The Atlanta Hawks dropped their first game of the season, falling short in Charlotte against the Hornets, 109-91.
Kemba Walker led the way with 26 points while former Hawk Dwight Howard dropped 20 points and 15 rebounds on his former team. For the Hawks, Dennis Schröder scored 25 points on 11-of-21 shooting while Taurean Prince added 15 points.
Both sides were left to deal injuries heading into this one: DeAndre’ Bembry was ruled out after it was discovered he had a wrist fracture (more information to come on Monday). For the Hornets, their injury story was much more severe, with Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Michael Carter Williams all sitting out of this one.
A tale of two twenty point leads
It was all looking so good for the Hawks early on.
By the 8:52 mark in the second quarter, the Hawks had built themselves a 20 point lead (beginning the second quarter on an 11-2 run), thanks to some good ball movement, team-wide contributions (nine different players scoring for the Hawks early in this game) and some good defense forcing the Hornets into uncharacteristic turnovers (10 committed by the 8:52 mark leading to 12 points for the Hawks).
The Hornets also suffered a dip in competitiveness when Kemba Walker went to the bench and the second unit (already hurting due to the absences of Batum, Zeller, MKG and MCW) struggled to keep up with the Hawks.
But Kemba and the Hornets eventually recovered and would finish the quarter on a 29-16 run to cut the lead to seven points heading into the locker room.
Then came the third quarter, where things started to get away from the Hawks and in dramatic fashion. The Hornets reeled off a 24-0 (!!) in the third quarter to take an 11 point lead heading into the final period.
Such a run is obviously a turning point of any game, so let’s talk about it: what happened?
Though the Hornets ignited somewhat in the final half of this quarter, the Hawks’ offense also just completely evaporated — they couldn’t have hit water if they fell out of a boat. Nothing was going down.
Good looks that players would normally make just wouldn’t go down.
Like this uncontested jumper off of a screen for Dennis Schröder:
It’s as Bob Rathbun said in commentary: that’s a shot that normally goes down for Dennis, especially from that range.
Here, another uncontested shot that doesn’t go down, this time from Taurean Prince:
Again, that’s a pretty decent shot that just didn’t go down.
Mike Muscala, a good three-point shooter, is left open but he can’t knock down the shot:
That’s a good shot but it just doesn’t go down.
Again, Dennis, coming off of that Dedmon screen, usually he hits that mid-range J but, again, it just doesn’t sink:
And, to round it all off, here’s Dedmon missing a ‘gimme’ near the rim:
That’s miss sums up that quarter for the Hawks. When you miss that, you know it’s not your day — how does that not go down?
Coach Bud was left to rue the points the Hawks left on the table, both in the second quarter and the third quarter.
“...I thought we had a lot of good looks, both in that second quarter and, really, in the third quarter too...” remarked coach Bud postgame. “...On some plays our execution is good. On others, we need to improve...”
So, there were those opportunities that didn’t go down but the Hawks, to be fair, also took some difficult shots during the run and the Hornets defense more alert.
And on the defensive end, the Hawks didn’t help themselves at times.
Unfortunately for John Collins, the third quarter (and this game, really) was a harsh reminder that rookies are exactly that: rookies. They make mistakes due to their inexperience and, usually, aren’t good on the defensive end, and Collins learned the hard way against Dwight Howard.
Here in transition coming into the half-court, Collins decides to double Kemba, and forgets about Dwight in the middle of the paint. Walker, as you’d expect, finds his big-man and Prince, in desperation, tries to hack Howard’s arm but can’t prevent the dunk and commits the foul.
Afterwards, you can see Mike Muscala raise his hands as if to say, ‘What happened?’
It didn’t end there for Collins, unfortunately. He would also foul Kemba Walker on a three-point attempt, which Walker duly dispatched. Collins would eventually foul out in the fourth quarter.
Dirk Nowitzki in your rookie game, then Dwight Howard in game two... The opposition won’t always be this difficult to guard for Collins, but it was a good learning experience for him.
“I think John’s going to see a lot of things this year,” coach Bud commented postgame. “Joking around in shootaround, he had to guard Dirk Nowitzki on opening night, now he’s got to guard Dwight Howard the next night — couldn’t be more polar opposites. The mental challenge adjusting each night to different guys you’re guarding... It’s a great learning opportunity for John...”
You have to give credit to the Hornets too, though. They played some good basketball in the third quarter...Kemba Walker did Kemba Walker things that help the Hornets win basketball games — he was great, and guys like Frank Kaminsky (21 points off the bench) stepped up in a huge way for the shorthanded Hornets.
The Hornets outscored the Hawks 35-17 in the third quarter and shot 52% from the field in the third and went to the free throw line on 14 occasions. The Hawks, meanwhile, shot just 21% in the third and shot just two free throws in the period.
“It’s as frustrating as it could possibly get in basketball, especially if you’re up 18 in the first half at one point in time,” said Taurean Prince of the 24-0 run.
The Hornets also cut down on the turnovers that crippled them in the first half, committing just six turnovers in the second half after committing 15 in the first half.
“...Sometimes it’s a game of runs,” added coach Bud. “That was a big run for them, changed the game.”
Big Charlotte performances
The 24-0 run obviously helped the Hornets win this game, but they had some big-time performances throughout this game, and you have to acknowledge those give them credit.
