Moments before tip-off, the Atlanta Hawks announced that Paul Millsap would miss the game against the Portland Trail Blazers as a result of knee tightness. While that absence did not explicitly cost the Hawks a victory on Saturday, it definitely did not help and the results were less than stellar in a 113-97 defeat.
The opening moments of the contest were the most damning for the home team and that began with an 8-0 run by Portland at the outset. In short order, that ballooned to a 17-3 start as the Hawks started 1 of 8 from the floor and the score was 23-5 in favor of the visitors when Mike Budenholzer called timeout at the 5:16 mark.
Portland made 11 of their first 12 shots as Atlanta struggled mightily and the Blazers continued to operate in complete control. When the opening period came to a close, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and company held a 40-18 advantage and the Hawks were ina deficit that they would never successfully emerge from on Saturday.
On the bright side, the Hawks did not immediately roll over, as the team engineered a 14-4 run to begin the second quarter. That slashed the margin to a more manageable 44-32 on the scoreboard, but the Blazers quickly responded with a 13-4 spurt of their own to reclaim a 21-point lead. Atlanta chipped away slightly before halftime, but a 17-point hole awaited the Hawks as they entered the break.
While the comeback did not materialize immediately, there were signs of life by the end of the third quarter. The Hawks put together an 8-2 run to bring the margin to 83-71 and that 12-point cushion doubled as the difference at the end of the third quarter. In general, the third quarter wasn’t dominant from Atlanta’s perspective, but it was a vast improvement from the previous two periods.
The fourth quarter, however, was not as kind and the Hawks were never able to mount a serious change. The deficit slimmed to as few as 11 points on multiple occasions, but the Blazers put their foot to the floor with a 10-0 run midway through the period. When it was over, Portland led 101-80 and that was the end of that.
While losing to a reasonable opponent without Millsap is not damning, the way in which Atlanta performed here was not ideal. The Hawks fall to 0-4 without their best player in the lineup this season and, beyond that, three of those losses came by (very) lopsided margins in games seen as winnable before tip-off.
The Hawks will have the opportunity to right the ship next week, but it won’t be easy. Atlanta hits the road for three road games beginning with a tilt in Charlotte on Monday and we’ll be here before, during and after. Stay tuned.