Five observations from the Hawks’ 100-95 victory over the Mavericks Wednesday. The Hawks led by as many as 12 points and shot over 70 percent in the first half. They would lose that lead. Here’s how the Hawks lost the advantage and the four winning plays in the comeback.
1. The Hawks led by double-digits in the first half. The Mavericks crept back and trailed five points after three quarters. The eventually took a four-point lead, 93-89, with 2:12 remaining. The Mavericks switched to a zone defense that Hawks players admitted confused them in the fourth quarter.
“We can’t allow games to get like that, especially when we have a big lead,” Dwight Howard said. “It’s not a good thing. We did make it up but in the playoffs it’s not going to work. When you have a lead like that you have to punish teams. You can’t let them back in. Once you give teams hope, they can do anything. When you have a lead, you have to punish them.”
The Mavericks used a 12-2 run in the final quarter to turn a six-point deficit into the four-point lead.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer lamented the fact that the Hawks couldn’t put the game away early.
“At halftime we were shooing 71.9 and only up by 11 points,” Budenholzer said. “They had seven offensive rebounds. They were shooting 51 or 52 percent and had seven offensive rebounds. There were a couple times when we were just flat. They beat us to 50-50 balls in the first half. It felt like we should have been up by more.”
Here’s how the Hawks came back in scoring the final six points of the game.
2. The Mavericks led by the four points and had a chance to increase the lead. Seth Curry missed a 3-pointer and Ersan Ilyasova rebounded. Dennis Schroder got a pass to Tim Hardaway Jr. at the top of the top of the key.
There was no doubt he was going to shoot.
The 3-pointer connected and the Hawks trailed by one point, 93-92, with 1:42 left. Paul Millsap said there was no telling what would have happened if the shot missed. It didn’t.
“I knew if I had an inch or two of daylight, it was going up,” Hardaway said. “I’ve made that shot a bunch of times down the stretch of games around the top of the key area. I have confidence in myself. Once I shot it, I knew it was going to go in.”
3. The Mavericks kept their one-point lead after Ilyasova made a 15-footer but Curry answered with two free throws. The Hawks trailed 95-94. The Curry free throws would be the Mavericks final points.
Millsap gave the Hawks the lead for good with a driving bank shot with 30.5 seconds left. It was classic Millsap as he got off the shot in improbable fashion. After the game, Hardaway said Millsap is the best in the league in shooting from below his hip.
“When you are an undersized four-man you have to find different tricks to get the ball to the basket,” Millsap said.
4. On the Mavericks ensuing possession, Harrison Barnes used up much of the shot clock trying to get a shot off. His 21-foot step back jumper missed. The Hawks got the rebound and Ilyasova was fouled with 11.1 seconds left.
Ilyasova made the free throws to give the Hawks a three-point lead at 98-95.
“I tried to box him out,” Ilyasova said. “He got the dropped over me. It was the right call. It was a foul. I tried the make the free throws because as soon as you make them you are up three and they have to make a 3.”
5. The Mavericks called timeout and drew up a play needing a 3-pointer in the final seconds. They never got a shot attempt.
Malcolm Delaney subbed for Ilyasova and guarded the inbounder Devin Harris. Kent Bazemore intercepted the pass and raced in for a breakaway dunk for the final margin.
“You have to give Malcolm (credit) for the ball pressure,” Bazemore said. “That is always pivotal in those type of plays breaking down. Coach got on me in the first half for a similar play. I was just standing and he was able to push off and get open. I was into his body this time. It was a bang-bang play and I was able to get behind him, steal it and dunk it.”