The Atlanta Hawks took on an undermanned version of the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night and, to be frank, the result was to be expected. After 48 minutes, the home snatched a 96-89 victory at Philips Arena, and the crowd was left with a positive impression as the regular season approaches.
Early in the night, it was clear that Atlanta had the advantage on the defensive end, and that persisted throughout. The Hawks were swarming in the first quarter to the point that the visiting Pelicans were simply unable to generate quality looks and New Orleans shot just 35% from the floor prior to halftime.
Offensively, Atlanta wasn’t phenomenal, but things picked up when Tim Hardaway Jr. entered play. The slumping swingman broke out with 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting (and 2-for-2 from three) prior to halftime, and the Hawks used a reduced, 10-man rotation in order to mount a 59-41 halftime lead.
Though the first half was largely exceptional, head coach Mike Budenholzer was forced to exit the proceedings as a result of a collision with Pelicans guard Langston Galloway. Budenholzer was already in a cast after finger surgery and, in short, the timing was less than ideal for a rare coach injury.
The second half was largely non-competitive, as the Pelicans were unable to make a serious run. Atlanta did go deeper into its bench, beginning with Mike Scott late in the third quarter, and extending to DeAndre Bembry, Edy Tavares, Taurean Prince, Ryan Kelly and Will Bynum in the latter stages. Though the margin did slim down at times, the Hawks were never in severe danger and it was generally a glide to the finish line with a decisive win.
In terms of takeaways, the competition on this night makes it slightly difficult to glean much. Still, it was a productive night from Hardaway Jr. (16 points on 7-10 shooting), Schröder (13 pionts, 5 rebounds, 5 assists in 25 minutes) and the defense as a whole, while Howard displayed strong effort and energy (10 points, 11 rebounds in 23 minutes) on both ends. It should be noted that both Mike Muscala and Kris Humphries operated as the first big off the bench (for each half) and Atlanta’s regular rotation basically featured Malcolm Delaney, Hardaway Jr., Thabo Sefolosha and Muscala/Humphries.
It will be interesting to see what the rotation looks like on Thursday in the preseason finale but, as far as the regular season is concerned, Hawks fans received a solid look into what the thinking might be for the opener against Washington. Stay tuned.