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Hawks battered by first half blitz in loss to Raptors

It was not pretty but at least there were free sandwiches to be won.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks were completely demolished by the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night at Philips Arena, with 108-93 as the final score (obviously not a fair reflection of how one-sided and out of hand this game got, especially in the fourth quarter when the Raptor lead ballooned to 32 points, woof).

The Hawks were led by Dennis Schröder’s 20 points and tied a career-high eight rebounds to go along with two assists. John Collins added a double-double with 13 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

For the Raptors, they were led by Fred VanVleet’s 19 points off of the bench while Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and 13 rebounds off of the bench (hey, it’s the reverse of John Collins’ double-double!)

End of the homestand

This was the last game of the Hawks’ season-long six game homestand. They finished it 3-3 with some memorable wins against the New Orleans Pelicans and the San Antonio Spurs, as well as a convincing win against the Jazz. Though, their three losses against the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Raptors last night all stung in their own way... Each was painful.

While the Hawks’ next game is on the road, it’s not goodbye for long...

The Hawks are off to Charlotte for their second meeting with Dwight Howard and Kemba Walker at the Spectrum Center before returning to Philips for another three game homestand beginning on Saturday against the Washington Wizards.

By the time this next three-game homestand is in the books, the Hawks will have played nine of the last 10 games at home.

An absolute battering from tip-off

They say start as you mean to go on and that’s what the Raptors did in the first quarter as they outscored the Hawks 28-16, stretching the lead to as many as many as 21 points in the second quarter. Not much changed in the third quarter but then a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead to 30+ just blew all life out of the building and a lot of garbage time ensued...

But it was that first quarter that really set the tone for the rest of this game. The Raptors have been waiting for the Hawks — in Atlanta — since Saturday, and they obviously used the time very well to prepare for this game. You could tell the extra preparation and rest was obviously hugely beneficial for them.

“It was good to get some practice days in,” said Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. “The way the schedule’s been, obviously the NBA season is hectic, so to get some practice days in and get back to work, back to the fundamentals and try to get out there and let it carry over tonight.”

The Raptors’ defense in the first half really stood out and made life for the Hawks very difficult on the offensive end, especially their defense near/around the rim:

Courtesy of

We’ll go through a few examples (and there were many to be had, believe me).

The Raptors’ big-men and their length, more specifically Jonas Valanciunas’ and Jakob Poetlt’s size and length, caused problems for the Hawks on offense, which was the main problem for the Hawks in this game (sporting an offensive rating of 87.3 in this game) — they just couldn’t score.

Here, Jakob Poeltl extends his go-go gadget arms to break up a lob attempt by Malcolm Delaney to John Collins:

That is a cracking reach, to be fair. Full credit to Poeltl there.

Again, it’s Poeltl making it difficult for Collins to score at the rim:

Poeltl’s length really makes things difficult here...

JV gets in on the action too as he blocks Miles Plumlee’s turnaround hook:

Dennis in a good position to capitalise on the loose ball, but again, the Raptors are making life hard for the Hawks inside and that really set the tone.

“They did a good job with their verticality,” John Collins said postgame. “I think they guarded pretty well on the perimeter. When we did get a chance to get inside, Valanciunas and Ibaka, and they also have Poeltl over there, protecting the rim. It was a tough night for us. They did a good job going vertical, so it was tough for us to get to the line.”

The guards got involved too, Fred VanVleet recovering to block Isaiah Taylor:

That’s just a tough shot for Taylor to take. Not only was VanVleet able to recover and block but Pascal Siakam is also right there to contest the shot. The Raptors played some very good defense in this one.

The Hawks’ poor three-point shooting didn’t help either as they missed their first 10 attempts from the outside.

It’s no surprise the Hawks shot 33% (8-of-24) from the field in the first quarter and 39% for the game. The Raptors deserve a lot of credit for the way the played and a lot of credit for their defense and it was all about they started the game, their approach, something Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer discussed postgame.

“I do think you got to start out well,” said Budenholzer said postgame. “I think we started out... Felt like it was 12-2, 14-2 right out of the gate. And in that early period did we have one or two good looks that changed the feel of the first three or four minutes . . . usually you do have a couple of good looks that you kind of need to make against a good defensive team. You need to have a good night, including shooting the ball well. But no doubt their defense was part of the reason why we didn’t shoot the ball well. And maybe you feel a little more pressure when you do get an open look . . . you got to make your good looks . . . We were just in a hole early and we just could really never dig ourselves out of it.”

There was never any threat of the Hawks ever getting back into this game. It was controlled start to finish brilliantly by the Toronto Raptors (they never trailed in this one) and they beat the Hawks for a third time this season.

“A lot of credit to Toronto,” praised coach Bud in his opening statement. “It feels like this year, they’ve played really, really well against us. I think you have to give them credit why we have not played well. We have to look at (the film). We have to get better. From a coaching perspective, I have to get better. It’s just one team, but there are things that we just have to do better when we get after it again Friday against Charlotte, and as we move through the schedule. A tough game for us. A lot of credit to them. They play well, they play hard, they’re well-coached.”

