Five observations from the Hawks’ dramatic 126-125 overtime victory over the Cavaliers in which they erased a 26-point fourth-quarter deficit Sunday.
1. The Hawks made history. They became the third team ever to come back from at least 26 points entering the fourth quarter to win a game. The others were the Lakers, who trailed the Mavericks 88-61 in 2002, and the Bucks, who trailed the Hawks 104-76 in 1997.
The Hawks trailed 93-67 entering the fourth quarter. They outscored the Cavaliers 44-18 in the period and tied the game when Paul Millsap beat the buzzer on a baseline fade-away after Mike Muscala controlled a jump ball.
“We were down 26 and a lot of the fans were leaving,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “We just said to ourselves in the timeouts and huddles that we are all we got. Go out and play for each other. Play for the city. Play for the fans that are staying here. And we came out with the win.”
The Hawks used a 14-6 run in overtime to take a four-point lead, 126-122, after the Cavaliers scored the first five points of the extra period. Millsap scored nine points in the fourth quarter and five points in the overtime.
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2. Mike Muscala hit two huge corner 3-pointers for the Hawks. His first came with 52 seconds remaining in regulation, on a drive-and-kick assist from Malcom Delaney, which cut the Hawks’ deficit to 109-105. The second, on a drive-and-kick assist from Hardaway, came with 35 seconds left in overtime and gave the Hawks the lead for good at 121-120.
“Tim did a good job of driving and keeping his head up and hit me with a good pass,” Muscala said.
Hardaway said he knew Muscala would be an option when he drove the lane.
“Going down the lane and (Kevin) Love came over,” Hardaway said. “They were shifting off (Muscala) the whole entire game. He was my outlet. Everybody was telling him to be ready and he knocked it down.”
3. On the ensuing possession, Kent Bazemore stepped in front of a Richard Jefferson pass intended for Kyrie Irving and raced in for a layup to cap the steal. It game the Hawks a three-point advantage with 24 seconds left.
“Kyrie was getting a little tired,” Bazemore said. “LeBron (James) went out (fouls) and he had to shoulder the load. I just wanted to make him walk it up the floor, take his legs out from under him and make him drive. Those little nuances you try to do as players. Richard (Jefferson) led him a little too far and I was able to jump it. I almost smoked the layup. I looked back to see where he was and the ball’s not there. That was a heck of a play. That’s why they brought me back, to guard the best player and makes plays.”
4. Muscala and Bazemore were integral parts of a key play in the final seconds that set up Millsap’s game-tying shot. After an inbounds pass, Bazemore and Millsap tied up Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers tried to call time out but the officials ruled a jump ball instead.
Millsap wanted it but Bazemore took the jump.
“I wanted to jump,” Millsap said. “He wanted to jump. He told me go and get back. The referee told him to get in there. I was a little mad about that. (Muscala) did a great job on the play of not giving up on it. The ball just found me. I picked it up and made the shot.
It was Muscala who got the loose ball and found Millsap with the pass for the final basket of regulation.
“The ball, they both kind of whiffed on it,” Muscala said. “The ball fell to the ground and Kyrie didn’t want to touch it because he thought it was going to be a violation. I could be wrong but it was moving fast. I saw it. I was kind of being held but I dove on it and got it to Paul. It was a weird play but Paul made a great shot.”
5. The Hawks have just defeated the Celtics and the Cavaliers twice in the past three games. They are the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
You can credit the bench players for the victories.
The Hawks won at the Cavaliers 114-100 on Friday with all five starters out. They won on Sunday with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard not playing all of the fourth quarter and overtime.
“It’s probably the second best game I’ve seen by the Hawks,” Millsap said of Sunday’s win. “The first being the other night against Cleveland and what our reserves did. Give them all the credit. They did it again tonight. They did a great job of coming in and playing basketball the way we want to play basketball.”
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said he let his bench finish what they started in the comeback.
“A lot of it is just gut feel,” Budenholzer said. “(Schroder and Howard) both got their normal sub in the third quarter. They both played a lot in the third quarter. We didn’t finish the third quarter great. But we were able to get a roll going at the start of the fourth. That group was playing well.”