Through the early part of this season, the Atlanta Hawks have grown accustomed to taking the floor without the full benefit of their roster. Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn, the Hawks were again missing several key players, but this time was different as all three players who were sidelined by injury, Dewayne Dedmon, John Collins and Mike Muscala, play center, power forward or both. The circumstances forced Miles Plumlee, who had played all of 12 minutes on the season entering the game, into the starting role at center. He was joined in the starting lineup by regulars Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince as well as Ersan Ilyasova who missed 11 of the first 16 games of the season dealing with an injury of his own.
Though the Nets are playing without their starting back court of Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell, they still presented quite the formidable challenge for the Hawks as the Nets played with a full repertoire of players in the front court. Further, Spencer Dinwiddie has taken the helm performing well in the starting point guard role.
Both teams scuffled early struggling with turnovers and missed shots. The teams exchanged leads eight times in the early minutes of the game. Both teams shot just 33% from the floor in the first quarter.
While both teams were struggling to make shots, the Hawks were converting two-point baskets while the Nets were making three-point baskets. The Hawks fell behind 18-13 on a Caris Levert three point shot with 3:35 to play in the opening period. But Isaiah Taylor and Luke Babbitt gave the Hawks a lift from the bench combining for 13 first quarter points on six of seven shooting to give the Hawks a 25-22 lead at the end of one.
Taylor beats the buzzer with a reverse layup giving the Hawks a 25-22 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After finishing the first quarter on a 7-0 run, the Hawks bench continued to build momentum by opening the second quarter with nine consecutive points to extend the run to 16-0 highlighted by two DeAndre’ Bembry steals that results in buckets for him at the other end of the floor. The Nets responded with an 11-2 run to close the gap to 36-33 mid-way through the quarter getting four baskets from four different players in including three-point baskets from Quincy Acy, Allen Crabbe and Joe Harris.
Bembry with the steal and uncontested dunk as part of a 7-0 run from the Hawks early in the second quarter.
The Hawks rediscovered their rhythm on both ends of the floor and finished the first half with a 54-45 lead. The Hawks’ bench was key scoring 31 points on 13 of 22 shooting while the Hawks starters’ contributed 23 points shooting 35% from the floor.
During the first half, the Nets seemed to be unaware the Hawks were playing short-handed in the front-court as they attempted more than half their field goal attempts from behind the arc and made just five two-point baskets in the first half. Both point gaurds led their respective teams in scoring at the break with Dinwiddie contributing 13 and Schroder adding 11.
The Nets continued firing from deep in the third quarter connecting on six of 14 three-point attempts. By the end of the third quarter, Brooklyn had made 16 of 36 three-point shots (44%) but still could not wrestle the lead from the Hawks. Though they had been outscored by 24 points from the behind the arc through three quarters, the Hawks led 81-75 heading into the fourth. Again, Atlanta’s bench was key scoring 14 of the Hawks’ 27 points in the quarter.
After the Nets closed the gap to just two points with 9:29 left in the game, Mike Budenholzer felt it was time to go back to his starters, sending Schroder and Prince to the scorer’s table to check in. The final nine minutes of the game became the Dennis Schroder show as he dominating the game down the stretch with nine points and four assists.
Shroder with the layup in traffic to help the Hawks put the Nets away late in the fourth quarter.
After Schroder re-entered the game, the Hawks used an 18-5 run to build the lead to 17 points with 3:54 to play. During that stretch, Schroder scored or assisted on six of the Hawks’ seven field goals. The Nets were never able to close the gap to single digits as the Hawks left Brooklyn with 114-102 win.
The Miles Plumlee Effect
Plumlee started and played 19 minutes but had a real impact on the game. In the first half, he made very few marks in the stat sheet (0 points, 0 field goal attempts, 4 rebounds, 1 assist) but his presence was felt on both ends of the floor.
In the second half, he impacted the stat sheet and the highlight real with six points, three rebounds and two blocks in just eight minutes of action including a reverse dunk on the offensive end and and impressive block on the defensive end. Plumlee finished with six points, seven rebounds, two assists and three blocks.
Plumlee gets a reverse dunk early in the fourth quarter off the pass from Babbitt.
Plumlee gets the block denying the shot attempt by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Team Effort on Defense
Compensating for missing three front court players, the Hawks delivered a strong effort to give help in the middle of the floor, especially when Plumlee was not in the game. For three quarters, the Hawks picked their poison by allowing the Nets to fire away from the three point line, but held the Nets to one of six shooting from behind the arc in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks were outscored by 21 points at the three-point line and by seven points at the free throw line. But a team effort on defense allowed the Hawks to dominate inside outscoring the Nets 54-28 in the paint.
Some Getting Healthy
While the Hawks sorely miss Dedmon, Collins and Muscala, they are getting contributions from players who missed time with injuries early in the season. Bembry (12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals), Taylor (11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists), Babbitt (20 points) and Ilyasova (9 points, 11 rebounds) all have recently returned from injuries and all played integral roles in the victory over the Nets.
The Hawks again face the Nets on Monday in Atlanta as the back end of the home-and-home series. Stay tuned.