Shelvin Mack had sat out the past two games because of the Hawks’ superb depth at point guard with Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder. With Teague on the sidelines due to a hamstring strain, Mack had an opportunity to make an impact on Wednesday night against LeBron and the Cavaliers.
And boy did he do just that.
Mack scored a career-high 24 points off the bench, including 17 points and a 5-for-5 performance from 3 in the second quarter that swung the game in the Hawks’ favor. After trailing by 12 in the second, the Hawks rallied to take a 65-60 lead into halftime. Mack’s play translated to the rest of the Hawks in the second half, as Atlanta outscored Cleveland 62-38 in the final 24 minutes to give the Hawks a 127-98 victory.
The Hawks took control in the third quarter by continuously running plays targeting Kevin Love on defense. Paul Millsap and Al Horford accounted for seven straight Atlanta field goals in a span where the Hawks expanded their lead to double-digits. Horford finished with 20 points and four assists, while Millsap tallied 14 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
Schröder made his first career start in Teague’s absence and responded with his first career double-double: 10 points and 10 assists with only one turnover. Schröder masterfully ran the Hawks’ offense, consistently getting his teammates open shot attempts. He also made a bit of a highlight play when he finished a transition layup over LeBron James.
Mike Scott played some poor defense per the usual, but he more that made up for it on the offensive end. Scott scored 15 points on just seven shots, including this “28-foot jumper” to beat the halftime buzzer:
I’m still not sure how they put that one in the book as 28-feet, but it was worth three points nonetheless.
After having his ankles broken on a drive by LeBron James, Thabo Sefolosha was essentially benched in favor of Kent Bazemore. Sefolosha, who has usually been an effective defensive player this season, was trying to do too much with James, with his constant over-reaching leading to easy buckets at the rim for Cleveland. Bazemore proved to be more effective, and he wound up nine points, four rebounds, four assists, and two blocks with a plus-23 rating in 20 minutes.
The Hawks 127-point outburst accounted for several season highs, including points, field goal percentage (64.5%), made 3-pointers (16), and assists (36). Not only was this win crucial for the Hawks maintaining their control on the Eastern Conference’s third seed, but it also helped validate their 18-7 start. After a rapid start thanks to a soft schedule, back-to-back wins over Chicago and Cleveland gives the Hawks some better credentials when compared to the top teams in the league.
The Hawks have two more games left on this road trip in Houston and Dallas. They will then return to Philips Arena on December 23rd for a matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers to end what is easily the Hawks’ hardest five game stretch of their young season.