The Atlanta Hawks fell to 3-4 Wednesday night on the road against the Golden State Warriors. The Hawks struggled shooting the ball as a team and was dismal on the boards. Atlanta was out-rebounded 44-29 (10-5 offensive) and allowed 46 points in the paint compared to just 20 for the Hawks. While Atlanta shot 43.6% from the field, if you take away the combined 12-for-14 from Kyle Korver and Ivan Johnson, the Hawks shot just 34.4% from the field. Atlanta's two top scorers from the game, Lou Williams (18) and Josh Smith (16), went just 11-for-30. Had it not been for Kyle's great first half (5-5 for 14 points) and Ivan's season-best performance off the bench (7-8 for 15 points) the Hawks may have been blown out.
The Hawks were down eight at the half, 54-46, and allowed the Warriors to shoot 20-of-40 (that's 50% if you struggle with math) from the field in the half. David Lee had 14 points and seven boards that half and finished the game with 18 and 10. Rookie Harrison Barnes was the star of the game, having a career night scoring 19 points and pulling down 13 boards, both game-highs as well as his personal career-highs. Atlanta struggled to box out on the perimeter (their downfall against Houston) allowing multiple long rebounds as well as a number of second-chance points, most notably a thunderous follow-up jam from Barnes.
The major reason the Hawks were able to stay in the game was the poor play of the Warriors. Golden State turned the ball over 23 times, compared to 12 by the Hawks, and the Hawks turned those turnovers into 28 points (should have been much more). It seemed for a long stretch in the second half that neither team wanted (or deserved) to win the game, with the Warriors giving the Hawks opportunity after opportunity with Atlanta respectfully declining Golden State's invitation to steal the game by failing to convert and missing shot after shot.
Atlanta was without their star center Al Horford (illness) along with guard Devin Harris (hamstring), but they still had the chance to win the game (and really should have won it). Jeff Teague sat out much of the fourth quarter in lieu of a Lou, DeShawn, Korver, Smith, and Johnson lineup. It appears as though Lou and Jeff struggle to coexist together at times, and Larry Drew, at the end of games, goes with the scorer, Lou, over Jeff when push comes to shove. Neither player was having a particularly good game, and it turned out that Lou was the right choice (if one had to be made) to stay in knocking down a trio of threes that kept the Hawks in the game down the stretch. While Drew will hear criticism for the move to leave Teague on the bench, the decision came down more to defensive strategy than offensive. Having both Jeff and Lou on the floor would have meant that one of them would have been guarding the taller, longer Klay Thompson, which is a dangerous proposition with his shooting prowess. Instead, Drew went with Stevenson, who had a rough shooting night, but played quality defense on Thompson (and Barnes) down the stretch (Klay was 2-11 for just 7 points).
The Hawks continue to be an extremely frustrating team to watch. They have shown the ability to score in bunches, but also the ability to settle (as we've seen for years) for long shots rather than working the ball inside-out. The defense was third in the league in steals heading into the game (and only raised their number Wed.), but that aggressiveness has also led to a number of easy looks for opponents. The Hawks main issue thus far appears to be consistency and balance. They have to find a way to balance their identity as a transition team that jumps passing lanes and gets out on the break, with the necessity of staying at home on shooters and crashing the boards to avoid giving up second-chance opportunities. Looking at their wins and losses, it has been apparent that when the Hawks find that balance (especially on the glass) they have been successful. When they gamble too much and end up out of position, they have lost (close). These are the growing pains of a brand-new team, and they will frustrate fans, coaches, and players all the same, but I think we can all at least agree that this team, if nothing else, is exciting to watch in victory or defeat.