The Atlanta Hawks pulled off one of the wildest and strangest comebacks of the NBA season on Thursday night to beat the Houston Rockets, 113-108.
With just eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Rockets were up 97-77 on the Hawks, on their way to an easy blowout victory.
However, over the next eight minutes, sparked by an improbable eruption by Hawks reserve guard Tim Hardaway Jr., son of legendary NBA guard Tim Hardaway, the Hawks scratched their way back into the game.
Over seven minutes, Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points on on 7-of-8 shooting, scoring 23 in the final period for a career-high 33 points.
Hardaway simply carried the Hawks with a red-hot stretch that included pull-up threes and herky-jerky drives to the rim. The Rockets had no answer for him.
All the while, the normally dynamic Rockets offence went completely quiet. They went from a 20-point lead to a one-point deficit after Hardaway Jr.’s free throw put the Hawks up one with 2:25 remaining.
However, it was in the final minute that the game took a strange turn. Hardaway continued his onslaught with an incredible driving dunk to put the Hawks up three with 40 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing play, Rockets center Clint Capela went to throw an inbounds pass to James Harden, but missed his target, as Hawks guard Malcolm Delaney tipped it. The ball rolled to mid-court before the Hawks recovered it as the Rockets appeared to be unaware of the turnover.
However, Atlanta was unable to score off the turnover, keeping the score at 11-108.
On the next possession, Rockets forward Trevor Ariza attempted the game-tying three that appeared to go in. Both Rockets players and their fans cheered what looked like a swish. However, Ariza actually airballed it, with the ball just grazing through the net, but under the rim. The Hawks got the rebound and just held it for several seconds as players stood around, confused. When the Rockets finally realised the miss, they went to foul the Hawks, but they threw the ball ahead to DeAndre Bembry for the game-sealing dunk.
Afterward, the NBA world was baffled by what had just happened.
According to ESPN, Hardaway outscored the Rockets 23-14 over the final nine minutes of the game. In the process, the Hawks became the first team to overcome a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit since the Pacers in 2013.
It’s a terrible loss for the Rockets, who have lost six of their last ten games after a red-hot December. For the Hawks, however, it’s the type of gritty win that can propel a team, which could help them in a lacklustre Eastern Conference.
I thought the Ariza three went in and couldn’t figure out why the clock was running.
— Lang Whitaker (@langwhitaker) February 3, 2017
This is a very weird ending.
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) February 3, 2017
That was weird.
— J.E. Skeets (@jeskeets) February 3, 2017
Still processing that Ariza didn’t make that last shot.
— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) February 3, 2017
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