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Miscues plague Hawks in lopsided loss to Cavs

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Turnovers and defensive mistakes too much to overcome for Atlanta.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Nine days after getting their first win of the season in Cleveland, the Atlanta Hawks returned for another road tilt versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time, sloppy basketball on both ends of the court costs the Hawks an opportunity for another win, as Cleveland took advantage of Atlanta’s miscues to run away with a 136-114 victory.

Former Hawks head coach Larry Drew was at the helm in his first game as maybe-interim head coach of the Cavs, taking over for Tyronn Lue, who was fired after an 0-6 start. The Cavs played with a renewed energy as a swarming defense, overplaying the passing lanes and forcing 22 Hawks turnovers, which yielded 28 points for Cleveland. The Cavs also netted 23 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds while also outscoring the Hawks 33-11 at the free throw line.

Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce recognized the effort from the Cavs: “Credit to Cleveland, they came out and played with a lot of energy, the ball was moving, the guys were shooting it with confidence, and we just didn’t really recover.”

Pierce noticed his team’s struggles on the offensive end carried over to their defensive execution: “We let our offense dictate how we defended. It should be the opposite. When our offense isn’t going well, we’ve got to find a way to dig a little bit deeper defensively....We were too worried about our offense tonight.”

Miscues plagued the Hawks from the beginning of the game. A defensive three seconds on the Cavs’ first possession was followed by back-to-back turnovers on the Hawks’ first two possessions, all of which set the tone for what would be a mistake-filled game.

Rodney Hood and George Hill led the early scoring with 15 points in the opening minutes as the Cavs jumped out to a 17-7 lead. The Cavs’ guards used screens against a soft Hawks’ defense to get open looks and develop a shooting rhythm from the beginning of the game.

Rodney Hood uses a Tristan Thompson screen to make an open three putting the Cavs up 17-7 in the early minutes of the game.

The Hawks’ bench got things turned around later in the period scoring 17 first-quarter points while committing just one turnover making 7-of-11 field goals including 3-for-4 from the three-point line. The Hawks pulled to within two points twice on three-pointers from Kevin Huerter and DeAndre’ Bembry before trailing 35-31 at the end of the opening period.

The Hawks cut the lead to two as Jeremy Lin finds Kevin Huerter for the corner three.

The Hawks took their first lead of the game early in the second period on a long three by Trae Young. During the second period, the Hawks played their lone stretch of solid defense holding the Cavs to 23 points in the period compared to 35, 41 and 37 in the first, third and fourth quarter respectively.

A Trae Young three gives the Hawks their first lead of the game.

For much of the second period, the Hawks and Cavs traded buckets and stops as the lead changed hands multiple times before the Hawks took a four-point lead on an Alex Len putback with one minute remaining before the half. However, the Cavs finished the period on a 5-0 run and took a 58-57 lead into the break.

Coming out of the break, the Cavs took advantage of the Hawks’ ice cold shooting to open the half with a 16-3 run to lead building a 74-60 lead in the early minutes of the third period. This stretch included back-to-back Taurean Prince turnovers, both of which results in easy dunks for the Cavs.

Young then took the offense into his own hands, scoring ten of the Hawks’ next 12 points, but it was only good enough to pull the Hawks within 11 points at 83-72 with 5:21 left in the third period. The Hawks could not get stops on the defensive throughout the third period as the Cavs continued to build the lead in spite of Young’s offensive outburst.

The Cavs scored 41 points in the third period on 15-for-24 shooting, including 4-for-5 from the three point line. The Cavs’ lead reached 18 after a turnover by Young resulted in a Jordan Clarkson layup to put Cleveland ahead 92-74 with 3:40 to play in the period. The Hawks managed to cut the lead to twelve before the period ended, trailing 99-87 heading into the fourth quarter.

Baskets by Young and Len closed the gap to 99-91 in the opening minute of the final period, but turnovers and a stretch of cold shooting again doomed the Hawks. A Tristan Thompson three-point play put the Cavs ahead 114-97 just inside the seven minute mark, after which the Cavs never looked back, going on to win by 22 points.

Seven Cavs scored in double figures led by Hood with 26 point and Cedi Osman with 20. Young lead the Hawks with 24 points followed by 22 from Len.

Free Throw Disparity

The Hawks actually kept pace with the Cavs in terms of made field goals as both teams scored 103 points from their field goals. It was at the free throw line where the Cavs gained the 22-point advantage. Turnovers and break downs on defense frequently resulted in Cavs free throws as the Cavs made 33-of-43 attempts at the line.

Bright Spots on Offense

Jeremy Lin played his best game of the season to date with tallying 12 points and eight assists with a box score +/- of zero. The Hawks played Len and Young together for seven minutes during the game compared to just 13 minutes over the Hawks first six games.

The point guard combination yielded returns on offense but was not enough to overcome the defense liability created by the pairing as the Hawks were outscored 21-14 in those seven minutes.

Lin finds Dedmon for the easy dunk.

Len finished with nine rebounds in addition to his season high 22 points, making all nine of his field goal attempts. Huerter scored 13 points in 15 minutes of action, making five of his six shots including three-of-four from the three-point line, but most of those points came late when the game was well in hand for the Cavs.

Len gets and easy dunk off the pick and roll with Young

Back to Back Struggles for Prince

Prince followed up his forgettable performance versus the Sixers on Monday night with another game he does not want to repeat. After scoring five points on 1-for-11 shooting versus Philadelphia, Prince posted nine points on 3-for-12 shooting while committing four turnovers and fouling out with six minutes left in the game.

The Hawks will very hard pressed to get wins when Prince and veteran guard Kent Bazemore are struggling. Bazemore’s scored just seven points in 28 minutes while committing five turnovers and five fouls. Bazemore finished with a team low -32 +/- in the box score.

Looking Ahead

The Hawks will have a day off at home before hosting Sacramento on Thursday. The Kings have been a perennial bottom dweller in recent years but will bring a 5-3 record and a four-game winning streak into their match-up with the Hawks.