NBA teams are generally brimming with optimism at the start of the regular season and the Atlanta Hawks were no different. However, the regular season opener served as a reminder that the campaign itself may be a long one, as the Hawks fell at the hands of the New York Knicks by a final score of 126-107 on Wednesday evening.
The evening began with ugly play on both sides, as the Hawks and Knicks combined to miss the first ten field goal attempts of the contest. Atlanta then took (brief) control, seizing a 10-2 lead as the Knicks continued to flounder offensively, but New York quickly responded and rattled off a 12-0 spurt to set the tone for the rest of the half.
Though the Hawks managed to take a one-point lead into the second quarter, the team’s offense struggled, with seven turnovers against just five assists and an unsatisfying offensive rating of 80.1 in the first 12 minutes. With that said, things would quickly get worse.
New York opened the second quarter with a 17-4 run to assert total control and the ball kept rolling downhill. The Knicks zoomed to 49 (!) points in the second quarter, converting 19 of 28 field goal attempts on the way to a franchise record output, and that led to a situation in which Atlanta trailed by a 23-point margin at the halftime break.
Though it should be noted that the Knicks (particularly in the case of old friend Tim Hardaway Jr.) did play well in the period, Atlanta struggled mightily. When the flood was over, the Hawks were left with an unsightly 123.8 defensive rating for the half and, when combined with inefficient offense, the margin was too significant to overcome.
To the credit of the visiting team, a run did materialize in the third quarter. The Knicks quickly extended the margin to 28 coming out of the break but Atlanta used a 14-2 spurt (and a 23-8 overall run) to climb back within 13 and provide at least faint hope for a full-fledged comeback.
Part of that positive mojo came from a highlight play, courtesy of the team’s oldest player.
THIS— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) October 18, 2018
And everyone was in the act, including Alex Poythress.
Alex Poythress cuts the deficit to 13. Hawks on a 23-8 run! pic.twitter.com/VEbIyUutQ0— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) October 18, 2018
On cue, though, the Knicks scored nine straight points after a timeout to end all threats but, at the very least, the Hawks did not fully roll over when presented with the opportunity to do so. As a result of the large margin, the rest of the evening was rather quiet, though Omari Spellman, Jaylen Adams and Kevin Huerter made their NBA debuts in relief.
In the end, Taurean Prince led the way statistically for the Hawks, scoring 21 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out six assists (despite six turnovers). Elsewhere, Trae Young finished his debut with 14 points (on 5 of 14 shooting), six rebounds and five assists, with double figures from both Kent Bazemore (14 points, six rebounds) and Vince Carter (12 points).
The Hawks will return to action on Friday in Memphis. Stay tuned.