Ugly nights happen in the NBA, and sadly, Friday night was that and more for the Atlanta Hawks. The team sputtered on all accounts, and when the 48-minute game came to a close, the Hawks were on the wrong end of the score by a final of 107-77.
Offense was prevalent on both sides in the opening minutes, with the two teams combining for 27 points in just over 3 minutes of clock time. However, that would quickly slow, especially on the side of Atlanta. The Hawks simply could not convert on jump shots in the early going, making only 1 of their first 8 from beyond the arc with two additional mid-range misses from Al Horford, and that led to a rough period offensively.
Paul Millsap scored 9 points and snatched 5 rebounds in the first 12 minutes, but the home team still trailed by a two-point margin at 24-22. Aside from the aesthetically displeasing offense, the highlight of the opening period was the NBA debut of Adreian Payne. Payne took the floor at the 5:52 mark of the quarter, playing four minutes, and he was quite active on both ends despite the fact that he did not score.
The Bucks came out of the quarter break firing, much to the dismay of Hawks fans. Milwaukee blitzed to a 13-2 run, including three straight buckets from Jared Dudley (who had 13 points in the first 15 minutes of game time), and quickly, the Hawks were in an 11-point hole at 35-24. From that point, Atlanta would never again climb into single-digits before the end of the half, and Milwaukee built their lead to as many as 18 points on two occasions.
Sloppy play was the norm from the Hawks, including 12 turnovers, and with Milwaukee knocking down shots, that was not a positive combination. The Bucks converted 50% of their shots prior to the break (6-for-13 from three) and the Hawks made just 2 of their 14 three-point attempts, magnifying their issues in ball security. All in all, it was a less than spectacular performance (aside from Paul Mllsap's 18-point, 6-rebound effort) that netted Atlanta a 16-point deficit at the halftime break.
Sadly, the second half was not any more forgiving. After a reasonably effective start to the third quarter, things unraveled in a hurry for the home team. Milwaukee streaked to a 13-2 run, thanks in large part to ineffectiveness by Atlanta, and by the latter stages of the third quarter, the Hawks were in a 27-point hole with virtually no hope of return.
The good guys would close to within 23 points at the end of the fourth quarter, but things were decidedly uninteresting from that point forward. Milwaukee led by as many as 32 while Atlanta was never able to cut the deficit to less than 22 in the final moments, and aside from extended time from the bench (i.e. Payne and Mike Muscala), there was nothing to grab hold of as a positive takeaway. The bench occupied the final eight-plus minutes of game action, and in the end, the Hawks saw their five-game winning streak snapped by a 30-point margin.
From an individual perspective, Paul Millsap had the only "above-average" night for any regular. Millsap finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes, and if not for his showing, it is comical to think of what would have taken place offensively. DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver combined to make just 1 of 14 field goal attempts (and 1 of 11 from three), and as a team, the Hawks committed 23 turnovers.
In my mind, this is not a night for reflection or deep thought. The Atlanta Hawks submitted their worst home-court performance of the season, and when the shots weren't falling, the turnovers followed. The same two teams get together on Saturday in Wisconsin, giving the team something to focus on in order to bounce back, and we will see what Mike Budenholzer and his crew have in store for round two.
The Atlanta Hawks are still a good basketball team. Everybody breathe.