The Hawks won their ninth game in a row on Friday at Philips Arena, prevailing 87-81 over the Orlando Magic. The Hawks shot just 37.2% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc on 29 attempts, and the Magic weren’t much better, shooting 39% from the field and 34.6% from three. Coach Budenholzer mentioned in his postgame press conference that he would have liked to see the Hawks drive to the basket more often; the Hawks finished with just 24 points in the paint. Jeff Teague and DeMarre Carroll particularly struggled to hit from range; the pair hit just two of their thirteen shots from three.
The second quarter and early part of the third quarter were particularly ugly for both teams. Atlanta scored just 11 points in the second quarter and the Magic opened on a 17-5 run in the first six minutes of the third. The Hawks came roaring back in the final 18 minutes of the game, outscoring Orlando by 42-24 down the stretch, including a key 11-0 run to close the third quarter and tie the game at 64. Al Horford and Paul Millsap combined for 33 points on 13-for-25 shooting through three quarters, with Horford making a big three-pointer that tied the game with 39.5 left in the quarter.
Pero Antic did not play in the game due to flu-like symptoms and Coach Budenholzer said pregame that he would not travel with the team for Saturday’s game, opening up minutes from Elton Brand and Mike Muscala. Brand responded with one of the better one point, two rebound performances you’ll ever see and was the talk of the locker room after the game. Carroll praised Brand’s defensive toughness: “He came in there and just told us to be aggressive … Everybody started playing as hard as he did.” Horford echoed Carroll’s statement, saying, “His aggressiveness on defense and toughness really got us over the top.” Muscala didn’t see the floor in Antic’s absence due to Brand’s play.
Dennis Schröder had a terrible shooting night but changed the game with his defensive intensity. He even forced a five-second violation after a Hawks turnover and consistently picked up Magic guards as soon as they got the ball, hounding them all the way up the court. Coach Budenholzer had good things to say about the young guard after the game: “He was 1-for-7, but I was more interested and more encouraged by how active he was, his pace, and everything he did to help us turn the momentum.”
The Hawks may have played an ugly offensive game, but those games are going to happen in a long season and they did well to fight on the defensive end to close out a scrappy Orlando Magic team. The Hawks see the Magic again on Saturday in the second game of their home-and-home series in Orlando, where they will go for their tenth win in a row, something they haven’t done since January 1997.