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Comeback bid stalls as Hawks fall to Clippers, 115-105

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Atlanta fought for 48 minutes, but it wasn’t enough.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Much like Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Atlanta Hawks entered Monday’s game as a substantial favorite due to the short-handed nature of the opponent. This time, though, the Los Angeles Clippers were able to overcome the absence of their best two players and, in the end, the Hawks fell by a final score of 115-105.

The night began in ominous fashion, with the visiting Clippers simply outplaying the Hawks. That manifested in the form of a 30-21 deficit for Atlanta that included a 137.6 defensive rating (read: not good) in the first 12 minutes. Offensively, Dennis Schröder was able to get wherever he wanted but, aside from that, it was a lackluster showing of the highest order.

That unfortunate trend continued in the second period, with the Clippers attempting to pull away. Los Angeles scored eight straight points to claim a 19-point lead at 44-25 and, shortly thereafter, the Hawks found themselves down by 22 points on multiple occasions. Atlanta would fight back to climb within a 58-40 halftime deficit, but that was only a small win.

In the first half, the Hawks were dreadful defensively. The visitors made 8 of 14 attempt from three-point range on the way to an offensive rating north of 120 and that was probably a bit kind given the effort Atlanta put forth. Offensively, the home team was (slightly) better, though the shots simply did not fall and the Hawks struggled to a 32.5 percent shooting clip in the first 24 minutes of action.

After a rough start to the third quarter that was much in line with the first half, the Hawks (finally) came alive offensively. Atlanta used a 20-6 run to climb back into the game, scoring on seven straight possessions at one point and generally looking like a different team from the first half. The result of that mid-quarter run was a single-digit deficit and, even after a preposterous jumper from old pal Jamal Crawford on the quarter’s final possession, Atlanta trailed by only 10 points as the fourth quarter began.

For a brief moment to begin the closing period, it looked as if the visitors would run away. Raymond Felton connected on a three and, in short order, the Clippers increased the margin to 15. The Hawks would not fade, though, as they engineered a 7-0 run that was punctuated by a Kent Bazemore three at 91-83.

What followed were haymakers in both directions offensively, but Atlanta was unable to make up any real ground on the scoreboard. The Hawks did slash the deficit to five points with less than four minutes to play, but the defense failed to generate stops to fully embrace a comeback bid.

Crawford continued to light the Hawks up (finishing with 19 points) as Atlanta attempted the comeback and that was a significant obstacle. In the end, the “dagger” did not arrive until Austin Rivers knocked down an open three with less than a minute remaining. That gave the Clippers a nine-point lead and all but ensured the final 10-point margin of defeat.

Individually, there were some encouraging performances from the Hawks. Paul Millsap (19 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks) was tremendous throughout, Kent Bazemore tied a season-high with 25 points and Dennis Schröder (21 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) was effective. Dwight Howard (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Thabo Sefolosha also played reasonably well, but as a team, the defensive end of the court was problematic throughout, and allowing 121.3 points per 100 possessions to an undermanned opponent wasn’t enough to get it done.

The Hawks will now enjoy an off day of travel on Tuesday before squaring off with the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday evening. Stay tuned.