48 minutes wasn’t enough on New Year’s Day.
The Atlanta Hawks have encounterd all kinds of trouble when trying to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in the recent past. On Sunday evening, the team managed to flip the script on 18 losses in 19 games, putting together a very strong performance and snatching a 114-112 overtime victory from the edge of defeat.
Though the first half was of a topsy-turvy nature, the lead never swelled to double figures in either direction. San Antonio came out of the gate flying in taking an 8-2 lead and, in contrast, the Hawks made just 2 of their first 11 shots. From there, Atlanta used an 11-0 spurt to begin the second quarter (13-0 overall) to grab the lead and it was a trio of three-pointers from Kyle Korver (twice) and Tim Hardaway Jr. that did the damage.
The Spurs were not ready to falter, however, as San Antonio immediately responded with a lengthy 18-6 spurt to reclaim the lead. That strong close to the half provided the visitors with a two-point halftime cushion but, for the most part, it was a positive effort from Atlanta before the break.
For the most part, the third quarter wasn’t terribly kind to the Hawks. The Spurs used quality defense to build a 9-0 run midway through the period, and that coincided with a stretch in which the Hawks went nearly six minutes of clock time without a field goal. Fortunately, Atlanta’s offense awakened in the final minute of the quarter with three long-range connections and that was enough to keep the Hawks within five with 12 minutes to play.
Two of those three-pointers came from the hand of Paul Millsap and the All-Star forward (who had an interesting day) scored 17 (!) straight points for the Hawks between the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters. When the individual onslaught was complete, the Hawks still trailed by a two-point margin at 82-80 but Millsap was fantastic in keeping Atlanta’s offense afloat.
The Hawks then claimed the lead on a 7-0 run punctuated by back-to-back buckets from Tim Hardaway Jr. with eight minutes remaining. That provided a legitimate eruption from the assembled crowd and all kinds of momentum heading into a timeout with the scoreboard reading 84-82.
On cue, the Spurs raced to six straight points to take the lead and San Antonio would hold the advantage most of the stretch run. Atlanta’s offense did its best to keep pace with every haymaker form the Spurs, though, and that ended up being significant. Paul Millsap scored with less than a minute remaining to slash the margin to 98-97, but after a (rare) stop on the other end, Dennis Schröder’s floater went begging with 10.7 seconds on the clock to present potential doom.
From there, the Spurs were able to inbound the ball to Kawhi Leonard, who knocked down two free throws to provide a three-point cushion to the visiting team. Tim Hardaway Jr. was then freed with a beautiful play call for a game-tying three and (somehow) a Kawhi Leonard jumper fell off the rim to present an overtime situation and some free basketball at Philips Arena.
Hardaway Jr. was not satisfied with the game-saving three, as he began the overtime with the first eight points for Atlanta and Dennis Schröder broke that streak with a lay-up to provide the Hawks with a 110-104 lead. In the spirit of “nothing easy”, that was not enough to put San Antonio away, as Kawhi Leonard connected on a guard three-pointer with 34.3 seconds remaining to tie the game at 112-112.
The Hawks were (somehow) able to put the game away from there, using a Tim Hardaway Jr. offensive rebound and free throw to claim a one-point lead. Then, Atlanta collected yet another board to send Schröder to line, where he made one of two, and the Spurs’ last-stitch effort did not come to fruition at the buzzer.
Individually, Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. were the story of the evening for the Hawks. Millsap finished with a season-high 32 points, including 27 in the second half, and 13 rebounds to lead the way to a near victory. In support, Hardaway Jr. (29 points, 11-13 FG, 6-7 3-PT) put together a supernova performance that included the game-tying shot and he tied a career-high in scoring in the process.
The Hawks now hit the road for four consecutive games, with the next contest coming Wednesday in Orlando. Stay tuned.