The late composer and lyricist, Irving Berlin, once said “The song is ended, but the melody lingers on…”. If that saying is true — and I believe it to be so — then the Atlanta Hawks’ melody still lingers, despite their unceremonious exit at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month. The Hawks made some sweet, sweet music (not love) this season, and that melody still lives on, even as we head into the summer.
In the second instalment of “Remembering the 2015-16 Hawks” — the mini series where we remember the good things about the Hawks season just passed — we’re going to look at the best individual performances of the season — the moments of magic that got us out of our seats. If you missed the first part, where we looked at the best games the Hawks played this season, you can check it out here.
Before we get cracking though, there’s a few honorable mentions to make note of. These are very noteworthy performances that didn’t make the final list — mainly because I don’t want this to drag on for nearly 3000 words when it doesn’t need to be that long — but deserved attention.
Shout out to Al Horford’s 30-14 game against the Rockets on December 29th, in one of the Hawks’ best wins of the season led by Horford and his five made threes. Shout out to Paul Millsap’s stat stuffer against the L.A. Clippers on March 5th: 20 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. And, finally, shout out to Jeff Teague’s 19 points, 14 assists (one turnover) performance against the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the second round of the playoffs.
Now that we have those out of the way…
Kyle Korver’s perfect night: November 6th @ New Orleans — 22 points, 8/8 from the field
Yes, yes… You knew this would be making an appearance among the best individual performances by a Hawk this season. Kyle Korver’s perfect shooting night (8-for-8 from the field, 4-for-4 from behind the arc, and 2-of-2 from the free throw line) stands out as one of the best shooting performances of the season amongst the entire NBA, not just amongst Hawks players.
This performance also brought about one of my favorite lines this season from Hawks play-by-play man, Bob Rathbun, who bellows “BOOK IT! HE’S EIGHT-FOR-EIGHT!” when Korver buries his eighth shot of the night. An incredible shooting night from an incredible shooter.
Jeff Teague, the closer: November 30th vs. OKC — Eight points in the final 2:13 (25 total)
In a duel against Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and the Thunder, the Hawks have blown a 16 point lead and the Thunder have gone on a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to lead 96-92 with 2:22 remaining in the game. The Hawks are in need of a hero, otherwise this game is lost and the Thunder will emerge from Philips Arena with a victory. Jeff Teague decides to take matters into his own hands, scoring eight points over the final 2:13 of the game to lead the Hawks to the 106-100 victory in a game that was in great danger of slipping away, with Russell Westbrook catching fire (17 points) in the fourth quarter and the Hawks held scoreless for over 3 minutes during that 10-0 run.
Teague, relentlessly, attacked the rim, and no defender had any answer for his quickness off of the dribble, nor an answer for his ability to finish at the cup.
Thanks to Teague’s late heroics, this is a game Hawks fans can look back upon as one of the best victories of the season.
“Just driving the ball. Just trying to make plays. I had been a little careless with the ball in the first half. In the second half, I made a conscious to attack more and get to the paint.” — Jeff Teague
Al Horford doing it all: January 9th vs. Chicago — 33 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, four blocks
There’s a minority out there — at least, I certainly hope it’s a minority — who would like management to move on from Al Horford, in favor of bringing in “someone who can actually rebound”, such as Hassan Whiteside or Bismack Biyombo, who is absolutely killing it for the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals right now.
Yes, those guys can rebound, and yes they’re probably better rebounders than Horford, but none of them can whip out the kind of performance that Al Horford did against the Bulls in early January, where he literally did everything to carry his team to victory. He poured out a season high 33 points, secured 10 rebounds, dished out six assists, and rejected four shot attempts.
Don’t get me wrong, Whiteside and Biyombo are good players, but none are able to make the all around impact that Al Horford can when he has it going. Post moves, a killer mid-range game, rebounding (when he’s in the paint), three-point shooting, passing, shot blocking/altering, and just excellent all around defense. Whiteside and Biyombo possess, at the very most three of these attributes, attributes that Al Horford has in abundance.
This game should’ve served as a reminder how much Horford means to the city of Atlanta, and how unique of a player he is. I hope it doesn’t take him leaving for some Hawks fans to realise this…
The Jeff Teague show: February 1st — 32 points, eight assists, five rebounds in 27 minutes
Have you ever looked a matchup — that you knew that was going to develop — and just licked your lips because you knew you were going to feast all over your opponent? I imagine that’s how Jeff Teague felt when he was matched up against J.J. Barea, in this early February fixture against the Mavericks. To put it bluntly, Teague roasted Barea, who just could not stay in front of Teague in any capacity.
Not off of the dribble…
Not with his size, or there lack of…
Until, eventually, Teague just started toying with Barea with the behind the back dribble move.
Those were six of the 32 points Jeff Teague scored (on 12-15 shooting) this night in a victory against the Mavericks at home, but Teague wasn’t just having success getting into the paint — he also enjoyed a career night from behind the arc, knocking five three-pointers (on 5-of-6 shooting) down the hatch.
Teague also dished out eight assists, amassing a very impressive stat line 32 points, eight assists, five rebounds, one steal in just 27 minutes of play.
Paul Millsap (effectively) sealing home court advantage: April 9th vs. Boston — 31 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, two steals, five blocks
In their third last game of the regular season, the Hawks had the opportunity to seal home court advantage with a win over playoff rivals Boston.
The Celtics took a 12 point lead in the third quarter, and things were not looking good for the Hawks as this must win game was in danger of slipping away from them. But Paul Millsap put the Hawks on his back and led the comeback charge with crucial baskets: One to stop the initial Boston run and cut the lead to 10, a three (one of his five made threes) to cut the lead to just four points, a banked three to tie the game at 91 all, and another score — off of an immediate Schröder steal following Millsap’s banked three — to take the lead.
In total, Millsap scored 31 points, secured 16 rebounds, and blocked five shots as the Hawks recovered from that 12 point deficit to secure home court advantage with the 118-107 victory.
The Celtics had no answer for Millsap’s repetoire of offensive moves, but would make sure he wouldn’t have the same success when the two sides faced in the first round of the playoffs. That was until…
Paul Millsap’s career night: Game 4 @ Boston — 45 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals, four blocks
Millsap was only averaging 8.6 points through the first three games of the Hawks’ first round series against the Celtics, but ended his personal offensive struggles in a mighty way by scoring a playoff career high 45 points on 19-of-31 shooting — the most points registered by a Hawk in the postseason since Dominique Wilkins’ 47 points in Game 7 of the 1988 Eastern Conference Semi Finals against Larry Bird’s Celtics.
Unfortunately, as amazing as this performance was, Millsap was the only Hawk that turned up on the offensive end in Game 4. While Millsap shot 19-of-31, the rest of the team shot 18-of-69, and the Celtics won the game in overtime. It’s such a damn shame the Hawks weren’t able to come up with a win — to score 45 points and win the game, in Boston no less, that would’ve put the Hawks up 3-1 with the chance to close out the series at home… That would’ve been so magical but, alas, it was not to be.
Make no mistake, though, this was the best individual game of any Hawk this season. I know I said these weren’t ranked but, come on, this is clearly the best individual performance of the season. And despite the loss, this game, I really feel, finally put Millsap on the map as one of the best forwards in this entire league, receiving the national attention he deserves but doesn’t necessarily get playing in Atlanta.
So there we have it — the best individual performances of the Hawks’ season. I’m sure there’ll be some Dennis Schröder fans who I’ve maddened by not including a performance or two of his in this piece, but oh well… Maybe next year, Dennis Schröder fans.