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Comeback bid lands short as Hawks fall to Knicks, 112-107

One quarter of doom proved pivotal.

New York Knicks v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Throughout the season, the Atlanta Hawks have struggled to string 48 quality minutes together and Wednesday evening’s tilt was no different. The home team performed well for much of the night but an ugly third quarter proved pivotal, as the Hawks succumbed to the New York Knicks by a final score of 112-107 at State Farm Arena.

At the outset, the Hawks struggled to gain traction, with the visiting Knicks claiming a 10-3 lead while the home team missed four of its first five shots with three turnovers. In fact, New York scored 20 points in the first seven minutes and, while Atlanta battled to stay in touch, it wasn’t the type of start that Lloyd Pierce likely envisioned.

The Hawks did awaken, though, slashing the lead to only six with 2:27 remaining, and a Vince Carter three at the end of the period actually knotted the score after 12 minutes. Atlanta shot just 31 percent from the floor in the opening quarter, but the defensive improved as things progressed and that was good enough to play even with the visitors.

Building off the late surge to end the first quarter, the Hawks put together an 18-3 overall run (8-1 to begin the second quarter) to claim a seven-point lead and that was certainly the high point of the first half. New York did respond with a mini-spurt of their own, but strong play from Omari Spellman, Kent Bazemore and others helped Atlanta get to the locker room with a three-point lead.

There were plenty of highlights along the way to that modest edge, beginning with Trae Young finding Alex Len for a dunk in the early going.

Spellman, who finished the first half with 13 points, enjoyed a few nice sequences on both ends of the court.

Taurean Prince, who came off the bench in his return from an ankle injury, got on the board with a run-out dunk in the first quarter.

All told, it was a relatively solid half from Atlanta but, as with anything, a 48-minute effort would be required to take care of business at home.

On cue, things did not go well in the early stages of the third quarter. The Hawks immediately allowed a (wide open) three to Tim Hardaway Jr., prompting a timeout and that wasn’t the end. New York scored 12 straight points to claim a double-digit lead and Atlanta allowed 20 (!) points in the first five minutes of the half.

Atlanta did push back a bit, briefly narrowing the gap, but the third quarter was an overall disaster zone for the home team. The Knicks led by as many as 16 points and, in putting it kindly, it was a 12-minute stint that Pierce and company would like to forget.

In the fourth, however, the Hawks did mount an impressive comeback led by a (very) unlikely source.

The impetus? Miles Plumlee.

First, Plumlee got tied up with Enes Kanter in a bizarre and, thankfully, harmless scrum.

Then, Plumlee’s on-court contributions poured in, as he infused energy into the Hawks and provided two memorable finishes at the rim.

Atlanta closed the gap with seven straight points and, after the Plumlee barrage, the home team climbed within a four-point margin. The Knicks did manage to quickly push their advantage back to 98-89 with five minutes to play, but Atlanta didn’t fade, pulling back within four after a Taurean Prince three-point play at the 3:42 mark.

That was as close as the Hawks came to overcoming the deficit, though, as the Knicks made enough plays to stave off the onslaught. Hardaway Jr. made two free throws at the 1:49 mark to put New York up by six and, after a bucket from Prince, the former Hawk got to the rim and finished what proved to be a “dagger” layup at the rim.

Young did bring the Hawks back within four at the free throw line with 54.6 seconds remaining but Emmanuel Mudiay (of all people) virtually ended the game with a turnaround jumper in response. Eventually, the final margin settled at five points and the Hawks suffered a second straight defeat.

In a crazy game that did not finish until after 10:00 pm ET (in regulation!), there were a few bright spots for Atlanta. Rookie big man Omari Spellman generated a career-high 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks, playing one of his best games of the season. Elsewhere, Plumlee was tremendous in his brief stint, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds, with double-figure scoring efforts from Young, Bazemore and Prince.

The Hawks will now rest with an off day on Thursday before playing host to the Detroit Pistons at State Farm Arena on Friday evening. Stay tuned.