch, the Cavs took an 87-85 lead on a Kyle Korver three early in the fourth quarter but that was the final lead for the home team. Atlanta then used a 21-2 (!) run to put the game away and it was an offensive barrage that placed the Hawks in a 17-point lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
In short, this was a fantastic performance from a team that had no business, from a talent perspective, doing what they did. The Hawks set a new season high with 39 assists on 45 made field goals, and Atlanta shot 51 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three.
Defensively, the Hawks were not flawless, allowing 36 three-point attempts to the Cavaliers, but the overall performance was strong. Cleveland scored at a clip of 102.8 points per 100 possessions and, while some of that was self-inflicted, the Hawks did enough to win given the way they played offensively.
Mike Dunleavy (20 points), Tim Hardaway Jr. (22 points), Mike Muscala (13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) and others had fantastic games and this was a complete team effort from the underdogs. It remains to be seen as to whether Atlanta can keep it up with a full complement of assets on Sunday afternoon in the rematch. On this night, though, the Hawks were lights-out offensively with ball movement, spacing and a free-flowing system that worked to perfection.