Paul Millsap sank a one-handed running shot with 15.7 seconds remaining to put the Hawks up 101-97 and Atlanta (9-5) was able to hang onto the lead against the Sacramento Kings (4-8) in what felt like a must-win game for both teams. Millsap’s 23 points (9-for-19), 16 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks were just enough to stop the bleeding for his shorthanded team, which had lost three straight, in a 103-97 win at Philips Arena.
“Paul really stood out,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer during the postgame media availability. “I think our focus, our attention to detail was closer to where we need it to be. It’s good to get a win. I think we obviously needed that.”
Sacramento has been facing issues of their own, evident during several moments of on-court bickering in the third quarter between DeMarcus Cousins (24 points, 12 rebounds), Rudy Gay (14 points, six rebounds) and Rajon Rondo, who recorded a triple-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. The Kings still managed to outscore Atlanta 27-19 during that period and entered the final quarter down only 81-79.
The Hawks looked like they were going to finally run away with a game when they started the fourth quarter strong. Seven different players (including four guys off the bench) scored en route to a 99-88 lead with 2:49 to play. Sacramento made it interesting, however, by capitalizing on a couple of Atlanta turnovers and cutting the Hawks’ lead to two on a 9-0 run, capped off by a 3-pointer by Darren Collison (seven points, five assists) with 36 seconds left in the game. Millsap’s basket made it a two-possession game. Thabo Sefolosha was fouled after blocking Rondo’s shot and his free throws in the final seconds gave the Hawks the final margin.
“We’ve got a group that’s very prideful,” said Budenholzer. “We’ve had a poor week for us. So I think at some point they take it upon themselves. It’s a credit to them.”
The Hawks have definitely missed Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore, both out with ankle injuries. Dennis Schröder and Justin Holiday started in their places, and it once again took Atlanta a while to find a groove. Cousins scored 13 first-quarter points, giving Sacramento a 30-27 lead early on. But for perhaps the first time in this young season, Atlanta fans were treated to some vintage (and by vintage, I mean January of this year) Hawks offense during the second quarter. Dennis scored 11 of his 22 points during this time. Shelvin Mack (six points, four rebounds) dished out three of his five assists in just over four minutes. Al Horford (17 points, 6-of-15) and Kyle Korver (eight points on 3-of-5 and a game-high plus-11 overall) both finished the quarter plus-15.
Lamar Patterson looked competent and comfortable in his 25 minutes. Though his final numbers (nine points on 3-of-7, five rebounds, two assists) weren’t particularly flashy, he saw the bulk of his minutes during the second and fourth quarters, by FAR Atlanta’s strongest offensive stretches of the game. The Hawks outscored the Kings 35-22 in the second and Patterson was plus-8 during his 7:43 on the court, despite not attempting a single field goal.
Coach Bud clearly recognized how well the team played with Patterson out there, and I asked him how Patterson was able to have such a strong impact without actually scoring any points.
“Lamar is somebody that has such a high basketball IQ,” said Budenholzer. “He makes the right pass. When a guy needs the ball, he gets it to him. He plays with a lot of confidence so when he’s open he shoots it. When he needs to pass it, he passes it. I thought he got after it defensively.”
Budenholzer acknowledged that Patterson’s multi-faceted abilities make him a good fit with the Hawks.
“He knows how to play basketball,” said Budenholzer. “So that showed during that stretch and really I thought all night he was good.”
Atlanta closed the first half on an 11-0 run that reminded fans and critics alike what this team is capable of when they’re playing their style of basketball. The Hawks get two much-needed days of rest before traveling to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers Saturday at 7:30 PM EST.