After three full days off, the Atlanta Hawks were back in action for their second preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies. The story coming into the contest for Atlanta was Tyler Dorsey, who only played garbage time in the first game against New Orleans, getting the start at the shooting guard position with Kent Bazemore pushing up to the small forward to replace Taurean Prince.
Prince didn’t travel with the team to Memphis after picking up an illness in the days leading up to the game. Returning from injury for the Hawks was rookie big man Omari Spellman, who picked up the backup center minutes in the meaningful sections of the game.
Fans attending the game at FedEx Forum in Memphis were treated to a common spectacle in these early preseason games: a ref show. There were 33 fouls called in the first half and 40 foul shots taken as the referees continue to enforce the new “freedom of movement” emphasis against defensive players holding and deterring off-ball movement. Ostensibly, this will help offenses play a more free-flowing open style, but the only movement that’s occurred thus far in preseason is guys walking to the foul line and fans reaching for the remotes to flip the channel to something else.
Alex Len was the surprise star for the Hawks in the first half, as he knocked down a three from each corner in the second quarter and finished as the only double-digit scorer for Atlanta in the first two periods. He added 4-for-6 from the free throw line as the Memphis big men weren’t able to handle him on cuts and dump offs around the rim.
The starters played well enough against the Grizzlies starting unit, but Atlanta’s reserves were poor throughout the first half. Jeremy Lin, Kevin Huerter, DeAndre’ Bembry, Vince Carter, and Spellman comprised the second unit in the first half, a defensive unit that certainly leaves much to be desired.
John Collins didn’t play in the second half, clearing the way for Two-Way player Alex Poythress to play with the starters at the power forward spot. Things quickly got away from the Hawks early in the third quarter as the Grizzlies broke out to an 18-point lead within four minutes of the restart. Memphis remained in control for the remainder of the game as the Hawks never really got back into touching distance, though certainly the scoreline of the second half of a preseason game is about as inconsequential as anything could be in the NBA.
After a strong performance against the Pelicans in the opener in Atlanta, there weren’t many positives for the Hawks in the second contest. Perhaps the most important aspect of the game for Atlanta as they move forward was the play of Dorsey, who once again made it a competition with Bembry for the final wing spot in the Hawks’ rotation.
Dorsey knocked down shots and, more importantly, was active on and off the ball defensively. Bembry played well enough in his own right, but it’s clear that Atlanta’s staff are still unsure of which player will be in the rotation on opening night.
The Hawks will be back in action on Sunday afternoon in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they’ll take on the Oklahoma City Thunder and former Atlanta point guard Dennis Schröder.