The Atlanta Hawks dropped their opening game of the 2018-19 NBA season 126-107 to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 31 points while Enes Kanter added 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Knicks had seven players in double digit scoring.
For the Hawks (without John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon), Taurean Prince scored 21 points, Kent Bazemore and Trae Young added 14 points apiece.
Let’s break this game down.
Second quarter disaster
The big talking point of this game was obviously the second quarter of this game, a quarter where the Knicks scored a whopping 49 points in the second quarter. Forty nine.
If you missed the game, if you’re waking up reading that little detail about this game, I’m sure your first thought is simply, ‘How?’
Well, let’s take a look.
The Hawks didn’t necessarily play poorly in the second quarter on offense — and in the first half in general — but could not buy a defensive stop as former Hawk Tim Hardaway Jr. in particular took off, scoring 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Since he played a large role in tearing apart his former team, let’s start with Hardaway.
Hardaway made his first six shots in the second quarter, coming in a variety of ways.
Here, Hardaway shakes Kent Bazemore a little too easily, allowing Hardaway a little too much space to fire off this mid-range shot:
On the wing, Hardaway and Noah Vonleh combine, a hand-off followed by a screen frees up Hardaway the (minimal) space he needs to pull the trigger, and Hardaway hits the three:
Not terrible defense, to be fair. Alex Len steps up and contests the shot. This is just what Tim Hardaway Jr. kind of does...
On the drive, Trey Burke breaks down the defense and draws Bazemore, who is guarding Hardaway on this possession. On the pass back from Burke to Hardaway, Bazemore closes out but is easily got off his feet as Hardaway takes a dribble to his left, steps back and cans the three-point while Bazemore can only watch:
(Video is timestamped, just press play)
Hardaway continued to punish his former teammate, hitting the contested jumpshot over the contesting Bazemore:
You get the idea — this isn’t to put Kent Bazemore on blast for Hardaway’s second quarter but to highlight the fact that Hardaway was a key reason behind the Knicks’ huge second quarter.
Postgame, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce discussed Hardaway’s second quarter, saying Hardaway was a guy the Hawks made a ‘hot guy’.
“He’s a guy that we made a ‘hot guy’, is what we call. A guy we wanted to get off that three-point line. The basket was big for him tonight, whether it was a three or getting in the paint off their dribble hand-offs. He got going. His teammates responded and played off of what he was doing.”
The Knicks, in the absence of Kristaps Porzingis, are rallying around Hardaway Jr.
“I told him before the game, I want you to lead us,’’ Kanter said of Hardaway, via the NY Post.
“I liked his aggression,’’ said Knicks head coach David Fizdale. “I want him to let it fly.’’
However good Hardaway was in the second quarter, some of Knicks’ basket came a little too easily...
Here, Burke is able to drive by Jeremy Lin with ease and rises into the floater:
In transition, a defensive breakdown for the Hawks. Ron Baker is fortunate his interior pass is deflected right back to him and he finds Allonzo Trier, who could go make a cup of tea and still have an open three-pointer available to him as the Hawks showed no urgency to even attempt to close-out the shooter:
From the three-point line, Enes Kanter is able to spin and find himself an open lane to drive into, which he does and by the time the help comes Kanter has too much steam heading toward the rim for the dunk:
Between Miles Plumlee and DeAndre’ Bembry, this simply shouldn’t happen.
To be fair to the Knicks, they also made some nice baskets.
Here, Mario Hezonja drives inside and makes a nice wrap-pass to Noah Vonleh underneath the basket for the dunk:
Allonzo Trier hits Tyler Dorsey with a mean step-back, creating the space he needs to pull the trigger and he cashes in on the mid-range jumper:
While improved, Dorsey is not a defensive juggernaut, but that’s a killer step-back...
By the time the second quarter was finally over, the Hawks were trailing by 23 points, went behind by 28 points and although the Hawks made a burst in the third quarter, another run from New York was all it took to kill off the Hawks — the work the Knicks did in the second quarter more than enough of a safety cushion.
“What a start for our guys to now understand the difference between pre-season and the regular season, especially the young guys,” said Pierce postgame.
“As a new group, we get to explore and talk about, really, the word we use is ‘family’ and staying together. Credit to New York, credit to coach Fiz (David Fizdale), my guy, he had his guys ready to go. They came out and denied and pressured and got out and run and got hot and got going. We got hit in that second quarter and never really recovered. Regular season is here.”
“...obviously 49 points in any quarter is way too much, we just couldn’t recover from that.”
“I just think we were chasing them the entire time,” Pierce further elaborated on the second quarter meltdown. “From a scheme standpoint, there was opportunities where we wanted them to feel us a little more. We were chasing them, they were getting into the paint, we were overreacting and they were spraying out for threes. We didn’t hit first. It’s a not scheme, it’s not a coverage, it’s more of a mentality. We did not hit first in that second quarter, they did, and they got into a rhythm and really didn’t stop.”
Pierce pulled no punches about the Hawks’ defense on Wednesday night, deflecting a question about Trae Young’s defense onto the entire team’s defensive performance.
“I thought our defense was awful,” said Pierce. “And I can’t pick the pin one person. Tim Hardaway gets going in the second quarter. Hezonja gets going. Kanter gets going late. I didn’t think any of our guys were great defensively tonight. And they understand that. You give up 49 points (in a quarter), you give up 122, whatever it is... We weren’t good defensively, and that’s 1-through-13.”
