The Atlanta Hawks hit another bump in the road Monday night with a home blowout loss to the Utah Jazz. Atlanta never led in the game and their defensive effort left quite a bit to be desired save a second quarter runner that temporarily saw them close the gap.
Utah shot 61 percent for the game and the Hawks allowed at least 112 points for the sixth time in the last eight games.
“The offensive execution, the ball movement, everything Utah did was very good,” Mike Budenholzer said after the game. A lot of credit to them. We give up 61-percent, 120 points. It’s just not the defense we were expecting, the defense that put us in a position to have a decent stretch of games. It starts and stops with 120 and 61-percent. It’s not good enough.”
It really is the story of the season in some ways for the Hawks who dropped into fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-22 record. Atlanta appeared to have turned things around with an emotional comeback win at Houston and a dominating defensive performance in a home win over Orlando. The lack of consistency has kept Budenholzer and his coaching staff searching for answers the entire season.
“Every team has circumstances, whether it be travel or games and those types of things,” Budenholzer said. Occasionally you may have a sense. I think we had two days off to start last week, then a back-to-back, a day off, and then we’re kind of that every other day mode right now. We had a great shootaround this morning. Guys were active. Guys were good.”
The on court result wasn’t satisfying. Atlanta fell behind 29-21 after one but battled back in the 2nd quarter outscoring the Jazz 29-25 to cut the deficit to 54-50 at the half.
“We just wanted to pick up our pace and move the ball a little more,” Malcolm Delaney said when asked about the second quarter run. “When we play that way and we play a little bit faster, we can get in the game. But if we don’t play like that, we can fall into a bigger deficit. So we have to keep up with the faster pace and move the ball.”
Things went off the cliff for the Hawks in the third as the Jazz connected on 16 of 20 shots (80 percent) while racking up 37 points to push the lead to 91-73. Utah stepped on the gas from there with a strong fourth quarter to complete the blowout.
The Jazz outscored the Hawks 66-45 in the second half while converting on 28 of 39 (72 percent) field goal attempts in the second half.
“Until we get it right, until we move the ball every night like we’re supposed to, we’re going to keep getting smacked,” Kent Bazemore added about the number of blowout losses the Hawks have suffered recently.
“We don’t have the luxury of letting one or two guys carry the load every night. It has to be a collective effort. I don’t know how many times it’s going to have to happen before we figure it out.”
Utah is one of the better defensive units in the league but as has been the case for most of the season, when the Hawks struggle on the defensive end it usually carries over to the offense as well.
Dennis Schröder led Atlanta with 21 points but recorded just two assists. For the game, Atlanta finished with just 16 assists to go along with 16 turnovers. Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 14 points each but were a combined 8 of 23 from the field.
“We have to play better as a team,” Bazemore added. “The ball doesn’t move. We had 16 assists tonight. That’s not the way we play. We have to move the ball. It helps everything else. They just did what they wanted to do.”
Atlanta will wrap up a three-game home stand on Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets before heading out on a west coast trip that will take them into the All-Star break.