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Fourth quarter plagues Atlanta Hawks in double-digit loss to Los Angeles Clippers

It’s been at least two games since this cropped up...

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their third straight game as the fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, 116-103, in a game where the Clippers ended their nine game losing streak.

Blake Griffin led the Clips with a triple-double — 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists — while Wesley Johnson added 24 points.

For the Hawks, they were led by Marco Belinelli’s 20 points while Dennis Schröder added 19 points and seven assists.

Fourth quarter problems

How many times have I said this this year? And how many times have I said how many times have I said this this year?

This was a very even game between two sides desperate for a win — 13 lead changes and seven game ties doesn’t really tell the full story.

But that all changed in the fourth quarter, as the Clippers outscored the Hawks 28-19 (shooting 58% in the final period, including six three-pointers) in the final period and turned a close game into a near blowout in a matter of minutes.

There was a key stretch in the fourth where this game got away from the Hawks. Let’s look at it.

A Dewayne Dedmon three-pointer cut the Clippers’ lead to five points (100-95) with 5:53 remaining.

The Clips come the other way and get an easy layup through Lou Williams, putting them up seven points:

Just poor defense here all around — DeAndre’ Bembry initially and then Dedmon on the help, as his indecision leaves Williams uncontested at the rim.

The Hawks come the other way and a miscommunication between Dedmon and Bembry leads to a turnover:

Just a miscommunication — Bembry was going for the cut while Dedmon thought he was staying at the three-point line. It happens, but there are better times for it to happen than in a crucial stretch in the fourth quarter.

The Clips come the other way and run a very nice action: Jordan and Griffin come up at the top for a Horns screen, giving Lou the option to choose which screen/side he wants to run. Lou-Will uses the Griffin screen going to his right. As Lou-Will hits Blake with a behind-the-back pass, Jordan does a great job causing commotion for Dedmon, as Jordan spins to the rim it causes Dedmon to choose between going with Jordan or close out Griffin behind the three-point line (you can see Dedmon’s body move one way, with DeAndre, before going the other way, to try and close out Blake).

The end result is a made Blake Griffin three:

This play really threw the Hawks for a loop and it worked to great effect here. The only thing you might say is that maybe Collins should’ve communicated that he had Jordan covered if/when he rolled, and maybe Dedmon wouldn’t have been wrong footed? I’m probably reaching there. Either way, it’s now a 10 point game and in dangerous territory.

Coming up the floor now down 10, Bembry tries to get to the cup on the drive. However, his layup attempt is thwarted from behind by DeAndre Jordan:

Good drive from Bembry and he had his man beaten, he had the layup, but DeAndre does well to block it — good defense here.

After a failed lob attempt for DeAndre, the Hawks come the other way and Dennis Schröder hits a mid-range J coming off of the Collins screen to cut the lead to eight.

Coming the other way, the Clips run a simple pick-and-roll with Williams and Griffin. An excellent screen-and-roll from Griffin opens up the lane for him, and Lou finds him. Marco Belinelli comes over to cut off Griffin from the rim, and Blake finds the open Wesley Johnson in the corner, who knocks down the three-pointer to take the lead up to 11 and a Hawks timeout:

Belinelli did the right thing to slide over here. If Marco doesn’t go and cut off Griffin, Collins would’ve stepped up to stop Blake, which would’ve left DeAndre Jordan open for a lob, and Blake would’ve found him for a very high percentage shot. While Wesley Johnson had it going in this game, the much lower percentage shot is the one Johnson took (Johnson shot 24% from three last season) even though Johnson had this shot falling last night — in this situation, a DeAndre Jordan dunk at the rim is a worse shot to give up than a, usually, poor/slightly below average three-point shooter.

Out of the timeout, the Hawks turn the ball over and the Clippers come the other way and Lou Williams hits the dagger three to put the Clips up by 14 points and the game was basically done from there:

And that was it, in just under two minutes a five-point Clipper lead turned into a 14 point lead thanks to some meh offense and poor defense.

Poor defense was a general theme of this game and the Clippers shot 58% from the field (having also hung 62 points in the first half), something Hawks head coach Mike Budneholzer was not happy about.

“We have to be a lot better defensively,” said Budenholz. “Even being up at halftime, a point, both teams scored 60-plus in the half. We weren’t able to maintain that pace offensively. A lot of their guys played well, but we have to do more to be disruptive, more to make it difficult on them.

“It’s hard to see 58 percent from the field defensively. We have to work to get better on that end of the court.”

To allow another team to shoot 58% in a game... it’s a wonder this game was as close as it was for as long as it was.

Another game, another fourth quarter in which a game has slipped away.

The Clippers were well worth their win in the end, even if the scoreline indicates a much easier time. They were reeling coming into Philips and Clippers coach Doc Rivers put things into perspective for his team before the game, and I thought it was worth sharing.

“It’s been a while (since the last win),” said Doc. “It was good. We needed a win. We got one. Now we get to have Thanksgiving. I told our guys before the game, ‘We have so much to be thankful for. We are in this losing streak, and all you do is think about that and all the bad stuff. Most people in the world would trade with you on your worst day.

“So you should be thankful for each other. Be thankful that you’re sitting in the locker room, healthy. You have a teammate that’s sitting in a hospital bed. So go out on the court and just be thankful for each other and go play.’ And I thought they did that.”

The teammate in hospital refers to guard Patrick Beverley, who, it was reported, would miss the rest of the season with knee surgery.

Nice call, Doc.

John Collins’ first NBA start

With Luke Babbitt being held out of this one with a back injury, and Mike Muscala already sidelined with an ankle injury (missing his ninth straight game), Mike Budenholzer inserted rookie John Collins into the starting lineup.

