The Atlanta Hawks opened the regular season on the road with a 109-102 loss to the Toronto Raptors. The final score is a bit deceiving after Atlanta made a furious comeback attempt in the fourth. The late rally was commendable and a reminder that no team should relax against these Hawks but, Atlanta was outplayed over the second and third quarters and that ultimately was the deciding factor in the game. Here are some more thoughts from the season opener:
Hawks become own worst enemy
Not many NBA teams can get away with administering as much self inflicted damage as the Hawks did on Wednesday and still come away with a victory. Atlanta turned the ball over 19 times which led to 23 points for the Raptors. Some of them were a result of a good defensive Toronto unit. Others were careless. Atlanta's spacing didn't appear to be on point as they found themselves trying to fit the ball into some tight places time and time again.
Atlanta struggled to get to the free throw line and then struggled to convert once they were there finishing 9-17 in the game. Paul Millsap was the biggest culprit going 5-9 although he did seem to get things together late. Conversely, the Raptors lived at the line going 27-33.
Defense and Rebounding loom large once again
Its skewed a bit by the final numbers but the Hawks struggled for most of the first three quarters to get stops at the defensive end of the floor. They blocked eight shots including three apiece from Al Horford and Kyle Korver (!) but several of those came with the team in recovery mode after getting beaten off the dribble. There was some rotation issues and Atlanta was fortunate that Toronto didn't shoot the ball better from the perimeter. The defensive tandem of DeMarre Carroll and Thabo Sefolosha did make life tough on DeMar DeRozan who finished just 4-16 from the field.
When stops did come, Atlanta had a tough time corralling the defensive rebound. Toronto grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and finished the game with 26 second chance points. The Hawks understand that often times they go into games with a size disadvantage in the front court but look to combat that with a team effort on the boards particularly from their guards. Al Horford and Paul Millsap grabbed 23 rebounds but Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll added just eight more combined.
Budenholzer goes 11 deep in opener
One of the biggest storylines heading into the regular season was what would Atlanta's rotation look like and how deep into his bench would Mike Budenholzer go? We got a few answers Wednesday night as Budenholzer went 11 deep in the first half with only Mike Muscala and Pero Antic receiving DNP-CD's.
Shelvin Mack got the first crack at the back up point guard spot and then shared the backcourt with Dennis Schröder for a stretch during the second quarter. Elton Brand was the first big off the bench for Atlanta in an effort to combat Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas. Budenholzer did tighten the rotation slightly in the second half playing just 10 guys with Schröder not returning after the intermission.
Shot Chart Superlatives - Mike Scott
Atlanta's bench got an early opportunity and played well enough in the first half but things didn't go as well in the second. They would have been sunk from the outset without Mike Scott who finished tied with a team-high of 20 points on a sparkling 8-11 shooting. Scott once again showed off his ever improving three-point shot going 4-6 and helped spear head Atlanta's comeback attempt in the fourth quarter. He grabbed four rebounds and dare I say looked better and more active on the defensive end of the floor.
Shot Chart Superlatives - Kyle Korver
What can really be said about Kyle Korver that hasn't already been said? At this point, I am surprised when he misses especially from three-point range. He was on point from the outset Wednesday night finishing with 20 points while going 7-10 from the field and 6-7 from beyond-the-arc.