The Atlanta Hawks entered play on Friday night looking to ride the coattails of their recent successes. In winning 11 of their last 14 games, the Hawks have exemplified the type of play that earned them first place in the Eastern Conference last year: utilizing the offensive and defensive skill sets of the best power-forward and center duo in the league, Paul Millsap and Al Horford; forcing turnovers without gambling or getting into foul trouble; and passing efficiently along the perimeter, leading to the catch-and-shoot jumpshots in which they lead the league in makes.
The Hawks were able to show off those skill sets on Friday night. They beat the 30-42 Milwaukee Bucks 101-90.
In a game that was a little too close for comfort, the Hawks prevailed, never giving up the lead after the 10:10 mark of the first quarter. Their play was erratic at times, but the team did enough to squeak out a win against a foe they hadn’t beaten all season.
“[The Bucks] are a tough matchup for everybody,” Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Their young wings, [Giannis] Antetokounmpo and [Jabari] Parker, are hard to match up with. Defensively, they give us trouble. To win a game when we don’t shoot the three-ball that well [is due to] a lot of positives.”
The game was played with flair and intensity. While Milwaukee was able to execute their fair share of emphatic dunks and put back tomahawks, Mike Scott (nine points, two steals), Tim Hardaway, Jr. (seven points) and Horford (14 points, eight rebounds, three assists) had highlight reel dunks of their own. The atmosphere at Philips Arena improved as the game progressed, and after Scott’s ardent dunk with 7:41 left in the second quarter, the crowd erupted with praise. It was a playoff-like atmosphere from then on. As the Hawks’ season starts to draw to a close, and the playoffs loom on the horizon, the crowd has shown much more zeal.
“The crowd was great; the energy was great tonight,” Horford said.
Jeff Teague had two clutch three-point plays to ensure the Hawks’ victory in the fourth quarter. Teague finished with 18 points and six assists.
With nine games left to play in the regular season, the Hawks hope to ride their current wave of momentum. The Hawks have gone through periodic waves of offensive consistency throughout the season, so Budenholzer and the Hawks can only hope that this wave will continue well into the playoffs. The Hawks’ magic number is at four.
The Hawks will embark on a three-game road trip when they travel to Detroit, Mich. tomorrow, March 26, to face off against the Detroit Pistons.