April 6th, 2017: Celtics vs. Hawks
The Hawks had lost 9 out their last 11 games, while the Celtics had won 6 out of their last 7 before losing to the Cavs. However, last time these two teams met, their records did not matter as the Hawks blew out the Celtics 114-98. Once again, the Hawks recent outcomes were not a factor as they dominated the Celtics throughout the game. Atlanta led by 20 at one point in the third quarter, but the Celtics were able to fight back as they have done so well all season. The Hawks held them off long enough to get this big win that put them in sole possession of the 5th spot in the East, and moved the Celtics farther back from the 1st seed.
There were multiple standout performances in this game. First and foremost, Taurean Prince had a career game while in the starting lineup in place of Kent Bazemore. He scored a career high 20 points, 18 of which came in the first half. He’s not going to win rookie of the year, but as the 12th pick in the draft Prince is looking more and more like a fantastic steal for the Hawks. Paul Millsap also played great while coming off the bench. He recorded a double-double with 26 points and 12 rebounds. It was great to see Paul looking like his pre-injury self, and hopefully when he gets back into the starting lineup he will be re-energized and fresh for the playoffs.
Points: Paul Millsap, 26
Rebounds: Paul Millsap, 12
Assists: Tim Hardaway Jr. 5
The Boston Globe
April 7th, 2017: Hawks vs. Cavaliers
With all five starters out for the Hawks and all of the Cavs starters in action, there was absolutely no chance the Hawks win this game. After the final buzzer however, Atlanta came out on top of what might be the most improbable win of the Budenholzer era. Not only did the Hawks beat LeBron James’ Cavaliers, they dominated them, leading by as much as 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Come playoff time this bench will be one of the most dangerous in the Eastern Conference because of all of the playing time they are getting to gel together. Tim Hardaway Jr. really stepped up in the fourth quarter like he often does, scoring 15 of his 22 points in the final frame. Mike Dunleavy also had a fantastic game against his old team, scoring 20 points on an extremely efficient 6-9 from the field and 4-5 from three-point range. Team basketball was really the key to this game as the Hawks had a ridiculous 39 assists, led by Malcolm Delaney’s 8 dimes.
Points: Tim Hardaway Jr. 22
Rebounds: Ersan Ilyasova, 7
Assists: Malcolm Delany, 8
The Baltimore Sun
April 9th, 2017: Cavaliers vs. Hawks
I said that last game was the most improbable win of Mike Budenholzer’s career, but just 48 hours later this game holds that title. Down 26 points going into the fourth quarter, Hawks and Cavaliers fans alike were headed to the exits to beat the traffic. Even halfway into the fourth quarter there seemed to be no chance that the Hawks would even make it a single digit game, just too much had gone wrong for them. In the second quarter Mike Dunleavy missed a wide-open layup. In the fourth, Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a deep three that was just a second after the whistle, and Paul Millsap missed another wide-open layup. Everything that could go the Cav’s way did for 44 minutes of this game. But a basketball game is 48 minutes, and the Hawks took advantage when things began to fall their way. The defense stepped up and forced a jump ball, down two with four seconds left. After a quick scramble Millsap picked up the ball from the ground and shot a fade-way from the short corner that he seemingly always makes, and it went through the rim as time expired. In OT Paul Millsap and Mike Muscala made clutch threes to get the Hawks their third straight win, second straight against the Cavaliers.
There were so many fantastic performances, many of them coming off of the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21 and was, as usual, the main force that led the Hawk’s comeback. Kent Bazemore scored 13, but his main contribution was on the defensive end where he had four steals, including one with 10 seconds left that led to the jump ball and eventually the buzzer-beater. Mike Musclala has played extremely well in these last two games against the Cavs. He is a combined 11-14 from the field and 3-3 from three. He had eight of his 12 points in the game in the fourth quarter and OT, really stepping up when it mattered most.
The Hawks now have three straight wins, games that have been against the Celtics, the one seed at the time, and the Cavs twice, the number one seed both times. This is the perfect time in the season to be gathering up this type of momentum and it has Hawks fans dreaming of greatness.
Points: Paul Millsap, 22
Rebounds: Paul Millsap, 9
Assists: Dennis Schröder, 5
Featured image: Peachtree Hoops