The Mavericks led 28-23 after the first quarter thanks to 50% shooting and were 6-for-6 from the three-point line prior to a last second miss from Shane Larkin. Jose Calderon went 3-for-3 in the opening frame but left with a right ankle injury in the third. The Mavs led 53-39 at the half, and the Hawks looked out of sorts at both ends of the floor.
Hawks vs. Mavericks
The Hawks got the lead down to nine early in the third, but Dallas pushed back and extended the lead to 17 with six minutes left in the quarter. After that, the Hawks trimmed the lead to 11 by the end of the third thanks to seven turnovers by the Mavericks, including a stretch of four straight Dallas possessions with a turnover. Paul Millsap‘s message to the team after the Mavs pushed the lead to 17 was simple.
“I told them to keep diggin. Keep diggin. They’ll let us back in it if we continue to fight, and anything’s possible. We’ve seen that through the last three minutes.”
In the fourth quarter, the Hawks continued to chip away at the Dallas lead as they raised their level of intensity on the defensive end and were more aggressive attacking the basket. The Hawks attempted 14 free throws in the fourth quarter and 24 in the second half, after having just six attempts in the first half. The Hawks struggled shooting from the perimeter all game, going just 3-of-15 from the three-point line, so getting looks inside and getting to the free throw line were paramount for the Hawks’ offense to be successful.
“The message had to say was ‘Compete.’ I think guys were tired of losing, tired of coming in the locker room after games with our heads down so guys just came out and competed.”
In picking up the defensive intensity, the Hawks were able to cool off the Mavericks shooters, as the Mavs went 3-for-18 from three-point range after their 6-for-6 start. Monta Ellis was held scoreless in the fourth quarter and finished with just 12 points on the game. The Hawks also began switching screens against Dirk Nowitzki, who had just three fourth quarter points, to give him a different look.
“He’s just such a good player, that I think that the more attached to him, the more connected you can stay to him the better,” Bud said. “And then they’ve got other good players playing pick-and-roll with him so sometimes you try to stay attached to him and everyone else becomes loose, but you just try anything that you can think of. I think the overall activity of the group no matter what we were doing in pick-and-rolls they were going to give us a good defensive quarter.”
“Nothing we were doing before that was working, so try something new, try something different and it worked out,” said Lou Williams. “We gambled and it worked.”
The Hawks cut the Mavs lead to four with just over three minutes to play, but were never able to fully close the gap until the very end. With 1:16 to play in the game and the Hawks still down four, Paul Millsap stepped up and knocked down a huge three-pointer to close the gap to 87-86.
“Dirk is so tall, he’s seven foot, that when I shot it I couldn’t see the basket. I just heard the fans go crazy, so that’s how I knew it went in.”
The Mavericks did not score in the final 3:27 of the game, and after a Nowitzki miss with 17 seconds to play, Al Horford finally put the Hawks on top with a 19-footer with 4.2 seconds left in the game. Coach Bud elected not to call timeout on that final play, and that decision proved to be a wise one.
“There are times in a game when you feel like you want to call a timeout and call a play and get something. The way we want to play and flow and push it and randomness, sometimes at the end of the game things that happen randomly are better than that you can draw.”
“Big players make big shots,” said Teague. “Paul stepped up and knocked down a three. Al, and he said, ‘Go.’ Me, I was like, I’m gonna try and get to the rim, but Monta Ellis grabbed my arm, so I just tried to sling it back to Al. When I saw him sizing him up I knew he was going to shoot it. So I was like, I’m going to attack the offensive boards, but it wasn’t needed.”
“That wasn’t how we planned it,” said Horford. “It was guts by Paul, he came down with a lot of confidence, stepped right in and shot it. Then on my play, Jeff was double-teamed so he kicked it to me. We’ve worked on that pick-and-pop so much over the years, me and Jeff. I feel comfortable taking that shot.”
Teague had a big game for the Hawks with 25 points, six assists, and two steals. Teague had 10 in the first half to lead the Hawks, and was aggressive in the fourth quarter with nine points in the final period to help the Hawks cut away at the Mavs lead. Teague and Horford discussed what allowed the Hawks to make that fourth quarter run to seize the victory.
“We switched up the defense. We were a little more aggressive on the on-ball screens, we did a little more switching on Dirk, that scrambled the game up a little bit. We just played a lot faster.”
“Our intensity by far,” said Horford. “I think our pick-and-roll coverage was pretty laid back. Coach switched it towards the end of the third. He wanted us to be more aggressive and get after them. When we did that our defense really picked up, our energy picked up and we got going.”
Four Hawks finished the game in double figures with Teague, Horford (17 points, 12 rebounds), Millsap (15 points, six rebounds), and Williams (12 points) in his first start of the season. DeMarre Carroll added nine points and 10 rebounds. The bench unit struggled to produce points with just 10 points combined, but Shelvin Mack played big minutes down the stretch and was excellent pressuring the ball on defense in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks improve to 9-8 with the win, and the Mavericks drop to 10-7. Atlanta will be back on the road tomorrow night in Washington to face the Wizards and John Wall.
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