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Slow start dooms Hawks in loss to Clippers

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Atlanta made a big comeback but Jamal Crawford slammed the door in the fourth.

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

A slow start doomed the Atlanta Hawks Monday night in a 115-105 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Atlanta scored just 40 points in the first half and trailed by as many as 24 points before mounting a comeback to make the final margin respectable.

“I thought the Clippers played really well, shot it really well,” Mike Budenholzer told reporters after the game. Fifty-eight percent from the three-point line. A lot of credit to them. I thought we weren’t very good in the first half. I’m actually proud of the way the group fought and found a way to get back in it and cut it to five. We made it competitive. We had a chance.”

Atlanta shot just 32 percent in the first half and compounded that with seven turnovers. The Hawks weren’t exactly tuned in defensively especially on the perimeter where the Clippers fired away from three-point range going 8 of 14 in the first half. Los Angeles would connect on 14 of 24 three-point attempts for the game.

“I think they played good defense,” Budenholzer said when asked about his team’s first half struggles offensively. “Anytime you shoot 32 percent from the field, your opponent usually has something to do with it. It felt like one of those nights where we couldn’t get a shot to go down. When we got a good look, it seemed like a lot of them were short. Against a good defensive team, or most any night, when you get good looks, you have to hit a decent percentage of them. That first half, it just wasn’t happening for us.”

The Hawks finally found a rhythm offensively in the third quarter with Budenholzer riding his starters for a 35 point quarter to cut the deficit to 85-75. Dennis Schröder, Dwight Howard and Thabo Sefolosha played all 12 minutes of the third. Howard scored 10 of his 16 in the period.

“Coming out of halftime, we challenged ourselves about making a run to get back in it,” Budenholzer said when asked about the decision to stick with the starters. “It didn’t happen in the first six or seven minutes. Then we got two or three or four stops in a row, we got two or three or four buckets. It was 14, then it was 12. We went on a little run in that stretch and I kind of stuck with that group because they had that run.

Atlanta kept the pressure on in the fourth and cut the Clippers lead down to just five points with three minutes remaining. However, the Hawks were unable to slow down Jamal Crawford who scored eight of his 19 points in the fourth.

Crawford came into the game struggling with his shot but played the role of close near flawlessly. He utilized the pick and roll with DeAndre Jordan down the stretch forcing Howard to make a decision on whether to defend the roll or contest the shot. Crawford scored on a drive and knocked down three jumpers with Howard laying back in the paint. Once Atlanta trapped to get the ball out of Crawford’s hands, he found Jordan who took advantage of the Hawks rotating defense to set up a couple of dagger threes from Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton.

“We just didn’t come out with a sense of urgency,” Paul Millsap added. “We were a little too comfortable and let them get comfortable. When a team is without their starts, they’re going to move the ball and try to play the right way. They did that. I think we maybe took a little bit for granted.”

Atlanta will enjoy an off day on Tuesday before traveling to Chicago for a rematch with the Bulls on Wednesday. The Hawks return to Philips Arena on Friday for a matchup against the Washington Wizards.