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Hawks get outworked in opening night loss to Pistons

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The NBA season arrived with a thud for the Atlanta Hawks in a sluggish loss to the Pistons.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It certainly wasn't the start that the Atlanta Hawks were looking for. However, the process of moving on from their opening night loss to the Detroit Pistons began with the final buzzer.

"It's one game," Mike Budenholzer said. "There is things that we are working on in practice that we have to work harder on. We have to do better. I think every coach knows that, every team knows that there is a lot to be worked on going into Game 1 and as we move forward."

One game on opening night doesn't define any team's season, however it is clear that this Hawks team still has work left to be done. Budenholzer's teams have typically responded well to losses, but it has been a rare occurrence when they have been thoroughly outplayed across the board.

Detroit shot just 39 percent from the field in the game but were able to offset that by knocking down 12 of 29 three-point attempts. The Pistons ball movement was crisp, but many of those three-point makes early were wide open looks where Atlanta's defense failed to rotate correctly. When Detroit wasn't firing away from long range, they were attacking the paint and getting to the free throw line.

The Pistons finished the game with a 59-40 rebounding advantage which included 23 offensive rebounds. Much of that was Andre Drummond who finished with 18 points and 19 rebounds by himself.

"The offensive boards hurt us, particularly in the second half," Budenholzer said. "I think they had 17 in the second half and that is an area where we know we need to be better."

We have already talked about Atlanta's offense lagging a bit coming out of the preseason and it didn't appear to make much progress in Tuesday's game.  Paul Millsap did his best to keep Atlanta in the game early on, but the ball movement that produced countless open shots just hasn't been there consistently at this point. The Hawks finished with 22 assists (one fewer than Detroit's 23).

If there was a bright spot for Atlanta then it might have been the play of Dennis Schröder who led the team with 20 points off the bench.

The biggest surprise from opening night might have been the rotation the Hawks employed. It wasn't just that Tim Hardaway Jr was inactive, but Lamar Patterson entered the game in the first half ahead of Justin Holiday. Patterson was seen by many to be fighting for the last remaining spot on the team's roster, yet here he was in the game on opening night as part of the team's wing rotation.

"Obviously the plan was to play Lamar but he probably got a few more [minutes] and it was based on I thought he was playing well," Budenholzer said when asked about Patterson subbing into the game in the second quarter. "I thought his floor game, his defense, just his overall game. He deserved to play and I'm very happy with how he played in his first game."

Patterson ended up playing 18 minutes and finished with five points. one rebound and two assists.

"Those guys have all been competing hard," Budenholzer said when asked about the decision to make Hardaway inactive. "Just have to make some hard decisions, hard choices. The active and inactive will change from night to night. Tim's going to work hard and I feel good about Tim."

Justin Holiday was active and in uniform but was a DNP-CD for the game.