Hawks have themselves a record 3-point day - and need it

Shhhh, y'all: Teammate Kevin Huerter holds up the appropriate number of fingers. And Hawks guard Bogan Bogdanovic tells the crowd in Philadelphia to quiet down after hitting his 3-pointer in the final minute Sunday in their playoff series opening victory over the 76ers.
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Shhhh, y'all: Teammate Kevin Huerter holds up the appropriate number of fingers. And Hawks guard Bogan Bogdanovic tells the crowd in Philadelphia to quiet down after hitting his 3-pointer in the final minute Sunday in their playoff series opening victory over the 76ers.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

The news flash that the Hawks had set a team record for made 3s in a playoff game Sunday – 20 – caught the authors a little by surprise. Scoring in bulk from distance is rather a business-as-usual task by this stage.

“Really?” said John Collins, who contributed three of total on four shots behind the arc. “I’m happy about that – the more shots the merrier for me. I’m happy I could chime in on that. I feel all of our shooters had solid nights. That’s just the benefit of having so many guys who can really shoot the ball and having a guy like Ice (Trae Young) who can find them.”

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“We needed every one today,” said Kevin Huerter, 3-of-6 from out there. No kidding. Rolling up as much as a 26-point lead in the first half, the Hawks clung to this one with their last talon, eeking out a 128-124 victory over Philadelphia in Game One of their second-round series.

“We take care of business, we probably don’t need a couple there near the end of the game,” Huerter added. “That’s what we do. We have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball. We get the ball moving side to side, don’t take the first shot always on possessions then we’re a team capable of hitting 20 a game. . .I hope we don’t need to hit 20 moving forward in the series, but when you shoot like that you give yourself a pretty good chance to win.”

The search for the winning margin in the stat sheet Sunday shows the Hawks doing the better work behind two lines – 3-point and free throw. The Hawks were 20-of-47 from 3, while the 76ers were just 10-of-29. The Hawks also made 20 of their 21 free throw attempts. Philadelphia got to the line more but missed too many for that to make a real difference, going 24-of-35.

In the chaos of the closing minutes, with Philadelphia turning the defensive vice and the Hawks lead shrinking to almost nothing, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Collins chipped in the biggest shots under the biggest pressure.

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The Hawks 20th 3 belonged to Bogdanovic, a clear look from the top of the arc with 41.4 seconds left that gave the Hawks a 121-115 cushion. “That was huge,” Huerter said. “He’s a big shot-maker. He’s been doing that all year. He kind of bailed us all out when they had all the momentum.”

Fouled on a breakaway – a clear-path foul – with the Hawks up by 3 with 23.2 seconds left, Collins had the entire lane to himself as he lined a pair of free throws. He drilled them both. “My heart wasn’t beating at all, well, it wasn’t going too crazy,” he said, correcting himself and concluding that some heartbeat was still required. “I was able to lock in and focus, make my shots, just think about seeing the ball through the rim.”

And finally, it was Bogdanovic, just moments after turning over the ball on a double-team swarm and allowing a Sixers basket that got them back to within three, who calmly hit two free throws with 8.9 seconds left and made everything OK.

So pleased was he that Bogdanovic for the second time in the game broke out a finger-to-the-lips hush message to the Philly crowd after those makes. Although he sounded none to impressed with himself afterward.

“I almost stick the finger in my nose – the nose is so big,” he laughed.

The surest thing about Sunday seemed to be Bogdanovic at the line. “He’s able to calm himself down and block out the situation and just focus and step up and knock down those free throws,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “I think Bogey is a clutch shooter.”

Free throw shooting may play large in this series, between the Hawks success there and one very significant hole for Philly. Ben Simmons does so much well on the floor, from defending to swooping majestically to the rim. But he is sorely troubled at the line. So troubled that he has become a target for teams looking to intentionally foul him and get back a possession. He was 3-of-10 from the line Sunday.

That’s a them problem. The Hawks have the comfort of a confident touch at the free throw line. “We got a lot of guys who can shoot the ball and we have a lot of guys who should be really good free throw shooters,” Huerter said.

Making a lot of 3s guarantees nothing. The Hawks previous team record of 16 came during a 13-point loss to Cleveland in 2016. And taking the wrong kind of 3s can backfire badly. “There are certain 3s that we want, and we feel we can get if we move the ball. I thought we started to settle and take some quick 3s that were contested in that second half, which allowed them to get out in transition,” noted McMillan. The Hawks were 7 of 24 on their 3s in the second half (29%) compared to 13 of 23 in the first (57%).

Still, Philadelphia discovered Sunday what Collins told the world about his guys afterward: “Everybody can space and shoot free throws and create. And that’s very dangerous.”