The Atlanta Hawks returned to winning ways with a 109-104 overtime victory against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night at the Moda Center. The Blazers, as they so often have been, were led by Damian Lillard’s and C.J. McCollum’s 21 and 26 points respectively. The Hawks were led by Tim Hardaway Jr.’s team high 25 points while Paul Millsap added 21 points and Dennis Schröder added 22 points.
Paul “Clutch” Millsap takes the Hawks to overtime and beyond
This was not the prettiest offensive game for the Hawks but they managed to slow down the Blazers’ offense and recovered from a double digit deficit to give themselves a chance to win this game. Some great defense, after a few agonising offensive rebounds for the Blazers, by Tim Hardaway Jr. on C.J. McCollum — followed by a defensive rebound by Prince — gave the Hawks the opportunity to possibly win the game or take the game to overtime.
People give THJ a lot of stick for his defense (sometimes it’s warranted) but give him credit here.
However, Atlanta still found themselves trailing by two points with just 2.2 seconds remaining, in need of a bucket to save this game. Enter, Paul Millsap.
At. The. Buzzer.
Were it not for some questionable defense by Dennis Schröder on Darren Collison against the Kings on Friday, this would’ve been Millsap’s second game winner in the last two games, but no matter… Just a great shot from Millsap with his left hand after it seemed that he had lost the handle.
“Initially, I wanted to go baseline but I fumbled the ball. It ended up being a good thing. I was able to get a good look at it and throw it up with the left hand.”
“You have a tendency to rush and rush a bad shot with two seconds on the clock. I was able to get a dribble, two steps and put it up to the basket. You have to be calm and patient in those situations.” — Paul Millsap
2.2 didn’t seem like a lot of time but in the NBA it’s more than enough.
“Two point two seconds it’s longer than you think. Paul has been great at end of games this year. It was an important basket, it goes without saying.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
Paul had actually struggled from the field shooting 4-of-12 from the field, partly because he was well guarded by Al-Farouq Aminu. But in those late game situations that all goes out the window. Millsap made the shot he needed to and to overtime this game went.
Coming back in OT
Things did not start well in overtime for the Hawks as the Blazers quickly took a seven point lead behind a 7-0 run, five of those points coming in the first minute of OT. In overtime it’s about who hits first and once the Blazers took that seven point (104-97) lead you began to think “Welp, so much for that”. But the Hawks soared (see what I did there?) back with 12-0 run to end the overtime period behind four Millsap free throws, a drive to the rim by Schröder, a cut from Bazemore and two free throws from Taurean Prince to wrap things up. Talk about a game of runs. Big win for the Hawks and a very important win too, given how they lost against the Kings on Friday.
“It’s big. It shows the heart of this team. We didn’t put our heads down when they went on a run to start overtime. We kept fighting and good things happened to us.” — Paul Millsap
You can’t go on runs like this without playing some defense/getting stops and I want to look at some of the important stops in OT, starting from when the Hawks fell behind.
With the Hawks trailing by five points after finally ending the Blazers’ 7-0 run, they needed another stop if they wanted to make a run of their own.
Lillard gives the ball up to McCollum and makes an off-ball run while the Blazers work it at the top. Ed Davis doesn’t set the screen that is supposed to free Lillard of Dennis and, once Lillard receives the ball again, Schröder is right there. Lillard drives to his left and, this time, it’s Al-Farouq Aminu who doesn’t get his body between Lillard and Dennis. Lillard stops, pulls up and his shot is well contested by Dennis and it misses.
A solid screen by either Aminu or Davis would’ve given Lillard the space he needed but their inability to do so meant that Schröder was able to stick with Dame.
After two Paul Millsap free throws, the Blazers come again and this defensive possession is all about Taurean Prince. Prince begins this possession trapping McCollum behind the three-point line and then rushes over to put a body on Maurice Harkless underneath the rim before sliding over and drawing the charge on Aminu.
Great defensive activity from Prince all around here.
After layups from Dennis and Bazemore, the Hawks now held a one point lead with the Blazers ready to run a play out of a timeout. Lillard is the one who’s looking to make the magic happen but, as he drives toward the rim, he trips, falls and loses possession of the ball and the Hawks come up with it and call a timeout of their own.
Lillard was looking for a foul and I think he has a legitimate case. There’s one replay (shown above) where you can see the leg of Schröder bump into Lillard and then he falls over. I’m surprised Lillard didn’t get the call. Hawks fans didn’t believe this was a foul but if you were to flip this around, and it was Lillard who bumped Dennis in this situation, Hawks fans would be calling for a foul. I thought the Blazers were unlucky here.
