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Hawks hang around again but slide down the stretch in loss to Pistons

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This is becoming a familiar theme for the Hawks this season.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks were unable to complete their 19 point comeback as they fell to the Detroit Pistons 111-104 in their first visit to Little Caesars Arena.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with 22 points while Dennis Schröder notched his first double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 assists.

For the Pistons, they were led by Andre Drummond’s monster line of 16 points, 20 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks while Reggie Jackson added 22 points.

Another close game but it escapes from the Hawks down the stretch — again

Another one of these...

The Hawks — behind a rough second quarter — fell behind by 19 points to the Pistons and faced an uphill battle all the way through the second half. But it was a hill they eventually climbed and — despite being down by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter — the Hawks found themselves tied at 98-98 with 2:34 remaining, thanks to Marco Belinelli’s floater.

As you can probably tell, things got out of hand quickly from there — the Pistons went on to score 13 points in a minute and a half — so how did the Hawks let this fall down the stretch? Let’s take a look, a gawk and a gander at the stretch plays.

Right after that Belinelli floater, the Pistons come the other way. Some excellent Hawks defense keeps the Pistons (mostly Reggie Jackson, which is what this possession was: it was Reggie Jackson) out of the paint and, with the clock winding down, Jackson takes a contest jumper which misses:

Great job from John Collins here after the Drummond screen to prevent Reggie from turning the corner, allowing Bazemore to get back into the play. Being fair, the Pistons offense in the second half, in general, wasn’t good, but this was a good defensive stop for the Hawks.

This play was significant because it gave the Hawks the opportunity to take the lead inside the final two minutes. So, how do the Hawks respond to this opportunity?

After Schröder passes it off to Collins, Collins gives to Baze, Baze operates off the Collins screen, takes a mid-range shot which misses and Drummond collects the rebound:

The shot itself was fine in the end. That’s a good shot for Baze to take, he just missed it (which is, unfortunately, a common theme this season). The problem I would have here is that it took so long for the Hawks to get into their action. By the time there’s 12 seconds left on the shotclock, the ball is still in Dennis’ hands and nothing has happened in front of him.

Though it took a while to get into, ultimately, the shot was a good look in the end and the Hawks have to come up with another stop.

Again, the Hawks defend well for the majority of this defensive sequence, but John Collins appears to be caught napping a bit, watching the ball more so than Drummond near the rim, and it’s a simple pass for Jackson to make in the end. Collins pushes Drummond in an effort to ensure he doesn’t have a simple dunk and is obviously called for the foul:

A rookie mistake for Collins here at a very bad time of the game, and he’s lucky this didn’t result in a three-point play, because his push wasn’t very good. Yes, Drummond missed the dunk, but he probably should’ve completed that play despite the push — Drummond blew this dunk. Don’t get me wrong, it was the right thing for Collins to do, and a smart play — just needs to be more effective with it next time because the reason Drummond missed this dunk more so because of himself than Collins’ push.

Anyways, Drummond goes to the line and dispatches both free throws, putting the Pistons up two with 1:28 remaining.

The Hawks come the other way, and cannot penetrate the Pistons’ defense. Schröder finally gets the step on Jackson and but Drummond is there block his floater near the lane. Dennis sticks with the play though, and comes up with the steal — Drummond a bit slow to get the ball to a teammate — and Dennis tees up Collins with a lob to tie the game at 100 with just over a minute left:

Great defense from the Pistons but they couldn’t complete the defensive sequence, Dennis doing a good job to poke that ball loose and buying his side a second chance, which they grabbed (Collins did so literally) to keep themselves in the hunt.

Jackson comes the other way, and the Hawks get muddled when Tobias Harris comes to set a screen for Jackson, giving Jackson the marginal space he needs to hoist a three, and it goes down:

One of two things should’ve happened here for the Hawks defensively. Either the Hawks switch on the pick-and-roll with Prince or Baze simply has to stick tighter to Jackson — and it’s probably the latter. I think Kent believes Jackson is going to use this screen, the way Baze positions himself and his body seems to suggest so. But Jackson doesn’t do anything/move in any direction to suggest he’s going left, and simply rises when Bazemore leaves him.

