The Atlanta Hawks have lost six of their last eight games and have gone 25-27 since their 9-2 start to the season. They are still well positioned in the Eastern Conference playoff picture but it feels like they are just trying to hold on before their season completely unravels.
Atlanta turned in a spirited effort Monday night against the Golden State Warriors but like so many times this season, they were unable to sustain that for a full 48 minutes and the result was a 119-111 loss.
“Credit to some of their guys off the ball, some of the guys opposite Curry and Thompson,” Mike Budenholzer told reporters after the game. “Iguodala had a great game. He hit a bunch of three’s. McCaw, I thought played well. He and Clark hit some three’s. With players like Curry and Thompson, you try to do as much as you can to take those two guys away. You put so much attention on them, when that other group around them plays well, they’re tough. For parts of the night, we were good. We were good on offense for parts of the night. Credit to Golden State winning here. Hopefully we can learn from tonight and be better going forward.”
There was plenty of controversy to go around for Atlanta. Dennis Schroder scored 23 points in the first half but was benched just three minutes into the third quarter following an on court argument with center Dwight Howard that led to a defensive breakdown with Steph Curry knocking down a wide open three. Schroder told reporters after the game that he didn’t understand the decision and wanted to meet with Budenholzer and Dwight so that everyone could move on.
Budenholzer called Schroder’s benching a “coach’s decision.”
“Just a coach’s decision. We need to learn to play together and stay together for 48 minutes. That’s something that’s important to us.”
It is a difficult situation all around. You have a guy in Howard who has a checkered past and often wears his feelings on his sleeve so you can understand Budenholzer and the Hawks protecting him throughout the season. On the other, Schroder is the team’s point guard and it his job to lead the team. Whatever the case, it was clear that Budenholzer was very upset by the defensive breakdown following the exchange of words between Schroder and Howard and it ultimately put Dennis on the bench for the rest of the night.
“We played Malcolm a lot. We played Baze at point guard,” Budenholzer said when asked about his second half rotation. “I think it was 94-90 going into the fourth quarter. There were moments where it felt like we were close, getting back in it and competing. I like the way those guys played and competed.”
Despite the controversy, the Hawks were still in the game. Atlanta trailed by as many as 11 in the third but rallied late and closed to within 94-90 heading to the fourth. Ersan Ilyasova began the fourth with a three-pointer that cut the deficit to a single point before the Warriors responded with an 8-0 run to restore order.
“We need to be tougher mentally,” Thabo Sefolosha replied when asked about the third quarter performance. “We play against a good team, they’re going to make their run. We need to focus on us and keep playing as a team. WE didn’t quite do that for maybe five or six minutes. In this league, especially against a team like that, you pay for it.”
The loss drops Atlanta to 34-29 on the season. They now trail the Raptors by three games in the standings and lead the Indiana Pacers by two. With Brooklyn coming in on Wednesday night, the Hawks need to put this behind them quickly and get things headed back in the right direction.
“No concern at all,” Tim Hardaway Jr said when asked about the team’s three-game losing streak. “We just have to learn from it. Smile. Move on to the next game.”