The Atlanta Hawks entered Friday night’s game at Madison Square Garden in the midst of a five-game road losing streak and, in short, the team hasn’t experienced much success away from State Farm Arena this season. After an ugly opening period, optimism wasn’t rampant but, with a strong push-back, the Hawks put together a quality overall performance in toppling the New York Knicks by a final score of 114-107.
In a reversal from Tuesday’s performance, the Hawks were slow out of the gate, as the Knicks asserted control to the tune of a 7-2 advantage. There were signs of life from the offense throughout the opening quarter, including the fact that Atlanta climbed within two at one point, but the story of the first 12 minutes was the play of Knicks rookie Kevin Knox.
Knox exploded for 12 points in the first nine minutes and, when the quarter was over, he had 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting and 3 of 4 from three. He wasn’t alone, however, as New York shot 64 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three as a team on the way to 39 points and an 11-point cushion over the visiting Hawks.
The offense, including seven quick points from Jeremy Lin, did its best to keep up and that continued into the second period. Atlanta struggled to generate conversions from beyond the arc (3 of 13 in the half) but the Hawks shot 51 percent from the floor (with 17 assists) and, simply put, offense wasn’t the issue before halftime.
New York led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter and the duo of Knox and Emmanuel Mudiay combined for 38 points on their own. Still, Atlanta managed to hang around, thanks to strong play from John Collins, Kent Bazemore and DeAndre’ Bembry.
Bazemore scored the team’s first five points and finished with 11 in the half.
Collins, as usual, was ultra-productive, scoring 15 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and contributing the highlight of the half.
Bembry was the lone bright spot from downtown (2 of 4) and also did his thing off the bounce.
With a manageable, nine-point deficit as the backdrop, the third quarter opened in favorable fashion for the Hawks. Atlanta scored the first four points and, in less than one minute, the Knicks called a timeout when the margin was slashed to five.
The Knicks did push back following the stoppage but, in short, Atlanta’s fury was back and, this time, it was a 12-1 run from the visitors to take the lead at 78-76. The entire run consisted of four three-pointers and the final connection came from Alex Len.
After that flourish, the Knicks did reawaken, putting together an 11-2 run to reclaim the advantage. Kevin Huerter had other ideas, however, and the rookie wing scored seven straight points on his own to tie the game at 87-87. New York scored on a jumper from Mudiay to close the period but, all told, it was a (very) positive quarter from the visitors to set up a chance to prevail down the stretch.
The first few minutes of the fourth quarter went in the Knicks’ favor but a corner three from Bazemore brought Atlanta back within one with 6:28 to go.
Hawks within a point midway through the 4Q thanks to BAZ3. If you're not already here, come join us. pic.twitter.com/IWuY8JBel8— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 22, 2018
After a timeout, Trae Young tied the game on a free throw and, after a stop, Len put the Hawks in front with a triple in front of the opposing bench. It wasn’t a speedy run but, with those contributions and a number of defensive stops, Atlanta was able to post a 9-0 run that concluded with a layup by Young and a 104-99 edge with 3:47 to play.
From there, Mudiay and Young traded buckets (with Young’s coming in the form of a three-point play), leaving the Hawks with a six-point advantage. The margin then floated in the same range until the full-blown stretch run, as Mudiay brought the Knicks within five on a free throw and Dedmon committed an ill-timed turnover on a traveling violation with 1:27 to go.
Bazemore got the line, making 1 of 2, to restore Atlanta’s previous lead of six with 57.3 seconds to play and that led to a timeout from New York. The Knicks did produce one point on the ensuing possession but, when Bazemore converted both free throw attempts on the other end, the Hawks were in fantastic position and managed to hold serve on the way to a seven-point win.
The story of the evening was balanced offense from the Hawks, with seven players in double-figures and strong contributions across the board. Collins (17 points, 16 rebounds) and Young (15 points, 10 assists) both posted double-doubles, and they were flanked by good performances from Len (12 points, seven rebounds), Bazemore (22 points, six rebounds) and others. Defensively, it wasn’t a 48-minute masterpiece but the resistance improved throughout the night and, by the end, the visitors did enough to secure a win.
After a travel day on Saturday, the Hawks will return to the floor on Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Stay tuned.