With just six seconds remaining in the game, and the Hawks in possession of the ball, the Blazers had no choice but to intentionally foul. They foul Millsap — who sinks his 11th and 12 free throws of the game — and the Blazers (down by three points) have to inbound the ball underneath their own basket as they are out of timeouts. Pat Connaughton tries to go long but his pass is picked off by Taurean Prince, who saw it coming.
“I saw the dude that was inbounding the ball looking right at my man. I kind of just trailed him and as soon as I saw the ball coming I made a play on it.” — Taurean Prince
Prince iced the game with two free throws and that was all she wrote for this game. The Hawks probably shouldn’t have won this game, Millsap definitely bailed them out with a great shot, but they buckled down in OT, didn’t drop their heads when they went down by seven and rallied with their own 12-0 run without needing to take a panic timeout, forcing the Blazers into multiple ones instead. And for that, you have to commend this team.
The Blazers took Hawks fans down memory lane as they just had their way on the offensive glass, snatching 22 offensive rebounds which led to 19 second chance points. These second chance opportunities were a massive reason why the Blazers ended up attempting 20 more shots than the Hawks (103-83 FGA). And the Blazers weren’t just feasting when Dwight Howard was out of the game. The Hawks struggled even when Dwight was playing and he played 38 minutes, so it wasn’t as if Dwight was out for long periods of the game. The Blazers did this all without Mason Plumlee, who was traded to Denver for Jusuf Nurkić, who was not in uniform for this game.
When you consider that the Blazers took 20 more shots than the Hawks, it’s almost a miracle they won this game.
Lack of bench help
Besides Taurean Prince the Atlanta bench, just as it did on Friday in Sacramento, really let the Hawks down. Prince was active defensively, coming up with three steals (including that big steal in OT) and playing a career high 25 minutes. His five points led the Hawks bench in scoring as they outscored by Portland’s bench 14-37.
Bud decided to shorten his bench rotation in the second half, Mike Muscala played just six minutes, Mike Dunleavy played two seconds, Malcolm Delaney played five minutes and DeAndre’ Bembry (who has featured as the main wing off the bench in Sefolosha’s absence) didn’t play at all in the second half. Prince played 13 second half minutes, the most — by far — of any bench player in the second half.
Bud’s lack of faith in the bench this game resulted in some very heavy minutes for his starters. Dennis played 42 minutes, Bazemore played 37 minutes, THJ played 43 minutes, Millsap played 41 minutes and even Dwight played 38 minutes. That’s…not ideal. Again, the bench’s production has suffered since THJ stepped into the starting lineup in place of the injured Sefolosha, who missed his eighth straight game.
Dennis’ huge second quarter
Dennis Schröder played a massive role in this game which should not be understated, especially in the second quarter. The Hawks were struggling on the offensive end, mightily I might add, and no one could get anything going. The Blazers took a 13 point lead in the second quarter and threatened to run away early, as we’ve seen other teams running to 20 point half time leads. Dennis Schröder did a great job just keeping the Hawks within range scoring 14 of the Hawks’ 21 Q2 points and shot 6-of-9 from the field while the rest of the Hawks shot 1-of-11 in the second quarter.
THJ and others stepped up as the game progressed in the second half but without Schröder’s second quarter heroics, who knows what kind of game this could’ve been.
Free throw differential
How did the Hawks make up for their rebounding and bench woes? They shot a ton of free throws. They shot a season high 48 free throws, converting 37 of those compared to the Blazers’ 25 free throw attempts and 14 makes. Paul Millsap shot a perfect 12-for-12 from the line, Dwight shot 9-of-16 and THJ shot 5-for-5. Without free throws, the Hawks simply would not have won this game.
Dwight for three?
It took 55 games but we finally saw Dwight attempt what I believe was his first three-pointer of the season. And it probably ended as you would’ve expected…
This is kind similar to when you’re playing 2K, you’re just moving the ball around and you just shoot that open three before realising who’s actually taking it and I feel that’s what happened with Dennis Schröder when he fizzed that ball to Dwight in the corner. He knew a Hawk was in the corner but didn’t know which Hawk it was.
At least it hit the rim, right?
The Hawks (32-23) play their final game before the All-Star break on Wednesday night against the L.A. Clippers at Staples Center.