The Atlanta Hawks couldn’t build on their win against Miami on Monday as they fell to the Indiana Pacers at Philips Arena on Wednesday night, 105-95, in what was a colorful affair.
Strong games from Victor Oladipo (23 points) and Myles Turner (20 points) helped lift the Pacers to victory while the Hawks were led by John Collins’ 18 points and nine rebounds.
Slow second half
This was a pretty even game most of the way through but it was in the third quarter when the Pacers began to set themselves apart from the Hawks but it wasn’t not necessarily on the scoreboard (that would happen in the fourth quarter).
Plays like this, where the Indiana defense is clicking and the Hawks just unable to find rhythm/good shots:
The Pacers made adjustments at half time (we’ll get to one of those soon) and they continued to stick with it while the Hawks’ intensity dropped off a bit. The Pacers would lead all the way through the third quarter (and the entire second half) but the Hawks always kept themselves close, within a run.
But for as long as the Hawks were within a run of coming back, the Pacers were also within a run of running away, and that’s what happened in the fourth quarter. A quick 7-2 run to start the fourth put the Pacers up by 12 with just under 10 minutes left, forcing Bud into a timeout and the Hawks faced with an uphill task again in the fourth.
Malcolm Delaney was fouled on a three-point attempt and shot three free throws and made two to bring the Hawks within nine points but a 14-3 run by the Pacers put them up by 20 points and that was it. The Hawks brought it down to 10 points by the end, but all of that was done in garbage time with Oladipo and company on the bench.
Though the Hawks played a very solid first half, it’s a 48 minute game, and the Pacers just played harder for longer, something Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer was quick to concede that postgame.
“Credit to Indiana,” said Bud. “They were able to sustain their effort, sustain their play for 48 minutes. We just had a big, long stretch where at both ends of the court, we weren’t as good as we need to be. We just need to be more competitive, (make) more winning plays, more together for 48 minutes. Pretty high-level basketball for 24 minutes and we weren’t able to maintain that. It’s part of our growth, part of our learning experience – can we do it for 48 minutes?”
Bud wasn’t too happy with his side’s effort in the third quarter, lamenting his side’s commitment in the third quarter.
“There were a few basic, fundamental plays, a couple in transition, a couple offensive boards. You have to commit to doing that for 48 minutes,” said Budenholzer. “You have to commit to getting back in transition defense. You have to commit to being good on the defensive boards, getting hits, making an unselfish play. You may not get the rebound but a teammate will get it. We’re standing there watching Thaddeus Young tip the ball back in, they’re getting transition baskets and those kinds of plays just set the tone for us not being able to maintain that level of play, that attention to detail, that focus that it takes for 48 minutes.”
The Pacers just wanted the win more and just played like they wanted it.
“They just played better than us,” said Malcolm Delaney. “They competed. They wanted to win more in the third quarter.”
John Collins, meanwhile, echoed the sentiments of Bud.
“It was our energy,” said John Collins. “We came out of the gates with a lot of energy – played hard, played fast, played the way Coach wanted us to play. Then in the second half we kind of (simmered) down a little bit, kind of let off the gas and I think that led to them getting up so big and us not being able to finish the game with a W.”
Before the Hawks sliced 10 points off of the Pacers’ lead in garbage time, they had shot 36% from the field and 20% (2-of-10) from three in the second half while the Pacers shot 53% from the field and 45% from three.
The other key difference for Indiana was that when the game needed putting away, they had a player that could do that in Victor Oladipo, who scored eight points in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks didn’t have that — there was no ‘go-to-guy’ last night. Now, that (hero-ball) isn’t not how the Hawks normally look to play but the reality is that they have had to at times, and they rely on Dennis Schröder’s ability to score/breakdown the defense and they didn’t have that last night.
Let’s talk about that.
It was a rough night for Dennis Schröder — eight points on 4-of-15 shooting, but he did notch eight assists with just one turnover.
Schröder was able to get to the rim sparingly in the first half but the Pacers made an adjustment at half time (it’s something we’ve seen some teams do and it should be something almost every team should do): they put more pressure on Dennis in pick-and-rolls.
Here, the initial on-ball pressure comes from Darren Collison, and between him and Myles Turner, the Pacers prevent Schröder from turning the corner and Schröder is forced to give it up:
The Pacers covered Plumlee in the paint (who Turner had to leave) and this left two players open in the corner but there was no opportunity to find them in time before the Pacers return to their respective men.
Again, it’s Collison and Turner — Collison fighting over the screen and Turner preventing Dennis from turning the corner. Dennis finds Miles Plumlee but Miles fairly well contested by Bojan Bogdanovic and the shot is off:
You’ve done your job if you’re the Pacers, allowing Miles Plumlee to shoot instead of Dennis.
