The Hawks turned in their worst offensive quarter of the season Friday, and yet they might have crafted as powerful a message as in any game yet this fall.
It wasn’t just the barrage of 3-pointers that Paul Millsap and his teammates unleashed while he scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half, it was where the Hawks came from to win their ninth straight game.
Tied at 40 at halftime after one of the most dreadful spells of basketball Philips Arena has hosted in a while, the Hawks (16-6) remained in the tank into which they fell while scoring a season-low 11 points in the second period on 4-of-22 shooting. That included seven clanks in as many tries from the 3-point arc. Orlando scored 14 points in the quarter on 5-for-22 shooting.
Then, the Magic (9-16) blitzed to a 57-45 lead over the first half of the third quarter, and it was easy to think that this might the the clunker the Hawks were due after winning more consecutive games than since opening with 11 straight wins in 1997-‘98.
Instead, after making just 1-of-13 3-point shots in the first half, Atlanta drilled 8-of-16 after halftime, and closed the quarter with a 19-7 run to tie it up.
Ultimately, they pulled a win from the abyss.
“You know coaches: we rarely like to give positives, but I do think for us to shoot the way we did and be in a little bit of a funk … but when you can win games like this, it’s good,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said.“You don’t want to just depend on making shots, or depend on your offense. You’ve got to be able to win some ugly games.”
This was anything but a standard victory.
The Magic were missing talented center Nikola Vucevic, yet Atlanta was outscored 26-24 in the paint. The Hawks were out of sync, especially while shooting just 18.2 percent in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, there was more of the same until Millsap and his teammates woke up.
While putting together a 19-7 run to close the period and tie the game again at 64, Millsap made a pair of threes, and DeMarre Carroll (12 points) and Al Horford (17 points, eight rebounds) added one each.
Reserve point guard Dennis Schroder struggled with his shot, making just 1-of-7 on a night when the bench went 4-for-18, but when he drove from the top of the lane and fired to Horford in the right corner, and Al made a long ball with 39 second left in the period, Atlanta had worked its way back to even.
Atlanta was outrebounded 46-42, shot just 37.2 percent, and Kyle Korver was limited to six points as Orlando’s Evan Fournier (18 points) was glued to him most of the night.
Yet the Hawks found ways to win. Korver had three of Atlanta’s 12 steals, Teague and Schroder added two each, and those two tied each other with a game-high five assists as the Hawks assisted on 24 of 29 baskets made.
The Hawks outscored the Magic 18-10 off turnovers, cashing in those steals and limiting Orlando to 39 percent shooting.
After trailing briefly at the beginning of the final period, Atlanta rode Teague late. He scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.
“We needed a game like this where things weren’t falling on the offensive end,” Teague said. “We had to pick it up defensively … We changed our scheme, and got more aggressive and active.”