Coming into tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers there was little chance that the Hawks brass took up a majority of their pregame discussion focussing on forward Wesley Johnson or guard Austin Rivers.
The pair came into the game averaging a combined 19.3 points per game. Their averages would be raised a bit following the Clippers 116-103 win on Wednesday night. Johnson scored 24 points on an efficient 8-10 from the field including a pre-Thanksgiving special 6-7 from beyond the three-point line.
Rivers, who was serenaded at points of this game with “daddy” chants from the Hawks supporters, scored 18 points, dished five assists, failed to turn the ball over and had two steals. The team’s leading scorer and universal superstar Blake Griffin led the way with 24 points but it was Johnson and Rivers that kept the Clippers in the game and ultimately on top after all was said and done.
The early portion of the show looked to belong to the Hawks as Marco Belinelli and rookie John Collins, making his first career start, each had a turn dominating the game. Belinelli would make his first six shots of the game, missing his first shot of the game at the 9:55 mark of the second quarter, as the Hawks and their guests exchanged baskets at a rapid pace.
A three-pointer by Johnson would tie the score at 59 just before halftime before Hawks leading scorer Dennis Schroder would finish one of his patented drives to the basket to put Atlanta ahead by 63-62. Collins scored eight points during the second quarter, two coming on a tip dunk of a Schroder miss. He would finish the game with another double-double, 14 points, and 10 rebounds. Belinelli scored 20 points in the game despite only having two shot attempts during the third quarter.
The third quarter belonged to the Clippers as they outscored the Hawks 26-21 en route to an 88-74 advantage. The Clippers hadn’t outscored the Hawks in either of the two previous quarters. Atlanta-area native Lou Williams (20 points in a rare starting role in place of the injured Patrick Beverley who will miss the remainder of the season due to knee surgery) made a number of timely three-pointers (3-6 on the night) during the second half that always seemed to come after a short Hawks run.
Down 11 with 8:57 to play in the fourth quarter, the Clippers largest lead if the game to that point, Kent Bazemore got hot for Atlanta, making consecutive three-pointers to cut the deficit to five points, 97-92, with 7:44 left in the game.
Rivers would immediately come down and hit a three-pointer of his own over the outstretched hands of Schroder to knock a little wind out of the Hawks sails. Johnson, Williams, and Griffin would hit consecutive threes for the Clippers that would put an end to any and all rallies and to the Clippers nine-game losing streak.
The Hawks will host the New York Knicks on Friday night.