What a win.
At halftime, the Atlanta Hawks looked to be dead in the water. The Milwaukee Bucks finished the second quarter with a flurry to claim a 64-44 lead at the break and, with the way that Atlanta has been playing in the recent past, there was little reason for optimism. However, the Hawks made a heroic comeback down the stretch on the road and, in the end, it was enough to steal a four-point victory by the final score of 114-110.
Dennis Schröder was the star of the evening offensively, scoring a career-high 33 points on 12 of 19 shooting, including a 4 of 7 clip from three-point range. Milwaukee’s defensive scheme shifted in order to stop Atlanta’s point guard after a 17-point first quarter explosion, and that proved to be hugely significant in opening up the offense for the rest of the team.
Prior to halftime, the Hawks struggled mightily on the offensive end, scoring at a clip of 81.6 points per 100 possessions and squandering meaningful opportunities. In the second half, though, Atlanta was on fire and that led to 70 points over a 24-minute span.
The Hawks set the season-high with 40 points in the third period, including eight three-pointers, and it was Schröder at the center of it all. To be fair, Paul Millsap added a very Paul Millsap-like line of 23 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks in the game, but Milwaukee’s extra attention on Schröder was critical and players like Muscala (11 points, 3 of 3 from three) were also crucial.
The biggest shot of the game arrived from Tim Hardaway Jr. in the closing seconds, as Atlanta needed to seal the victory with a bucket. Dwight Howard kicked out to Hardaway Jr. for what became a lightning quick release from beyond the arc, and while he struggled from the floor (6 of 17), Hardaway Jr. converted when it mattered most.
On a night when Giannis Antetokounmpo played potentially the worst game of the season and Dennis Schröder played one of his best, the Hawks still had to dig out of a massive hole. On the bright side, though, Atlanta was able to do just that. It was not a perfect performance by any means, but there were offensive signs of life in shot creation and ball movement and, in crunch time, the defense (headlined by Thabo Sefolosha) performed yeoman’s work.
The Hawks will have an opportunity to create an old-fashioned winning streak on Tuesday against the Orlando Magic, but until then, Mike Budenholzer’s team can cherish what feels like it could be an important victory. Stay tuned.