Kemba Walker was fantastic — 26 points on 6-of-13 shooting, 4-of-8 from the three-point line, 10-of-14 from the charity stripe, nine assists and a plus/minus rating of plus-35. He took advantage of Dennis Schröder’s defensive lapses at times to cash in on some threes which, if you’re the Hawks, you can’t allow him to have.
Elsewhere, it was the first matchup between the Hawks and former center Dwight Howard. Howard usually gets up for these kinds of games and this was no exception as the big-man scored 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.
Dwight had a good game here — he punished John Collins down-low and was a factor on the glass, helping the Hornets out-rebound the Hawks 57-38. He also snatched four offensive rebounds, which helped the Hornets score 24 second chance points.
Frank Kaminsky we briefly mentioned already but his impact is worth elaborating on. 21 points for ‘Frank the Tank’, which helped spearhead the Hornets bench scoring which they desperately needed with many of their key players missing. The Hornets bench outscored the Hawks’ bench 42-29, and Kaminsky was obviously instrumental to that.
He’s a tough guy to guard at times, is Kaminsky, because he can hit from the perimeter but can also take it inside too, and the Hawks struggled to deal with this versatility at times.
Give them credit. These three players were huge on Friday night and they dug themselves out of a 20 point hole and turned it into a 20 point advantage. That’s difficult to do...
Free throw disparity
The Hawks found it difficult to get some calls and get themselves to the free throw line in this game and it was a huge factor in this game. The Hornets shot 30 free throws (making 24) and the Hawks shot just 14 free throws (making 12).
Kemba Walker almost outscored the Hawks at the free throw line by himself, getting to the line the same number of times as the entire Hawks team (14).
Dennis Schröder only got the free throw line three times in this game, despite the fact he drove to the rim fairly often. Dennis settled for some jumpers at times, but he did attack the rim (particularly when Dwight Howard wasn’t on the floor)... For a point guard who can slash the way he can, you’d think that Dennis would, perhaps, get to the line more than three times in a game.
Definitely something to keep your eye on in the future.
Encouraging ball movement
When you’re leading by 20 points in a game, you should probably win that game (and certainly shouldn’t find yourself trailing by 20 after the fact), so this isn’t the greatest loss in the world for the Hawks to take.
But there was some encouragement to take from this game: the ball movement was great at times.
Guys making the extra pass, penetration, more passing, man movement...Hawks basketball:
Nice drive and dish by Kent Bazemore, collapsing the defense before finding Collins underneath.
Again, great man movement and unselfish play:
Decent closeout by Kaminsky to, perhaps, deter this shot from Luke Babbitt.
These examples were plentiful in the second quarter:
Again, another good closeout by Kaminsky to effect this shot.
This is always encouraging to see, but especially so in game two of 82 and even more so since there’s a lot of new players on this team who have yet to fully acclimate themselves to this offense.
The Marco Belinelli experience
Remember when Marco Belinelli scored 20 points on his Hawks debut and the Hawks won and it was all good?
Time moves quickly in the NBA.
Marco followed up his Dallas game with a 1-for-10 shooting display on his way to five points against the Hornets...
This is the Marco Belinelli experience, this is what you get with Marco: you could get the Italian master-dish one night and sloppy pasta the next... Feast or famine, etc.
This was one of those games, unfortunately, but the good thing (or bad thing, depending on your point of view) is that Marco will keep on shooting, oh, yes he will.
Power forward duds
While point guards Dennis Schröder and Kemba Walker provided a good positional matchup (combining for 51 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds) the power forward matchup did not...
Ersan Ilyasova and Marvin Williams both laid eggs on Friday night, combining for zero points on 0-of-10 shooting from the field (0-of-4 for Ersan, 0-of-6 for Marvin), 0-of-7 from behind the arc for and nine rebounds.
While Frank Kaminsky was able to make up for Marvin’s off-night, Ilyasova’s absence was felt in more ways than one. Ilyasova picked up his fifth foul of the game in the third quarter, before the Hornets made their monster run. The Hawks really could’ve used Ilyasova’s defense during that run but he could only watch from the bench as the Hornets ran riot..
Baze goes back-to-back
Kent Bazemore managed to pick up his second technical foul in as many games after he made his feelings to the officials known after not getting a foul call on the offensive end.
Baze has a habit for receiving technicals for arguing with officials and it seems as though not much has changed from last season into this season.
When he went to his coach on the sideline, it looked like coach Bud said something that, perhaps, Baze didn’t like (perhaps commenting on his tech) and Baze then seemed to state his case for the foul call on the other end.
Here’s the incident:
I believe you can actually hear Baze (though a tad muffled) say, quite angrily, “where’s the f***ing foul?!” to the nearest official and obviously gives him more crap as he gets back on defense.
At least Baze won’t have an issue paying the fines for any techs he receives.
It was another so-and-so game for Baze. He scored 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting but didn’t really leave much of a print on this game. With Baze being one of the better players on this team, you’d expect him to, perhaps, assert himself a little more on the offensuve but he didn’t do that last night which was a little disappointing.
The Hawks (1-1) continue their road-trip on Sunday afternoon against the Brooklyn Nets in the first night of a back-to-back, their first of the new season.