Thaddeus Young also got involved. Here, he does a great job showing on Dennis and then recovering to Ersan Ilyasova:
The Pacers also did a better job staying in front of Schröder.
On a switch, Thad Young does a great job staying in front of Dennis, forcing him into a pass before he drives into a crowded area and ends up with the shot clock violation:
In the fourth, Cory Joseph does a great job staying in front of Dennis, preventing him from turning the corner:
Schröder also had three of his shots blocked by Myles Turner, none more emphatic than this:
Schröder was scoreless in the second half and could only watch as Oladipo rose to the occasion while Dennis himself struggled.
Coach Bud didn’t want to get too drawn into the Pacers’ defense of Schröder and Taurean Prince (who scored eight points on 3-of-10 shooting), instead saying that the Hawks, as a group, didn’t do enough.
“ . . . Whether it be Dennis or Taurean not getting the shots that they need to, I just thought collectively we weren’t very good offensively in the second half. A lot of it rides on Dennis’ shoulders, and Baze’s and Taurean’s. But as a group, the second half, we weren’t as good as we need to be.”
Nearly every opposing team should be doing something similar to what Indiana did: extend more pressure in pick-and-rolls involving Schröder, don’t allow him to get downhill/turn the corner/get to the rim, force the ball out of his hands and force others to make plays and make shots. The Pacers did this and no one stepped up to threaten them in the second half — the Hawks seemingly couldn’t figure out how to beat it.
The Pacers deserved this win and this adjustment was crucial in pulling away from Atlanta.
John Collins is back
After missing six games with a shoulder injury, John Collins has been steadily coming along since his return but last night he definitely looked as good as he had prior to the injury — a team-high 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting and nine rebounds in 27 minutes, including shooting 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
It’s good to see Collins not only be productive in a limited number of minutes (hopefully he’ll get 30 minutes a game soon) but also get to the line and make his free throws.
Though there are things Collins wish he had done differently, he is embracing the learning curve he’s experiencing in his rookie season.
“There are a couple of times on the court when I think I should’ve done this or done that,” said Collins. “I want the learning experience. Coach wants me to go out there and play with a lot of confidence so I try to do that. It’s my rookie year and we’re only about 30 games in, so we have a whole season left to go.”
One of the few bright sparks in this game for the Hawks (seems like this has often been the case...).
Miles Plumlee was another positive in this game — 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and five rebounds in 21 minutes.
Again, all dunks with Plumlee, but he gives the Hawks an interesting option: a big, big body who can set screens and roll to the rim:
The Hawks like to run this action often: two bigs come to set a horns-type screen with a big who rolls and a big who can stretch. The point guard chooses the side to attack and one big will fade behind the line, the other will usually roll to the rim. More often than not, it’s been beneficial for the big that’s fading behind the three-point line, but a good roll from Plumlee leads to the dunk.
Here, after a good contest by Plumlee on Myles Turner (you forget how long Plumlee is sometimes), he sets himself up on the baseline. As a Kent Bazemore and Ersan Ilyasova pick-and-roll breaks down the Pacers defense, Plumlee cuts baseline, receives the ball from Ilyasova and finishes with the reverse (!!) slam:
Plumlee is getting more and more accustomed to the Hawks and how they play. Here’s a beautiful pass from Plumlee to DeAndre’ Bembry for his only three points of the game:
Defensively, Plumlee was decent too, coming up with two blocks.
At times, Plumlee is punished for his lack of lateral quickness on defense (though, he’s no Omer Asik-slow to be fair — he’s more mobile than you might think) his length can make up for some of those shortcomings.
Here, Myles Turner beats him but Plumlee does a good job recovering and using his length to block the shot:
Some Miles on Myles violence...
Another solid game by Plumlee, who is taking advantage of the big-man shortage with Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala currently sidelined.
A quick one on Malcolm Delaney...
Delaney — having played a key role in the last game — didn’t play in the first half of this game only to actually be called upon later on in the third quarter and he eventually scored nine points.
Postgame, Delaney said this isn’t something he was used to and finds it “tough.”
Asked Malcolm Delaney how hard it is to come in cold in the 2nd half after not playing in the 1st— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) December 21, 2017
"It's tough, man. Never did it in my life. All this stuff is new to me and I try my hardest just to do what I can to help the team win... toughest thing I've ever done in my career"
I do feel for Delaney, because he has been solid when he has got minutes of late and is deserving a few more since Isaiah Taylor is not playing particularly well of late (and hasn’t quite been the same since he suffered the eye injury).
The Hawks (7-24) now head on a mini two game road trip before breaking up for Christmas, the first of which takes place in Oklahoma City on Friday night.
Should be fun. Stay tuned.