Usually in a loss — and we’ve seen it so often this season — Bud will normally have some sort of positive to expound upon postgame, but he was really left searching for one last night.

“(Things) that worked out for us?” asked Bud when he was asked what worked out for the Hawks. “Nothing.”

When asked about the play of John Collins, all coach Bud had to say was “We got killed.”

Bud did eventually find a positive: Kent Bazemore’s defense on DeMare DeRozan (who only scored 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting).

“...I thought Baze’s defense on DeRozan was maybe a highlight of the night, if you wanted to find a positive,” said Bud. “Baze was in him, Baze was really aggressive...”

You can tell Bud was just very disappointed. From listening to his postgame interview (which are always good to listen to postgame, here’s last night’s one) you got a sense the Hawks went backwards last night, that there really wasn’t anything good to come from this game and that has rarely been the case this season.

There’s no denying that the Raptors obviously deserved this win. They showed the Hawks a lot of respect, didn’t take them lightly, came in and got the job done. They smashed it and they did it by committee (just nine points for freshly renamed All-Stars Kyle Lowry and 14 for DeMar DeRozan).

TP’s rough game and a lack of starters production

After a bounce-back game from TP in the previous outing against the Jazz (after struggling majorly during the homestand until that game) TP regressed with a two point game on 1-of-3 shooting in just 13 minutes.

Postgame, Bud delved into why Prince saw as few minutes as he did. It wasn’t because of injury...

“The message to the team was that we have to play smarter, we’ve got to play better,” said Bud when what limited Prince to only 13 minutes. “Taurean, in several situations, he’s just got to be smarter, he’s got to be better. Just kind of went with other guys. He’ll be better (on) Friday I’m sure.”

A play that particularly stands out from Prince that could, perhaps, fall under the category of careless was this turnover in the first half after Prince had just come up with a steal:

That is not a great turnover and it didn’t long in the third quarter for Bud to pull TP for good.

It’s a shame for Prince because everyone had hoped that he had finally returned to the form he has shown for a good chunk of this season, and to see him fade back with two points in just 13 minutes was tough.

However, Bud has kept with Prince all season long so it’s almost impossible to imagine — especially since he has stuck with Miles Plumlee all this time — that he’ll be demoted to the bench, so he’ll get another bite at the cherry on Friday in Charlotte, a great opportunity to bounce-back.

For the rest of the starters, it was tough at times.

Ersan Ilyasova was scoreless in 19 minutes, Miles Plumlee scored six points (meaning that Ilyasova, Plumlee and Prince [eight points combined] were all outscored by OG Anunoby’s 10 points with two to spare) but Kent Bazemore did score 13 points and Dennis Schröder added 20 points.

The Raptors’ starting unit outscored the Hawks’ starting unit 61-41 and won the plus/minus battle — as you can imagine — by an absolute landslide: the Hawks’ starters combining for minus+64.

Weird lineups and rotations

What a weird game this was for rotations...

To start, we had Luke Babbitt seeing more rotation minutes in the first quarter and then, literally, everyone in uniform would see some court time inside the first 14 minutes of the game as Bud tried to look everywhere for anything that might work.

We then got to see the weirdest lineup I think we’ve seen all season: Isaiah Taylor, Tyler Dorsey, Luke Babbitt, Ersan Ilyasova and Miles Plumlee.

You can’t say Bud didn’t try mix things up, that’s for sure... That was quite the lineup. And we know Bud likes to dip into his bench but that had to be the most extreme example this season.

Then in the third quarter, Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schröder — despite picking up fouls number four and five in the third — both played the entire quarter before there was extended garbage time in the final period for Malcolm Delaney to finally get his first run of the second half.

What a weird game...

John Collins

Bud saw Baze’s defense on DeRozan as one of the only positives from the game but I thought Collins deserved a fair shout: 13 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and a tied career-high four blocks in 26 minutes on the night he was named to to Rising Stars Team USA for All-Star Weekend.

“Truly a blessing,” Collins said postgame. “This is something I’ve been working for all year. Now for it to finally come true, I’m excited. (I) get to go to L.A., get to see a couple of my guys. It’ll be fun.”

There was a very nice set play where Collins receives the ball at the high-post, hands it off again to Taylor, cuts underneath the basket to the left block while Mike Muscala sets a screen on Lucas Nogueira, the ball finds its way to him and Collins hit the face-up J over Lucas Nogueira:

During a timeout in the fourth quarter, Bud drew up this play for Collins and spoke with him. Collins spoke postgame about the exchange, saying Bud was trying to instil him with confidence.

“He (Bud) was trying to give me some confidence,” said Collins. “Drew up a post-up play for me. Think that was the one where I faced up and hit the jumper. Just coach I think rewarding me for play hard. Trying to see what I got and it paid off.”

Four blocks as well in this game for Collins, just another really solid outing.

The Hawks (14-33) head on the road briefly as part of the first night of a back-to-back on Friday night, when they’ll take on the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center.

Should be fun. Stay tuned.