The Hawks allowed the Magic to score 31 points in the opening quarter, showing signs that Atlanta’s prolonged defensive slump may still be alive and result in the team’s first four-game losing streak of the year.
Thankfully for the Atlanta fans, the Hawks’ defense finally showed up in the second half, as Orlando was held to just 31 points over the final 24 minutes of the game as Atlanta cruised to a 95-83 victory.
Paul Millsap finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and four blocks in leading the Hawks to the win. Millsap’s play was extremely vital in the first half when the Hawks were struggling; the power forward had 18 points and eight rebounds in that half alone, which helped keep the Hawks within five points when the buzzer sounded to end the second quarter.
In the third quarter, the Hawks’ defense really started getting the Magic’s offense out of rhythm by forcing bad shots. Orlando became so frustrated that they started taking almost any shot they could get, which resulted in 3-point attempts early in the shot clock by shooters who probably are not suited to take those attempts. However, thanks to some good defense of their own, the Magic maintained a three-point lead heading into the final period.
After Dennis Schroder hit a 3 to open the period and tie the game, Orlando went on a 7-0 run and things were looking bleak for the Hawks. However, the offense that the Hawks have been winning games off of all season finally showed up in the fourth quarter, as Atlanta got the ball moving, created open shots, and connected on those opportunities to open up a 24-3 run that finally buried the Magic.
Jeff Teague, who rolled his ankle earlier in the game, was huge in the final quarter, scoring nine points and dishing out five assists to lead the Hawks. Teague had been struggling over the last few games, but the rebounded with a 16-point, nine-assist night over Orlando to help end the Hawks’ three-game losing streak.
After returning on Sunday with a mask to protect the broken nose, Kyle Korver finally had enough of the impediment on Wednesday night. Korver shed the mask in the second quarter, but it’s hard to tell how much it changed how he played; Korver scored six points on two 3s before ditching the mask and scored seven points afterwards.
Thabo Sefolosha finally returned to the Hawks’ rotation after missing nearly two months with a calf injury and his play was not much to write home about. Sefolosha (or Thabolosha as Dominique called him once during the broadcast) played seven minutes and missed his only shot attempt on the night. It will be interesting to see if he can be worked back into the form he was in before his injury over the next 11 games.
While the Hawks may have struggled for a while in this game, it is encouraging to see how they played in the second half. Orlando is obviously an inferior team and Atlanta executed like so at the end of the game. It will be interesting to see if the Hawks can continue this play on Friday night when they face the Miami Heat — a tougher test than the Magic — within the friendly confines of Philips Arena.