The Atlanta Hawks put up a strong fight in a 114-109 match-up with reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors on March 2.
Highlights from the game included a career-high 29-point scoring effort from Hawks shooting guard Kent Bazemore and a standout offensive performance from point guard Dennis Schroder, who finished with 27 points and nine assists. As good as Bazemore and Schroder were, the Dubs stayed true to their nickname as they left Atlanta with yet another win despite Curry’s ankle injury in the first quarter.
The Warriors entered the matchup boasting a 48-14 record, while the Hawks held a meager 19-43 record. Sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference, they trail only the Memphis Grizzlies for the league’s worst record.
Atlanta started off strong in the first quarter, thanks to two quick three-pointers from small forward Taurean Prince. Prince built on his recent five-game string of solid performances in which he has posted averages of 15.6 points per game.
But a few key turnovers mid-quarter allowed the Warriors to get in transition and regain control of the game. Curry and Durant combined for 18 of Golden State’s first 25 points in the quarter en route to taking a 33-31 lead.
Although Curry suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter, he returned later in the second quarter before leaving the game for good in the second half. During Curry’s absence in the second quarter, shooting guard Nick Young filled the offensive void, starting a 10-0 run with eight points and an assist during the stretch.
“When you lose one of the best players in the league, it has an impact on the game,” Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Hopefully, we put [Curry] through the grinder, but [the Warriors] had guys step up and make plays. Nick Young killed us in the first half.”
With a 62-50 lead at the half, Golden State dazzled with superior ball movement, holding a 22-10 assist margin over Atlanta.
Despite the Warriors’ seeming omnipotence, the Hawks persisted, staying in the game in part due to a tremendous second-half display from Bazemore on both ends of the floor.
“Bazemore was great,” Budenholzer said. “There were a couple times where we were down 10-12 or more, and he made big plays and defended really well against [Golden State shooting guard] Klay [Thompson].”
Bazemore’s career high scoring performance was spectacular considering he was competing against several of his former teammates. His previous stint with the Warriors only improved his attack. Bazemore mentioned his special connection with Thompson.
“It’s kind of a like a secret rivalry that we still have,” Bazemore said. “Klay and I, he was one of the first guys that I started guarding [in practice]. He’s gotten so much better and has taken tremendous steps [in his game].”
Another saving grace for the Hawks was their ability to force turnovers. Coming into the game, the team led the NBA in turnovers forced with 16 per game. Atlanta has also scored 18.6 points per game off turnovers, good for No. 2 in the NBA.
“[The Warriors] are hard to guard, but we were really engaged defensively,” Budenholzer said. “The turnovers ignited our pace.”
An unbelievable buzzer beater shot from Schroder just in front of half court capped off the third quarter. The miraculous shot cut Golden State’s lead down to six, 90-84, going into the fourth quarter.
In the final quarter, the Warriors’ dominant ball movement gave them easy looks to maintain a lead. To make matters worse, Golden State gave Atlanta a taste of its own medicine as the reigning champs forced numerous turnovers.
Despite the setbacks, the Hawks hung around due to the scoring efforts from Bazemore and Schroder, who both consistently created offense. Bazemore achieved a career high 29 points in the game, while Schroder produced an impressive stat line of 27 points and nine assists.
Down the stretch, Schroder stayed aggressive and cut the lead to two after obtaining a foul off a three-pointer attempt, while also converting all three free throws in the game.
When it mattered most in crunch time, Warriors small forward Andre Iguodala made a huge steal when the Hawks were looking for a game-tying shot with 15 seconds left. Iguodala dunked the ball on the other end which iced the game for the Warriors, who pulled out a 114-109 victory in what turned out to be a much more thrilling contest than expected.
“[The game was] a great effort from our guys,” Budenholzer said. “We felt like we got better as the game went on. There were still mistakes in the first half but we got better and better as the game went on.”
The Hawks bounced back at home March 4 in a tight 113-112 win over the Phoenix Suns before dropping their next contest on the road March 6 against the East-leading Toronto Raptors, 106-90. Atlanta’s road trip will continue March 9 when the team travels to Indiana for a meeting with 2018 Most Improved Player candidate Victor Oladipo and the Pacers.