Paul Millsap has had a fairly pedestrian season so far for the Atlanta Hawks. The biggest free agent acquisition of the team’s 2013 offseason has been solid this season, but not quite stellar, averaging 16.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and just over 1 block a game. But he was stupendous on Wednesday night when Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers came to town.
The Clippers went at Millsap one-on-one in the post for the first three plays of the game, with Griffin scoring on the first two. Millsap took it personally.
The Hawks power forward scored 25 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and dished out 6 assists leading the Atlanta Hawks to a decisive 107-97 win over the Clippers at Philips Arena.
“Those two plays I felt like they wanted to go at me,” Millsap told the Daily World. “They felt like they had a mismatch or an advantage or something. So I kind of took that personally and tried to go back at them and tried to stop them at the offensive end.”
After that, Millsap controlled the game, scoring at will and shooting 60 percent (12-20) over the course of the game. His 25 points were the most he’s scored this season since a 29 point outburst against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 7.
“I played against him a lot in Utah. He’s just a skilled, talented power forward and he found a way to get it done tonight,” said Griffin, who finished the game with 24 points and 7 rebounds.
“The first play of the game was a post-up for me and I scored and then CP came back to me,” he said. “That’s just kind of how our team works.”
While the eighth year forward from Louisiana Tech was the Hawks’ leading scorer, he said that it was the Hawks firing on all cylinders as a team that led to the win.
“As far as the whole overall game, I felt like this was one of our best games of the season,” Millsap said, “as far as us playing the first quarter through the fourth quarter.”
It was certainly not all about Paul Wednesday night. Hawks guard Kyle Korver made a bit of history during the game, and it didn’t take him long to do it. Korver knocked down his first look at a three-pointer, making it the 89th consecutive game he has knocked down a 3-point shot. He’ll have a chance to move into first place alone on the all-time list Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I’m glad it’s done,” Korver said after the game. “It was a long period of time and then this rib thing happens and it’s just like, ‘Come on, man.’”
Korver’s three, which came on the Hawks first possession of the game, set the tone for Atlanta.
“That was indicative, in my opinion, of us the entire night,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “We weren’t here tonight defensively and they got comfortable. It was just one of those nights.”
As for whether he thought he had a mismatch with Griffin on Millsap, the coach didn’t have much to say.
“We just liked it,” Rivers said of the opening play calls for Griffin. “Coming out, we always mix it up. We scored on ‘em and then they made a pretty good adjustment to it. Our deal wasn’t offensively tonight; we were horrible on defense, so I wasn’t even thinking about it.
“They won the game, so I don’t look at individual matchups,” he added. “Obviously Milsap played well, but our overall defense was pretty poor as a team.”
The Hawks are now 10-10 this season and moving back to the .500 mark put them back in the driver’s seat for the playoffs. They’re currently third in the Eastern Conference, but were 2-7 against the Western Conference before Wednesday’s game.