The Atlanta Hawks failed to capitalize on a chance for a statement win and folded late in a 126-115 loss at Philips Arena. Here are some takeaways from the game:
Bad defense or good offense?
Truthfully the answer was a little bit of both. Mike Budenholzer was quick to credit Toronto as a great team that did an excellent job of executing their offense and making shots.
"They deserve credit," said Budenholzer. "They made a lot of shots, made a lot of plays. Defensively, we'd like to be better. We'll continue to get better. Tonight is a night that will test your mental toughness and test your physicality. For a lot of the night, we were good but you have to do it for 48 minutes against a good team."
Toronto and Atlanta both finished the game shooting 51 percent from the field. The Raptors beat the Hawks at their own game knocking down 14 three pointers on 29 attempts. Conversely, the Hawks were 10-24 from beyond-the-arc.
A lot of Atlanta's defensive issues came in transition where they were slow to rotate out to shooters or found themselves with less than ideal match ups. Toronto finished with 25 fast break points. Not having Thabo Sefolosha hurt but it still didn't feel like as focused a defensive effort as what we saw the night before in Washington.
After two straight solid defensive performances, Budenholzer acknowledged that it was hard not to consider Wednesday's game as a step backwards defensively.
"It's hard not to consider it a step back defensively. But they played well. They executed well. They made some tough shots. They got to the free throw line, which is a strength of theirs. They do it night after night after night. You have to be aware of and do a better job of keeping them off the free throw line. Our defense was not where we need it to be but they played very well also."
Some of that from Budenholzer can be classified as "coach speak" because they are never happy with their team's defense. Jeff Teague pointed out that while the Raptors played well, they capitalized off of plenty of Atlanta's mistakes at both ends of the floor.
"It's not what they did. It's what we did," said Teague. "We could've played a lot better. We just didn't. Every mistake we made, they capitalized on. Defensively, offensively, whatever mistake that we made on the floor, they capitalized on it and made the most of it. We just have to be better."
Al Horford is starting to look like Al Horford again
Its taken a bit longer than many would have expected but Al Horford is starting to look like his old self again. He finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks against the Raptors while going 11-16 from the field.
Over the last five games, Horford is 34-50 from the floor for 68 percent.
That is a great sign for the Hawks and now that he does look more comfortable he will likely start to see more opportunities within the offense.
Hawks bench couldn't keep the magic going from Tuesday
Atlanta's bench was a big part of Tuesday's win in Washington but as a unit they were outscored 52-27 on Wednesday. Big games by Greivis Vasquez (21 points) and Lou Williams (22 points) were the main culprits. Vasquez scored 12 of his 21 points in the second half while Williams just continued what has been a torrid stretch.
"Lou Williams and Vasquez were great," said Al Horford. "Those guys came out with a lot of energy. They were confident. They hit some tough shots. We were defending them, but they just made shots."
Through 15 games this season, Williams is shooting a career-best 45 percent from the field including 42 percent shooting from three-point range. To put that in perspective, Williams has never shot better than 36 percent from outside the arc for a full season in his career. He made 4-6 attempts on Wednesday and is shooting 52 percent from three-point range over his last five games. In short, its great to see Williams healthy, playing well and in a role where he can thrive but its going to be hard for him to keep up this torrid pace all season long.
Dennis Schröder led Atlanta's bench unit with 13 points and six assists. After a big game on Tuesday, Mike Scott wasn't very involved and finished with four points in 11 minutes.
Hawks should look to Raptors for inspiration
Wednesday's win was Toronto's sixth straight and improved their record to 13-2. They have accomplished that without a superstar player but with an equal opportunity offense combined with a hard hat mentality on the defensive end of the floor. They have bought in to what head coach Dwane Casey is selling and have turned into a really good team that is going to be fighting for the top spot along side many of the preseason favorites.
There are a lot of parallels that are drawn with the Hawks' connection to the Spurs but Toronto's another great example that you don't necessarily have to have a superstar to be a really good team.