The lack of a superstar the caliber of Damian Lillard (and his 25 points per game) on the court for Portland can go a long way towards a win for an opposing team. The Hawks, winners of three straight at home and three of their last four games, took full advantage of being that team and of Lillard’s absence during their 104-89 victory on Saturday night. Down by six points at halftime, Atlanta held Portland to 17 third quarter points while leading scorer Dennis Schroder took advantage of his match up with Trail Blazers point guard Shabazz Napier (21 points, eight rebounds, six assists to three turnovers) with 11 third quarter points to Napier’s three. Schroder would go on to lead the Hawks in scoring during the quarter and at the end of the game with 22 points.
For the third straight home game the Hawks also scored more than 30 points during the fourth quarter, tallying 32 points (to the Trail Blazers 20) en route to their 10th victory of the season. “It was a good win for us, the thing that stands out the most is the defense during the second half,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer during his post game press conference.
Budenholzer on Schroder’s third quarter tally: “You just felt like the momentum shifted and he was a big part of that. He was great.”
Ahead buy only three points heading into the fourth quarter, Atlanta had closed the quarter on a 17-9 run, the Hawks started the fourth with a three-pointer by Tyler Cavanaugh and would have their largest lead of the game of 11 points a few minutes later. Cavanaugh would score 13 points off the bench (5-7 FG in 22 minutes) trumped only by the 14 scored by Marco Belinelli (5-10 FG, 2-4 from three-point) who attempted two dunks, both of which failed to be complete but nonetheless brought the Hawks bench to their feet. “Maybe I’ll try another time,” said Belinelli in the locker room after the game. “At the end of the day I think it’s just a two-pointer.”
In regards to the rare missed dunk attempts by Belinelli -both coming with the Hawks in the lead- Budenholzer said, “It was good to watch him try and dunk a couple times. I think he’s healthy and playing with a little pop.”
Despite the missed dunks the Hawks still managed to dominate the bench scoring battle 41-23. Portland did not have a double-figure scorer off the bench. Former North Carolina Tar Heel Ed Davis led the Trail Blazer reserves with eight points.
Taurean Prince led the Hawks in rebounding for a consecutive game with 10 to go along with 12 points and five assists. Ersan Ilyasova, who did most of his damage during the first half, also finished in double-figures with 13 points. Kent Bazemore scored 12 points in the game, two coming on a crowd-pleasing dunk after slicing through the Portland defense.
Atlanta closes 2017 the way they opened the season: with a win. The Hawks will be back in action on Jan. 2 in Phoenix and will play the Trail Blazers again on Jan. 5 in Portland before playing the Los Angeles teams, first Clippers then the Lakers, on Jan. 7 and 8.