Trying to start the new year in winning fashion the way they left 2013, the Atlanta Hawks (18-15) lost control of a 15-point lead, falling to the visiting Golden State Warriors (22-13) at the buzzer.
Looking to extend their home winning streak to six games, the Hawks played host to probably the most dangerous team in the NBA Friday evening.
The Warriors would drop 123 against the two-time reigning NBA champions, Miami Heat, Thursday to extend their win streak to seven games, remaining undefeated on their recent road trip.
Although led by sharp-shooting point guard Stephen Curry, it has been their defense that has shined during the streak.
“Defensively, they’re very underrated,” Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “You have to give them some credit, I think they had some tough shots and we had some turnovers that led to baskets.
“That’s where we need to improve, our execution, taking care of the ball, and finishing a game in the fourth quarter.”
The very first shot of the game would be a three pointer by Warriors guard Klay Thompson, signifying the shootout to come within the very physical first quarter.
Seven shots total would be made from both teams outside the arc in the quarter, including one from Hawks guard Kyle Korver, who barely extended his NBA-record streak of consecutive games with a three-point field goal after going 1 for 6 in Wednesday’s win against Boston.
Korver’s record now stands at 102 games.
Two of the highest scoring teams in the NBA were even at 46 a piece at the half at Philips Arena.
Known for their defensive prowess, the Golden State offense could not hold their end of the bargain upon the start of the second half.
The Warriors committed nine turnovers that converted into eight Atlanta points. It would be forward David Lee’s 10 points that kept the game remotely close.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Hawks were on cruise control as Golden State started to show signs of jet lag.
Out of nowhere, a 15-point Atlanta lead slimmed down to seven with 5:26 left.
Sloppy turnovers by the Hawks would give the Warriors back the lead, 96-95, in the final two minutes. The teams traded baskets and with 3.2 seconds left on the clock, Atlanta looked to keep their 100-98 advantage, only to have it snatched away by the Warriors.
All eyes were on Stephen Curry for the final play, but after being double-teamed, all that left was guard Andre Iguodala open for the 26-foot three-point jumper.
“We didn’t want to give them a three and we didn’t want to foul them,” Korver said. “We wanted to get in front of them and make them shoot a tough shot. We should have won that game, no doubt, and we know it.”
Golden State’s all-star point guard, Curry, was a far cry from his eight three-pointer performance in Miami, with an off night, but still finished with 22 points.
“[Curry] was able to get his teammates involved, that’s what great players do,” Hawks guard Shelvin Mack told ADW. “They’re not just good, they make the players around them better. He was able to do that tonight.”
Mack, who had a good offensive night off the bench, finished with 15 points.
Millsap has become the interior focal point for the Hawks after losing center Al Horford for the season, but the Warriors defense left him unsuccessful as he tried to continue to dominate the paint, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Rumors have been circulating around the Hawks locker room as the organization faces the possibility of roster changes since lacking the presence of a big man scoring in the post.
Although Atlanta, now 2-2 without Horford, has been fairly successful in his absence, it is evident that another big body would help.
In order to make sure the Hawks do not slump any further, General Manager Danny Ferry may sign a free agent big man or trade for one.
Fans can expect a change anytime from January 10, where all contracts for the seasons are guaranteed until after the All-Star Break on February 20, during 2014 NBA Trade Deadline.