Hawks owe Warriors thank you after Calderon stepped up big in Game 4

Jose Calderon of the Atlanta Hawks drives to the basket past John Wall of the Washington Wizards along the baseline during the second quarter against the Washington Wizards in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 24, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

Combined ShapeCaption
Jose Calderon of the Atlanta Hawks drives to the basket past John Wall of the Washington Wizards along the baseline during the second quarter against the Washington Wizards in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 24, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The letter may already be in the mail.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer joked he might need to send a thank-you note to the Warriors for the circumstances that landed Jose Calderon in Atlanta. In the most poignant moments of the veteran point guard’s eight weeks with the team, Calderon provided a spark and quality minutes in the Hawks’ 111-101 win over the Wizards in Monday night’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

The Hawks evened the series, 2-2, with Game 5 scheduled at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

“We feel fortunate that Jose considered us and chose us,” Budenholzer said. “Sports are like that. You have to be a little bit lucky whether it’s in a game or picking up a veteran like Jose.”

Calderon was bought out and then waived by the Lakers in February. He signed with the Warriors on March 1 but was waived the next day when Kevin Durant was injured. His next stop was the Hawks, where Calderon has stepped into the backup point guard spot behind Dennis Schroder.

His services were required in Game 4 when Schroder had to exit with three first-quarter fouls. Despite picking up three quick fouls and a technical of his own, Calderon led the Hawks’ comeback from a nine-point deficit with a 31-15 second-quarter rally. The Hawks took the lead in the period and never trailed again despite several ties.

“It happens sometimes, with emotions, you try to change the pace of the game,” Calderon said. “That’s what I was trying to do. Maybe a little bit too much. You try to do whatever you can to change the pace. I thought that was the way (Monday night).”

In the second quarter, Calderon played 10:58 and had eight points, four assists and was a plus-22. For the game, he played 20:01 and finished with 10 points and five assists and was a plus-29. He got his teammates and the Philips Arena crowd excited with several big baskets and a couple of bumping incidents with the Wizards’ Brandon Jennings.

“Jose gives us an edge,” forward Paul Millsap said. “He’s got a little spice to him. When he brings that intensity from a veteran position, he knows how to play basketball the right way.”

The 36-year-old Calderon said he is getting more comfortable with his new teammates. That is what has allowed him to pump his fist and yell after a good play. The Philips Arena crowd quickly adopted Calderon and chants of “Jose, Jose, Jose” have been raised in both Games 3 and 4 of the series.

“That’s who I am but it takes time,” Calderon said of his fiery play. “At the end of the day, you have to feel comfortable with what they like to do and how they like to do things on the court. That’s why I think every game is a little bit easier for me just because I know them a little more. … Feeling more comfortable is showing a little bit more of myself out there.”

Calderon has appeared in all four playoff games. In 49 minutes, he has totaled 18 points, 10 assists and two steals.

Due to his foul trouble, Schroder didn’t score his first points of the game until 6:35 remained in the third quarter. He finished with 18 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. But Calderon filled in admirably.

Calderon is not known for his defensive prowess but he wasn’t backing down Monday. There were times when he had to guard Bradley Beal. For a time, the 6-foot-3 Calderon had to guard the 6-8 Bojan Bogdanovic.

“I’ve got no problem,” Calderon said of the defensive matchups. “They were trying to go into the post with Bogdanovic. He missed a couple. He made another one. That’s going to happen. I’m OK. I’m going to fight until the end. There are a lot of good players out there. I can compete against anybody.”