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Atlanta Hawks come back in Cleveland to notch first preseason win

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What stood out in the Hawks’ first preseason win?

NBA: Preseason-Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks got themselves into the win column last night, knocking off the Cleveland Cavaliers (minus LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas) by a final score of 109-93 at Quicken Loans Arena.

Lots to talk about today in the aftermath so let’s jump right in, shall we?

Rough start, better finish

Without LeBron and IT, this game was an interesting test for the Hawks and would give them an idea how they stack up against your typical NBA opponent (with Kevin Love being the one star on the team).

The Hawks did not start this game off well as the Cavs got off to a 21-7 lead as Atlanta’s offense struggled — shots weren’t falling, turnovers were being committed and the Cavs were playing some good defense.

Kevin Love was also having his way with Dewayne Dedmon early on, stretching the Hawks big man as he hit three first quarter three-pointers for nine points.

(We’ll give J.R. Smith a bit of credit here, this was a solid screen on Dedmon)

This was slightly concerning as bigs these days are more versatile when it comes to shooting — is Dedmon going to struggle similarly with the likes of Brook Lopez and Al Horford when it comes to outside shooting?

The Hawks would cut the 14 point lead to eight points heading into the second quarter, where they found their feet somewhat — shooting 62.5% from the field.

Kent Bazemore scored six points in the second quarter and did a good job taking the ball inside and scoring at the rim. Baze had the ball in his hands often in this game and he looked good with it for the most part — extra good when it came to this monster jam.

It’s obvious that the Hawks are relying on Bazemore to create some offense this season and he did a good job making some plays in this one.

Despite the Hawks racking up the turnovers (14 in the first half) and showing reluctance to take some good looking three-pointers, they entered the break down by just three points.

It was in the third quarter where things swung in the Hawks’ favor; mostly because the Cavaliers’ starting lineup did not feature in the second half — the second and third units running matters in the second half.

Dennis Schröder — after being somewhat limited in the first half — ignited in the third and linked up well with Dewayne Dedmon for multiple scores on his way to nine third quarter points, scoring 18 points in total on 7-of-15 shooting but shot 2-of-8 from three...

Taurean Prince also got going offensively in the third quarter after a so-and-so first half — hitting back-to-back threes for six third quarter points on his way to a total of 15 points.

After the third quarter the game got away from the Cavs — who continued to utilize their deep bench — and the Hawks were able to coast to an easy win. They continued to play the right way no matter who was/wasn’t on the floor and they can take encouragement from that.

A better night for the bench...or was it?

In the Hawks’ first preseason game against the Miami Heat, the Hawks’ bench/second unit, at times, struggled to create offense and score.

They fared better against the Cavs last night but, it has to be said, the majority of their 51 points came in the second half — where the Cavs played their second/third units, and I think there’s still a genuine concern to be had here.

When they played against the Cavs’ mostly legitimate second unit (again, no LeBron and IT affecting Cleveland’s rotation), they struggled to create offense, struggled to penetrate end generally ended up with tough shots with the shot clock winding down like this one:

Side note, coach Bud has talked about playing with “even greater pace”, basically meaning the Hawks get into the sets/actions quicker. This was anything but that...

It’s hard to take the second half showing (from both the starters and the bench) as something that’s ‘for real’ given that the Cavs rolled out the likes of Kay Felder, John Holland, Cedi Osman, Kendrick Perkins (!!) and Ante Zizic in the second half — a lot of guys, if not all, who won’t play rotation minutes for the Cavs in the regular season. It’s just hard to gauge.

Though the bench’s general offense was still, sort of, meh, there were some positives from a few bench players.

We’ll get to Tyler Dorsey soon but I really wanted to talk about Luke Babbitt... He’s a really solid player who is definitely underrated defensively — he really doesn’t get enough credit as a defender.

Check out this play: Dedmon leaves Kevin Love (I guess to help Dennis, who looked as though he was about to posted-up on by Dwyane Wade?) completely open in the corner. The Cavs work the ball and Babbitt does a great job taking away two open three-point shots before absorbing the contact by Kevin Love, who settles for a jump shot which Babbitt contests effectively.

I love to see guys fly defensively like this...cracking stuff from Babbitt, who had an overall good game, scoring nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from behind the arc.

Tyler Dorsey’s positive outing

Let’s move on to Tyler Dorsey...this was — by a country mile — his best outing for the Atlanta Hawks; Summer League or otherwise. Dorsey scored nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and hit a three-pointer.

Yes, 3-of-9 shooting isn’t the most efficient but it was about how Dorsey looked on the court — that’s what it’s mostly about for rookies: how they look on the floor.

He looked healthy first of all, which he wasn’t really in Summer League, but he also looked comfortable and confident in the offense and it was so clear to see. There was just a bounce in his step.

Check out this excellent drive and finish at the basket:

Nothing much else to say here, just a good game from Dorsey and a good step in the right direction after a difficult start.

John Collins’ ‘welcome to the real NBA’ night

John Collins learned what it’s really about to be an NBA professional last night — scoring just four points last night and learning many NBA lessons along the way.

Defensively, especially in hand-off/pick-and-roll-like situations, Collins has work to do. Here, after the hand-off by Love to Derrick Rose, Collins he doesn’t cut off the driving lane from Rose, who turbos his way to the rim, leading to an immediate timeout and you can see Hawks assistant coach Taylor Jenkins go straight over to Collins for a word in his ear:

You could argue this is Schröder’s fault for not sticking with Rose but this could’ve just as easily been a screen set on Dennis to open up Rose instead of a hand-off — the big still has to step in cut off the driving lane. Collins will learn this in time.

Collins also had an inbounding violation called on him in the third quarter, and such turnovers just won’t fly at the professional level; but it’s good for him to get that out of the way early on. I don’t think he’ll be doing it again in a hurry.

Collins then had some fun trying to deal with Kendrick Perkins in the third quarter. Perk is just a massive man, a very physical player and a tough one; he won’t be afraid to dump you on your arse and he’ll do it a thousand times if he has to. And, as is the case with a tough veteran like Perkins, I’m sure he won’t be saying nice things to you up and down the court either.

Collins then got the hard end of a call that involved Perkins’ arm near Collins’ neck before being slightly undercut in the air by Perkins as he went upstairs to the rim. Collins would get his revenge by blocking Perkins before sustaining a shoulder strain after getting tangled with Richard Jefferson underneath the rim — he did not return in this game.

Overall, a tough night for Collins; tough night shooting the ball (or even seeing any opportunities to do so) and battered from all angles in the third quarter.

Welcome to the NBA, rook.

Dewayne Dedmon for three??

Dewayne Dedmon attempted a three-pointer in the Hawks’ loss to the Heat. Unsurprisingly to many, it missed.

But Dedmon decided he’d try his luck again, and it went in!

We also saw Dedmon attempt (and hit) some mid-range shots in this game too, and it’s obviously something he has been working on. If the preseason is any indication so far, expect to see this in the regular season too.

Dedmon, again, had a positive game — scoring 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting — and was a positive feature on the offensive end often in this game, not just when it came to his own boxscore. You can’t help but feel a little excited about Dedmon’s season in Atlanta...

Overall

A solid bounce-back game from the Hawks but hard to put a ton of stock into the second half performance given the Cavs played a lot of second/third unit guys against the Hawks first/second unit guys.

The starters played a much better game, the three-point shooting was better but the turnovers (20) will have to come down (though, to be fair, Dennis was only responsible for one of those, Baze led the way with five).

The Hawks are back in action on Friday in Detroit, where they’ll take on the Detroit Pistons.