This looked like it was going to be a blowout and quite honestly, this game should have been a blowout.
The Hawks were leading 21-5 early in the first quarter and were firing on on cylinders. Paul Millsap had 11 quick points, hitting three 3-pointers in about a one minute span in the opening minutes. Everyone was passing well and flying around on defense. Even as the Magic started to pick up their own pace, the Hawks still maintained a double-digit lead into the second quarter.
And that is where the wheels nearly fell off the wagon.
The Hawks’ second quarter can best be defined as a disaster, as the Magic outscored Atlanta 29-14 over the 12-minute frame. The Hawks shot 5-for-19 from the field in the quarter and turned the ball over 11 times. 11! The Magic, to their credit, were doing a good job at forcing the sloppiness and they capitalized off of Atlanta woes by shooting 50% for the quarter, including hitting four 3-pointers.
Whatever Coach Budenholzer said at halftime worked, as the Hawks only turned the ball over one time in the third quarter as they regained control of the game. The ball movement was crisp and the team countered the 11 turnovers from the previous quarter with 11 assists in the third. Jeff Teague, who was 0-for-6 from the field in the first half, also finally got his motor running, going 4-for-4 from the field for nine points as he was finally able to capitalize on opportunities in the lane.
The Magic did their best to play even with the Hawks in the fourth quarter, but the damage from the third was too much to overcome. Nikola Vucevic was able to knock down some shots, but once again Teague stepped up to match when the Hawks needed him and the Hawks walked away with a 95-88 victory.
Al Horford again showed his recent increase in production, grabbing 13 rebounds to go with 17 points. Horford has averaged 11 rebounds per game over the month of February. Horford was just averaging under seven per game before the recent outburst and seems to be showing a bit more willingness to go into contact after slightly shying away from it in his recovery from his pectoral injury.
Despite Millsap’s hot first quarter, he finished the game with only 20 points and did not hit another 3. It was not that he did not try, as he still took 17 shots in the game, but his shot just seemed off after the opening period ended.
The Hawks have a quick turnaround and will face off against the Miami Heat on Saturday night in Miami. The Hawks will hope to extend their lead in the division, which currently sits at 13.5 games over Washington. The Hawks are also closing in on clinching a playoff spot, with their magic number for that accomplishment sitting at 5.