The Atlanta Hawks dropped the first of two meetings in a matter of days against the Orlando Magic, falling in overtime 106-110 at the Amway Center in Orlando.
The Magic were led by three fantastic games from their starters with Evan Fournier scoring 27 points (hopefully the ankle injury he suffered in overtime isn’t too serious), Aaron Gordon scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Nikola Vucevic added 22 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals.
For the Hawks, Dennis Schröder scored 26 points on 10-of-26 shooting and seven assists while Taurean Prince added 19 points.
Down the stretch and overtime
This was a close game throughout, with no team leading by double figures at any stage. It was close down the stretch and we’ll start by taking a look at a huge moment in this game that really swung the game back to the Magic — the three-pointer that Kent Bazemore made that was wiped off the board, deemed to be a shot clock violation:
This is a tough call — it’s borderline.
Was there conclusive evidence to overturn it? That’s a tough call to try and make.
Fast forward — the Hawks are up by three points with 27 seconds remaining. It’s ‘score or bust’ for the Magic at this stage of the game. After Jonathan Simmons drives inside, his pass to the perimeter is deflected, Vucevic manages to take the ball, fizz it to D.J. Augustin, who he hits the three to tie the game:
Give credit to Orlando and Augustin here — that’s a big shot.
But as much as that was a big play, it wasn’t the last play — the Hawks would have the last shot with 6.9 seconds on the clock. They put it in the hands of Schroder, but the Magic defend him very well and the point guard is forced to pass the ball out and time expires as Marco Belinelli hoists a shot:
Excellent defense by Vucevic here to keep up with Schroder and Fournier does a good job contributing too. The Magic were clearly happy for anyone else to take the last shot other than Schröder — should Dennis have found the open man in Ilyasova before turning the corner? Either way, the game heads to overtime.
In OT, the Hawks took the lead again with Marco Belinelli’s three with 2:19 remaining. From there, though, the Hawks struggled to score as the Magic went on a 6-0 run to take control, this play in particular seemingly proving to be the momentum shifter:
From this dunk (great anticipation from Payton), the Magic took the lead and never looked back.
This was a rough loss because this game was definitely there for the Hawks and to see it taken away is a big blow for this side, and Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer was left to rue this missed opportunity.
“A lot of plays down the stretch that could’ve gone either way,” said coach Bud postgame. “We didn’t get a break . . . whether it was half a second more on the clock for a three, the goaltending (the offensive interference called on DeAndre’ Bembry in overtime), things like that. It’d be great to catch one break.
“They made a big shot to send it into overtime. Give Augustin credit for making the shot, Vucevic for making the pass. They just made a couple more plays than us in the overtime.
“A lot of positives for our guys, I think they’re getting better, we’re playing better. We just have to make a few more winning plays on both ends of the floor.”
Bud was also left to lament the unusually high amount of layup attempts that rolled off the rim, a lot of them coming from Dennis.
“I thought we had a lot of good looks at the rim,” said Bud. A lot of good layups and opportunities we take seven days a week. They just kinda kept rolling out, coming out of the basket. It’s unfortunate. I think we could’ve had more of a cushion if we could’ve made some of those layups.”
Dennis also acknowledged that the missed layups were costly and accepted responsibility for that.
“I think I could’ve made my layups that would’ve been easy,” said Schröder postgame. “I missed them and I take that on me.”
Unfortunate loss for the Hawks in what was a missed opportunity, for sure.
Orlando’s paint barrage
The Magic had a lot of success at the rim and in the paint in this game, scoring a season-high 62 points in the paint last night. In fact, 25 of the Magic’s 46 made shots were directly at the rim:
The Magic bigs killed the Hawks inside — Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic combined for 46 points and 31 rebounds.
You could tell that Vucevic, guarded by Miles Plumlee to begin this game, was given the green light to attack and/or shoot the three, which was usually open when Plumlee was guarding Vooch with Plumdog not particularly willing to guard the three-point line.
When the Hawks played small, Taurean Prince was forced to guard Gordon, and that’s a damn tough cover because Prince is not a 4 like Gordon.
Evan Fournier also had a lot of joy getting to the rim:
This vulnerability in the paint really cost the Hawks in overtime. Here’s the shot chart from the OT period:
This layup from Aaron Gordon in particular stands out:
Elfrid Payton sets the screen on Bazemore and it’s either not communicated between Baze and Dennis or Dennis should’ve been more aware of the danger around him.
But, ultimately, it all came back to that man Nik Vucevic. He just bullied the Hawks and was a huge reason why the Magic scored 19 second chance points, coming up with two of those in OT with this put-back:
Again, the Hawks’ lack of size definitely contributed here, and once Cavanaugh has to contest the shot and is taken out of the play, it’s a walk in the park for Vooch to gather the rebound in that crowd — he’s the biggest man by far.
“Vucevic bullied us,” said Dennis Schröder postgame.
The Hawks are obviously wounded up front with Dewayne Dedmon, Mike Muscala and John Collins sidelined with injuries, and this obviously plays a part in the Magic snatching 13 offensive rebounds and scoring 19 second chance points but credit to Aaron Gordon and Nik Vucevic for creating havoc.
Tyler Cavanaugh and the bench
Tyler Cavanaugh led a great bench effort (the Hawks’ bench outscoring the Magic bench 40-16) with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting and 2-of-4 from behind the arc in 29 minutes of play.
This was the kind of performance, in addition to what he has already done thus far, where you might begin to think that Cavanaugh might just belong in the NBA, maybe they will convert his two-way contract into a full contract (of course, the Hawks would have to waive someone from the current roster to make that happen) — he has been very solid. He has been shooting the ball well, pretty decent passer and competes on the defensive end — he took it to Vucevic at times defensively last night.
Cavanaugh also started the second half in place of Miles Plumlee, and it makes you wonder if the Hawks might just start Cavanaugh when the Hawks take on the Magic again on Saturday.
While he did start the second half, coach Bud said he was happy with Miles Plumlee’s strong third quarter and that he was simply rewarding Cavanaugh for his strong play of late while trying to limit Plumlee’s minutes.
“Tyler’s just getting better and better,” said coach Bud. “He’s taking advantage of his minutes, taking advantage of his opportunities. I felt like we wanted to reward him for his minutes.
“We’re trying to monitor Miles’ minutes and keep them low. I thought Miles had a great stretch in the second half too. Just giving Tyler a few more minutes, monitoring Miles’ minutes, just a little both of those things.”
A lot credit to Cavanaugh, he’s definitely making the most of his opportunities and it’s just as well he’s under a two-way contract.
Kent Bazemore’s interesting evening
Another one of these.
It might not surprise you when I say that Kent Bazemore struggled from the field last night — 1-of-9 shooting from the field for Bazemore, five points. But, despite that, Bazemore still found a way to be effective in this game as he dished out seven assists while committing just two turnovers in the process, the same number of assists-turnovers as Dennis last night.
Despite the good playmaking of Baze, it’s still desperately disappointing to see Baze shoot the way he is — I genuinely believe Baze is a better shooter than 38% from the field. Others may not, and I can understand why you might not, but I do and that’s why Baze has been disappointing, because he’s capable of better — he’s better than this (but it’s good he can go and get seven assists when he’s struggling from the field).
The Hawks (5-19) are back in action on Saturday when they take on the Orlando Magic again, the second game of this ‘home-and-home’ sled against the Magic. The Magic will play before that, in action tonight against the Denver Nuggets at home, so we’ll see what effect that has heading into Saturday.