At times during the first half of the team’s home opener on Wednesday evening, the Atlanta Hawks looked to be on the way to an embarrassing blowout defeat. In the end, however, the Hawks put together a memorable comeback and, when the dust settled, Lloyd Pierce emerged with his first home win by a final score of 111-104.
Though there was plenty of pomp and circumstance in the building, the Hawks struggled considerably out of the gate. The Mavericks took a 16-6 lead to open the evening and Dallas was seemingly unstoppably in the early going.
Atlanta allowed a comical 42 points in the first quarter (a 156.1 defensive rating) and, as a result, the team trailed by 20 and looked to be flailing. From there, the visitors pushed the edge to 51-25 (yes, you’re reading that right) and, frankly, the prospects of a comeback appeared bleak.
However, the Hawks awakened midway through the second period, riding Kent Bazemore and improved defense to full-fledged competitiveness. The team used an 11-0 run to climb within striking distance and, by the end of the half, Atlanta trailed by only 10 points, which felt like a minor miracle given the ugly start.
Bazemore scored 17 points, dished out five assists and grabbed three rebounds in the first half, operating as the team’s focal point offensively for much of the positive stretch.
Do your thing Baze. Do your thing. pic.twitter.com/AgLMk0Yz5L— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) October 25, 2018
Trae Young accumulated three first-half fouls and, as a result of that and some struggles, appeared for only nine minutes. Still, Lloyd Pierce found a defensive lineup that was functional and that, combined with Bazemore and Taurean Prince putting together some shot-making kept the team within a working margin.
Atlanta’s strong play continued for much of the third quarter, including an 11-2 run at the outset. Young banked in a three to produce the biggest crowd pop of the evening and Bazemore continued his red-hot play with a three coming out of a timeout. At that point, the Hawks had outscored the Mavs by a 34-9 margin over an extended period and things were going well to say the least.
In fact, Kevin Huerter got in on the act with the first powerful dunk of his NBA career.
Dewayne Dedmon, making his season debut, also contributed on both ends.
Dewayne Dedmon is still making long-distance calls from the corner. pic.twitter.com/4BlYO44vDi— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) October 25, 2018
The Mavericks did respond, pushing their edge back to 10 in short order, but Atlanta kept things manageable on the way to a seven-point deficit as the closing period arrived. Prince was key to an early fourth-quarter surge, quickly scoring five points after the lead grew to 10 and, from there, it was a back and forth affair.
Atlanta impressively scratched and clawed, with Young pushing the home team back in front with a gorgeous maneuver and finish.
By crunch time, Bazemore gave the Hawks the lead at 103-101 with 2:00 to go and the team produced back-to-back defensive stops to preserve that edge. Then, Bazemore (again) contributed an enormous bucket, hammering a dunk in the lane to push Atlanta’s advantage to 105-101 with 1:06 on the clock.
The Hawks then fouled DeAndre Jordan, sending the oft-challenged free throw shooter to the stripe, where he made one of two attempts with 54 seconds left. Young then converted three of four free throws in the waning seconds and the Mavericks were never again within full-fledged shouting distance on the way to the final, seven-point margin of victory.
While the entire roster should be credited for a wild and resilient effort, Bazemore was the leader on the floor. The veteran swingman finished with a game-high 32 points to go along with seven assists, three rebounds and three steals, and Bazemore was tremendous throughout the evening. Prince (24 points, five threes), Bembry (11 points, 16 rebounds, five assists) and others also provided valuable contributions, with Young (16 points, five assists) keying things at times in the fourth quarter despite an uneven overall performance.
The Hawks will return to action on Saturday evening against the Chicago Bulls, with State Farm Arena again playing host to the festivities. Stay tuned.