Collins recorded a double-double, 14 points and 10 rebounds in 37 minutes of action and went dunk crazy in the third quarter in particular:

“I was a little excited,” said Collins postgame. “I just had to go out there and calm my nerves and go out there and play the way I usually play. I think I did a solid job of that, but I’d (like to) do a little bit better.”

There are certainly better front lines to meet in your first than Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but Collins performed admirably.

“John continues to be somebody that’s growing, improving and playing well,” said coach Bud postgame. “He’s busting it out there. We want him to continue to take those steps forward.

“Tonight, for his first start, to play 37, 38 minutes, against a front line of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin – those are both All-Stars. He continues to take the challenge and welcome the challenge. He has to be better and we have to be better as a team, but a lot of positives for John.”

Collins started this game defending DeAndre Jordan instead of Blake Griffin but had his troubles at times against the duo on the defensive end.

“Those two dudes are a lot to handle down there,” said Collins of Griffin and Jordan. “Obviously you have Blake, he’s really versatile, and obviously shooting the three really well now in addition to being athletic. You have (DeAndre), a lob threat anywhere around the rim, dunking, rebounding, blocking shots. Those two guys aren’t slim either. They’re big bodies. You’re going to battle all night when you’re against guys like those.”

It’ll be interesting to see if Collins remains in the starting lineup once Babbitt and Muscala return from injury, but so far so good for John Collins.

Wesley Johnson’s breakout game

The Clippers’ Wesley Johnson exploded for a season-high 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 from the three-point line.

If you look at the footage, you’ll see they all come from the same corner — the right corner. Or if you’re a bit salty and don’t want to watch Wes Johnson highlights:

There’s a fine balance here to talk about.

Johnson shot 24% from three last season and for his seven year career has shot under 35% from three. If he takes a three-point shot, you can live with it, because the percentages say that — more often than not — it’s not a shot that’s going down.

However, when a shooter gets going and hits multiple shots, you have to forget about percentages and there comes a certain point where you have to say ‘we have to go out and guard him. He’s feeling it tonight.’

Despite the percentages (which weren’t absolutely horrible heading into this game, 31.8%) you also can’t just leave someone wide open as many times as the Hawks did with Johnson. As long as you have the capability of hitting that shot, you can’t give them the Andre Drummond type of treatment behind the three-point line.

So, there’s one aspect of it.

Sometimes you allow some/certain players to have more open shots in an effort to limit other player’s impact (we saw that was the case with Darius Miller and E’twuan Moore for the Pelicans when the Hawks wanted to limit Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins).

Was this the case with Wesley Johnson? To allow him to go off for 24 points while trying (and failing) to limit Blake and Lou?

“No, not really.” said Bud. “Obviously Blake Griffin and Lou Williams attract a lot of attention, (you) play a pick-and-roll game, you bring two to the ball, (you have your) rotations and things like that, so there may be some opportunities but it’s certainly not (the plan) for Wesley go 6-for-7 (from three) and have the game he had, no.”

He’s not a great shooter, and you play the percentages to a certain degree, but at some stage you have to show a professional NBA player a certain level of respect (and, hey! Professional basketball players make open shots, who knew!), especially when he’s shooting the lights out as he did in this game.

The Hawks didn’t and paid the price — Johnson was a huge reason why the Clippers won this game.

Dewayne Dedmon’s three-point shooting

Dewayne Dedmon continues to perform at a high level as he scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field but, more impressively, shot 3-of-4 from behind the arc.

Coming into this game, Dedmon had made a total of nine total three-pointers in his career (all coming this season), and in one game he knocked down a third of that amount.

The one thing I particularly enjoy about Dedmon shooting those shots is that his shot selection is great. Unlike bigs who are capable of shooting that shot and sometimes jack it up there without rhyme or reason, Dedmon really picks his spots smartly.

For the season, Dedmon is shooting 50% (!!) from behind the arc.

The mysterious case of Taurean Prince

When the Hawks played the Sacramento Kings last Wednesday, there was a number of plays in quick succession where Taurean Prince was out of control and perhaps not as disciplined as the Hawks’ coaching staff would like him to be/display on the court in the beginning of the third quarter.

From offensive fouls:

Needless fouls:

Poor defense leading to poor decision making:

To displaying visible anger (while saying something too) on the court (in the form of his outlet pass):

At this stage, Bud had had enough and Malcolm Delaney was called upon to sub in at the 10:30 mark in the third quarter and was inserted for Prince at the next possible buzzer.

Yesterday, we saw Bud — as he has been one to do, and not just as he did against the Kings — extend his short leash again and yank Prince after this defensive play coming out in the third quarter:

You can see Bud instantly calls for Malcolm Delaney to get himself ready to enter the game and, again, it would be for Prince. Once subbed, Prince would not take to the floor again until the dying embers of the third quarter.

Postgame, Bud elaborated on the decision, citing defense as the reason and that it wasn’t just Prince who was poor on that end.

“We watched film at halftime and it was basically a layup drill in the first half,” said Bud. “We just gave up another layup, something we’ve worked on from day one. It wasn’t just Taurean, everyone’s got to be better.”

Kent Bazemore (who had an efficient game) also drew some of Bud’s wrath, but if there is any one player who seems to have the shortest leash (barring John Collins because he is, after all, a rookie) it is Taurean Prince and he got the brunt of this one.

Prince played poorly too, it must be said — two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field, 0-of-3 from three in 21 minutes of action.

Just wasn’t TP’s night.

A rare half-court shot make

Well, these don’t happen everyday, so enjoy!

The Hawks (3-15) are back in action on Friday when they’ll take on the Knicks and old friend Tim Hardaway Jr. (who just hung 38, six and seven on the Raptors) at MSG, but not before they take on some turkey, I’m sure.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it!