I don’t want to explicitly say Bazemore should be doing better here, but it’s hard say much differently.

Either way, the Pistons are up three with 52 seconds left. Bud elects not to take a timeout and the Hawks try to respond again.

The Hawks get into their offense quickly, with Schröder passing the rock to Baze, who hands-off to, and screens, for Belinelli. Belinelli rises for three, misses, there’s a fight the rebound, Collins clatters Bradley and is called for the foul — which means free throws for the Pistons:

Again, the Hawks get a great shot — Belinelli is uncontested by Reggie Bullock — but it just doesn’t go down. Collins, meanwhile, probably needs to be more careful in this situation — you’re playing with fire when you flail your arm like that when the other team is in the bonus and bodies are in close proximity like they are here. To be fair to him, that rebound is there to be won and he does well to contest that, but it’s that secondary action of his right arm that gets him in trouble.

Down the other end from the resulting free throws, Avery Bradley makes the first but misses the second. On the rebound, Baze can’t keep ahold of the ball (does Taurean Prince affect that?) and it ends up in the hands of Bradley. The Pistons set up with Jackson and drain the clock. When Drummond comes to set the screen, Collins switches onto Jackson. Jackson, clearly feeling confident, dances a bit, rises and cans the three — putting the Pistons up by seven with 21 seconds remaining:

Not much the Hawks could do here. Schröder got pinned by that Drummond screen and there wasn’t much Collins could do on an island with Jackson. I’m more surprised Reggie hit that shot, to be honest.

Anyways, that was pretty much the game right there. Though Bazemore did hit a three to reply, the Hawks were always chasing and playing the foul game, another turnover after this didn’t help, and the Pistons iced this game at the line.

Another tough loss for the team to take, and it’s always the same it seems — get into an early hole, expound most of the energy trying to recover then actually recovering in the fourth to have a shot of winning but just falling short.

The Hawks played a much better second half of this game and that’s what everyone is looking to take heading forward.

“Hopefully we can build off the second half,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer postgame.

While Bud was happy with the second half effort, he lamented the effort across the full game, saying his team needs to come out for the full 48 minutes.

“The way we played there is how we need to play for the whole game,” said Bud. “Just not what we need, not good enough in the first half and dug ourselves a hole. Again, made a comeback ... a lot of guys played well in the second half, a lot of guys gave great effort in the second half. (We’ll) draw on that, reflect on that and understand that we have to do that for the full 48 minutes tomorrow night (versus Washington).”

Kent Bazemore acknowledged that these slow starts have been the Hawks’ undoing so far this season.

“... started the game out kind of slow and that’s been our Achilles heel to start season — get in a hole, fight our way back...”

There is encouragement to be found from the second half, but it’s ultimately another loss for the Hawks.

If you’re in the crowd who wants the Hawks to get a high draft pick but don’t want them to be horrifically bad, then this is the perfect situation for you: the Hawks are competitive (fun at times), they’re hanging around in these game but they ultimately lose.

That has been the trend so far and the Hawks are itching to break it.

Kent Bazemore’s best game of the season

If you’re looking for any encouragement from last night’s loss here’s something: Kent Bazemore had his best game of the season so far as he went off for 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, 3-of-6 from three and 3-of-3 from the line.

Baze has struggled, to say the least, so far this season but it’s encouraging to see a performance like this. The Pistons didn’t defend him well at times, but you take what you can get — especially when you’re shooting below 40% from the field.

We’ll see if Kent can build off of this performance heading into Washington, it would be great for his confidence if he could have another strong game.

Detroit crushing the glass

The Pistons utilised their Andre Drummond advantage and crushed the Hawks on the glass as a result — 51-45. Now, that obviously doesn’t look like a “crushing” margin, but nestled in that nest are the offensive rebounds. There, the Pistons out-rebounded the Hawks 20-11 — that’s a lot of offensive rebounds.

Offensive rebounds lead to second chance opportunities, with second chance opportunities come second chance points and the Pistons outscored the Hawks 20-8 in this department.

