The Atlanta Hawks (16-20) finished the first half of their season with three games in four nights down in the sunshine state, with the final one coming in Orlando against the Magic. In Nate McMillan’s second game as the head coach, the Hawks did not win as comfortably as they did in the first. However, Atlanta did emerge victorious by a 115-112 final margin after a wild second half push.
Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kris Dunn were unavailable for Atlanta. Capela was a late scratch, as he’s dealing with a foot issue — listed as right foot pain — that developed in the Miami game Tuesday evening.
It was a tale of two halves, as the Hawks made a 19-point second-half comeback, propelled by Trae Young’s 32 points and eight assists. Young had 20 points in the second half alone, and a three-point barrage by the entire team in the final six minutes proved to be just enough to lead Atlanta to victory.
“The way we played, just out there having fun, the ball was moving, everybody was touching it,” said Young of the comeback win and the hot shooting. “Shooters shot the ball tonight. Although they weren't falling early on, only takes a couple for guys to get going. You saw the way Gallo shot it. T-Snell hit a couple huge threes. Everybody just played and impacted in this game so it was good.”
The Hawks shot a ridiculous 15-of-24 from three in the second half after a cold first half, and made 9-of-13 triples in the fourth. Due to the insane shooting, it didn’t matter much that Atlanta only scored 20 points in the paint on the night.
“We talk all the time about playing 48 minutes, and it took all 48 minutes of this game to get it,” said McMillan after the win. “The first half, we looked like a team coming off a back-to-back. These guys stuck with it. Hell of a job by the group.”
“I talked with him about trusting his teammates, in the sense that we gave him a good breather,” McMillan continued on the play of Young. “I thought Rondo came in and did a good job in the second half of running the team get us back in the game. We tried to rest Trae as long as we could.”
“We got him back in I think the seven or eight minute mark and he was fresh and he was able to get some things going,” McMillan added. “Make some baskets, defensively we get some stops. But it wasn’t just Trae it was a team effort. I thought Gallo did a really nice job defending Vucevic, guarding him as well as scoring when we were down a man with Clint being out tonight.”
Danilo Gallinari was also huge for Atlanta, putting up 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists as he entered the starting lineup for Capela.
“We knew Gallo was going to have a chance on Vucevic,” said McMillan after the game. “This was part of the defensive plan. Coach Hunt and Coach Jent, those guys, we talked about the plan of how we needed to guard him with Clint out of the lineup, and we knew we were going put Gallo on him at some point. He did a really nice job that second half of just making him work to get in position. We mixed in some double teams to get him off balance as far as getting comfortable in the post.”
Another big factor was, as McMillan eluded to, Gallinari playing solid defense on Vucevic down the stretch, as the All-Star big only scored four of his 29 points in the fourth quarter.
“Gallo offensively was able to provide some scoring as well, but tonight the defense was needed because we didn’t have Clint, and he came through for us,” McMillan added.
“Very happy with my game especially on the defensive end, playing against a guy that is definitely one of the best scoring bigs in the league,” said Gallinari. “He’s always a great challenge, the coaches wanted me to be on him and I wanted to play defense on him. But it was a team effort.”
The offense was electric, headlined by the three-point shooting, during the stretch run and the defense did just enough, forcing Orlando to miss nine of their last ten shots. As such, the end result was a wild comeback and, in fact, it was the first time this season an NBA team erased a 16-point deficit with six minutes to play.
The Hawks trailed 106-90 with just under 6 minutes remaining before coming back to win 115-112 vs the Magic.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 4, 2021
Entering today, teams were 1-232 when trailing by 16+ points in the final 6 minutes of the game. pic.twitter.com/NgyV1v9GEb
The Hawks are now 2-0 following the coaching change, and will be in position to make a run back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture when play resumes next week.
Orlando controlled the action from start to finish in the first half, leading 61-42 at the break. Atlanta was sluggish on both ends in the opening period, with the absence of Clint Capela showing up, especially on the defensive end. The Magic scored 39 points in the first quarter, seemingly getting anything they want at will.
The second quarter was as ugly as the first for Atlanta, as they scored just 15 points in the period. The second unit was again extremely stagnant, with a lack of flow and several shots being hoisted up late in the shot clock. Some credit is due to the Orlando defensive effort, but it was quite sloppy overall.
Young led Hawks scorers with 12 points in the first half, while Gallinari had eight points. Nikola Vucevic led all scoring with 18 points before the break, while Michael Carter-Williams had 13 points, four assists and four rebounds in the opening two quarters.
As a team, Atlanta struggled both on the glass and from three in the first half. They were out-rebounded 27-17 by the Magic and shot just 6-of-21 from behind the arc. Orlando also shot ten free throws (making all ten) in the opening half compared to just two by the Hawks.
A 16-2 Hawks run in third quarter made it a five-point game (66-61) at the 6:55 mark. The Magic would however extend the lead back to as much as 18 before end of third, but Atlanta was able to cut it back to 12 with a late three by Gallinari. Young was again the best player on the floor for the Hawks, scoring 12 points in the quarter.
Atlanta used a 10-2 run by the second unit to get back within six at the 8:50 mark in the fourth, battling back behind solid play from Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo & Co. The success was temporary however, as the Magic responded with an 8-0 run on the second unit to move the lead back to 102-88 with 7:06 to play.
The Hawks had another run left in the tank however, going on a 12-0 run that spanned less than two minutes, making it a 106-102 Orlando lead at the 4:15 mark. The 12-0 run was all from the three-point line, with Collins, Gallinari, Snell and then Huerter all hitting from deep.
After a pair of free throws from Carter-Williams, Young made it five straight buckets from three for the Hawks, cutting the deficit to just three points. The Magic called a timeout leading 108-105 with 3:04 remaining.
The threes didn’t stop raining from there, as Young and Snell connected, with Snell’s giving the Hawks a 111-110 lead with 1:09 to go. Atlanta scored seven straight baskets from three overall going from 90 to 111 in the process while about five minutes came off the game clock.
After a tip in by Vucevic to give Orlando a 112-111 lead, Young got to the foul line with eight seconds remaining, making both and putting the Hawks back in front. From there, Atlanta was able to get a stop, and Collins made a pair of free throws to seal the 115-112 come-from-behind win with 1.3 seconds to go.
“I was going hard to my left, trying to get a shot up with my left. MCW was on my hip the whole time,” said Young of the final play. Kinda just a bang-bang play, bump going up.”
The Hawks also won the battle of the glass in the second half, grabbing 25 boards compared to 19 by Orlando, though that was somewhat impacted by the fact that Atlanta seemingly stopped missing shots about halfway through the fourth quarter.
Atlanta will now be off until Mar. 11 when they play the Toronto Raptors in Tampa.