When asked how long his defensive system would take to take shape, Pierce chuckled.
“It’s a matter of competing,” said Pierce. “It’s not a system, it’s a togetherness of our team both offensively and defensively. Every team is going to go through this, of coming together, staying together, inputting your system, seeing some struggles and failures and then making your corrections. How long? There’s no timetable, it’s an ongoing process of how we can we be better on Friday.”
“...we got great film to watch tomorrow. This is fun. This is fun,” said Pierce.
Pierce eluded to the friendship between himself and David Fizdale, who had a great quote postgame about Pierce that had to be shared here (via the Associated Press).
“Lloyd caught a lob on my head from Steve Nash once,” recalled Fizdale about Pierce in their playing days. “I still haven’t forgave him for that but we’ve been friends a long time and this is obviously for both of us a big moment.”
The Hawks obviously weren’t great in this game but did win three out of the four quarters. Sadly, the quarter they lost they were outscored 49-25...kind of overshadows everything else that happened.
Well, almost everything...let’s get to that.
Trae Young’s NBA debut
Trae Young made his NBA debut last night, scoring 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting, 1-of-5 from three, six rebounds, five assists, four turnovers and a plus/minus rating of minus+20 in 33 minutes.
Before we go any further, let’s calm it down. Let’s take it easy. Let’s try, as a Hawks community, to avoid the knee-jerk reactions that are inevitably going to come with every poor Young performance and every solid/good Luka Doncic performance (the two are obviously tied together because of the draft night trade). Both are going to have up and down games and their NBA careers aren’t going to be defined in their rookie season.
So let’s take it easy — it’s just one game. And I’d be saying that even if Young scored 30 last night.
In saying that, it wasn’t the most amazing performance from Young in terms of shooting the ball. This was the case for a few reasons.
Let’s start with Young’s shot selection, which wasn’t fantastic at times.
Let’s start with this one, just a shot that you know is going to be contested...so why take it?
This next one is probably worse though, as Young drives inside, probes, comes back out behind the three-point line and, without passing to anyone else, jacks up a poor shot that misses:
Young also decided to turn to his floater/inside game for a lot of his offense during this game and it worked at times but more often than not it didn’t.
Here, against a long defender in Enes Kanter, Young tries to extend to hit this floater but it falls short:
Coming off of a slip, Young gets by his defender and Kanter is a little further back in the paint this time to contest this shot but Young still can’t hit:
That last shot, whatever. It’s an OK shot but what wasn’t OK was Young’s repeated attempts to drive inside and put up shots despite the presence of defenders.
In transition, Young tries to take Burke off of the dribble, doesn’t really get by him but decides to try lift up a shot and Kevin Knox is right there to simply block the shot:
In the third quarter, Young again drives in transition, manages to free up some space for himself but Enes Kanter is on hand to just eat the weak shot that Young puts up:
That shot might not be blocked in college, but in the NBA defenders will eat these kind of shots for breakfast. And that’s Enes Kanter and Kevin Knox. Just imagine what the likes of Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside would do with these shots...
During the game, Fox Sports Southeast’s Andre Aldridge reported that the Hawks assistant coaches told Young to be more aware of secondary defenders on drives and you can obviously see why...
Shot selection didn’t help Young but the Knicks’ defense didn’t either. At times, the Knicks decided to double/hedge pick-and-rolls that Young was involved in, forcing him to make quick decisions and this seemed to unsettle him:
There were other turnovers that weren’t great by Young, such as attempting to use a quick burst to get by Ron Baker but turns the ball over:
Again, that move probably works in college but in the NBA, not as much.
But let’s look at the single best aspect of Young’s NBA game right now: his playmaking.
Five assists for Young, his first one a nice drive and dish to Alex Len for a layup:
For some reason, NBA.com had this assist to Vince Carter as an assist from Young:
That’s clearly Taurean Prince...but sure, why not. An extra assist for Young.
Anyways, there were a few instances of Young making plays that led to good shots that weren’t converted.
Here’s one of them as Young gets inside the paint and kicks the ball out to the corner to Len, who misses the three:
That’s a very nice play, shame Len couldn’t knock it down.
All in all, not the most amazing game from Young, who isn’t too worried about his performance after just one game.
“...this is just one game, I’m not too worried,” said Young postgame. “I think it’s good for us to have some good film to look at tomorrow and learn and bounce-back.”
Despite the tough game, Lloyd Pierce was happy with the performance of his point guard particularly from a playmaking point of view.
“I thought it good,” said Pierce of Young’s game. “It was a tale of two quarters...he was a facilitator, ends up with five assists, I believe ... I thought he got himself going in the third quarter, we got it down to 13 which is a testament to our guys competing, and he had a little stretch where he got going. The education for him: it’s the regular season, people are going to pressure him full court (Trey Burke did this often), people are going to try deny him and take him out a bit. We have to keep playing...”
It wasn’t the best game from Trae Young but it wasn’t awful either. His playmaking remains a very strong aspect of his game and this will carry Young on nights where the shot isn’t falling. And it will fall in time, maybe even Friday. You’d just like to see fewer attempted floaters and better shot selection in general but this was game 1 of 82...
It’s just one game...
The Hawks (0-1) are in action again on Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum, who will be looking to bounce-back after their tough loss against the Indiana Pacers.
Should be fun.