Andre Drummond is obviously a huge reason for this, his 20 rebounds — 10 of which were offensive (both to the Hawks and of the rebounding variety) — were huge. Poor John Collins was tasked with trying to guard Drummond and fight him on the glass... That’s a tough ask for any rookie — Drummond is listed at 279 pounds, Collins 235...

Or, in simpler terms, it means this:

Sure, a bit of an arm in the back of Collins, but it’s a mans league, and Drummond is a BIG man.

Tough matchup for Collins but, and you should get used to this, he’ll learn from this, and this was an area where the Pistons were comprehensively better than the Hawks on Friday night.

Free throw disparity...or was it?

Another area the Pistons convincingly beat the Hawks was at the free throw line — the Hawks shot 8-of-11 at the line, the Pistons 21-27.

Avery Bradley did the most damage at the line — shooting 7-of-10 — and that’s partly (if not, mostly) because Dennis Schröder allowed Bradley (who is not an explosive/quick guard) to drive past him and fouled him as a result of being beat (or forcing others to foul him).

Andre Drummond also got to the line (where we got to see his new and improved free throw stroke — which looks great, I might add) on six occasions while Anthony Tolliver got to the line another four times.

Part of the reason why the Hawks didn’t get to the line as much as the Pistons was that they actually just scored at the rim a ton instead (58 points in the paint), because the Pistons’ help defense at the rim wasn’t great at times — Dennis got to the rim on nine occasions, scoring six times while Baze got to the rim six times, scoring three times.

And for the team as a whole:

Courtesy of NBA.com/stats

The free throws numbers tell a different story than what it really was...

Ball movement

The Hawks have struggled to move the ball at times this season but recorded a season-high 28 assists on 44 made baskets last night. As mentioned off the top, Dennis recorded his first double-double with 11 assists while Kent Bazemore added five.

Everyone just chipped in and did their thing and it seems that the offense is clicking a little more with the newer/younger players as everyone begins to understand where they’re supposed to be and when to pass — the Hawks have now averaged 109 points and 25.3 assists per game in their last three games.

Here are two plays from last night that I loved, because it’s the newer guys showing the signs of development/awareness in the offense.

First, Dedmon making that extra pass to Baze in the corner:

Then in the second half, Babbitt declining a shot he could’ve easily taken himself to find Collins underneath for the dunk:

The assist numbers haven’t been great to begin the season, but it can only get better as time progresses and guys know their spots and where to be.

Turnover story

Turnovers played an important role in this game for both teams.

In the first half, it was the Hawks who were coughing it up and the Pistons scoring off of those Hawk turnovers — 11 first half turns for Atlanta (seven coming in the second quarter) leading to 19 Detroit points (11 coming in the second quarter).

In the second half, it went the other way.

The Hawks only committed four turnovers in the second half leading to just four points for the Pistons, while Detroit committed 11 second half turnovers leading to 19 Atlanta points.

In the end, the Hawks scored 27 points off of turnovers compared to the Pistons’ 23.

These swings of momentum in this department played a big part for both teams in their respective runs in both halves (Pistons in the first half, Hawks in the second), but it was interesting to see how it swung in the end and how it basically evened out, despite the two stories being very different.

How to get yanked in five seconds

The Hawks’ second two-way signing, Tyler Cavanaugh, has seen some very brief court time of late thanks to the injuries to Mike Muscala and Ersan Ilyasova (who both missed out last night again).

When Cavanaugh was inserted into the game last night, he took an ill-advised three-point shot with plenty of time left on the clock. Off of the miss, the Pistons come the other way (you can already see Bud angrily pacing as they do) and Ish Smith drives to the rim — with Cavanaugh providing very little resistance — and scores, prompting Bud to call an immediate timeout and vent his anger onto Cavanaugh:

Cavanaugh did not take to the floor after this timeout and was only seen again in the final 1.2 seconds of the third quarter. Even Nicolas Brussino snuck in four seconds at the end of this game and not Cavanaugh.

That leash is short.


The Hawks (2-10) are back in action tonight (Saturday) against the Washington Wizards for the second game of this three game road trip.

Dennis Schröder playoff revenge game? We shall see.