The Atlanta Hawks suffered their third straight loss in a 100-88 defeat to the Miami Heat on Monday in a game that left the team searching for answers. The Hawks have been up and down through the first 26 games of the season, but their offensive struggles of late have left them clearly frustrated.
"Obviously, we're not playing well," Mike Budenholzer told reporters after Monday's game. "We're going to have to find a way to fight through this, to work through this. It's going to be a call of our character, a call of our work ethic. We'll have to get after it."
Monday's 39 percent shooting performance comes on the heels of Saturday's loss to San Antonio where they shot just 38 percent from the field and scored just 78 points. The coaches and players maintain that they are getting good looks but simply aren't taking advantage and making them when they have to.
"We did have energy," Kyle Korver said when asked about Atlanta's energy level in the first quarter against Miami. "We just couldn't make shots and that kind of kills your energy when you miss open looks. The energy just goes down and we have to be mentally tougher than that. At the end of the day, this is a make or a miss league. Right now we're just missing a lot of shots. We have to do better."
Korver finished 2 for 12 from the field on Monday and is 4 for 20 over his last two games.
"You have to score to win games," Jeff Teague said. We putting so much pressure on our defense. Just playing good defense isn't giving us a chance to win."
Teague also finished 2 for 12 against the Heat and that followed an 0 for 5 performance in Saturday's loss to the Spurs. It would be hard for any team to recover when their starting backcourt is playing this badly.
"Me personally, I have to step up and play a lot better," Teague said. I've sucked the last few games. I think everyone just has to look at themselves in the mirror, come back and try to get a win on Wednesday."
Bazemore returns to the starting lineup
Sensing that his team needed a spark, Budenholzer made a change on Monday reinserting Kent Bazemore into the starting lineup at small forward. Bazemore responded with a career-best 28 points, but the move did not snap the team out of its offensive doldrums.
It's really just trying to find the right mix or a good mix," Budenholzer said before the game. "Baze has done well. Thabo has done well. They both help us in so many ways. Maybe just changing up the mix of guys who are out there and who they are with.
Bazemore knocked down 11 of 18 attempts from the field and was 3 for 7 from the three-point line against the Heat.
"He helped us get off to a good start," Budenholzer said. "His aggressiveness. His attack mode. He's getting to the basket. Obviously he's making some shots. He gives us a lot on both ends of the court, and plays with a lot of energy."
The lineup change is a sign that Budenholzer and his staff are searching for answers. The lineup featuring Bazemore with the four regular starters has been Atlanta's most used lineup this season according to NBA.com however it has not performed well and has produced a net rating of -5.5. Conversely, the starting unit featuring Sefolosha is a plus 6.6 so far this season.
Circle the wagons
It is never fun to see a team struggle the way the Hawks are currently. It isn't just the offensive struggles because the team is struggling across the board. That usually leads to guys stepping out of their comfort zone and trying to do too much which usually just makes the situation worse. Jeff Teague said it best that simply put, the team just has to play better across the board. We could get into a long discussion about the number of threes the team is taking and the specific Xs and Os, but I really don't think that is the problem currently.
This team needs to find itself and to get back on the court playing loose and free. Currently, it feels like the game is on the line with every shot they take and that situation is not a winning proposition for any team. For the Hawks, it doesn't really start with any single player. It starts with them as a group and they have to figure it out.