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Sluggish start sends Hawks to defeat against Detroit

A familiar story at State Farm on Friday night

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks suffered their fourth successive loss as they were blown out in their home arena by the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, 124-109.

Jeremy Lin scored a team-high 19 points while rookie Trae Young added 16 points.

For the Pistons, Andre Drummond scored 23 points and collected 11 rebounds while Stanley Johnson added 22 points.

1st quarter blowout

There’s always that one quarter where things just turn south for the Hawks where their opponent builds a double-digit lead and the game is basically over. It’s been the third quarter on a number of occasions this season but last night it was the first quarter, as the Hawks found themselves down by 20 points after the opening frame.

To put it bluntly, the Hawks were just diabolical in the first quarter, lacking any sort of energy or desire to go and get after this game from the jump. So much to the point that the entire starting unit was yanked after Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce burned his second timeout of the opening six minutes of the first quarter and inserted his bench in an effort to find anything.

The Hawks were competitive for the final three quarters (and almost, hilariously, brought it back to single digits, reducing a 29 point lead to just 12 in the dying embers of the fourth quarter garbage time), so it really was a case of their horrific start dooming them.

“It wasn’t the third quarter tonight,” assessed Lloyd Pierce postgame. “It was right off the bat. Slow start, sluggish. Our starting group, whether it’s after halftime or to start the game, is just slacking, lacking in the effort department. We have to figure it out. Rough night.”

At this stage, slow starts/bad quarters don’t come as any sort of shock anymore for the Hawks.

“I wouldn’t say it’s surprising,” said DeAndre’ Bembry on the start of the game. “It’s frustrating as a unit, as a team. You obviously don’t want to come out and play sluggish like that. Sometimes it happens. It’s harder for us to put ourselves in a hole early and just try to fight back. That’s what we tried to do the rest of the game after the first quarter. That’s not what we wanted, but sometimes you just have to fight through it.”

Let’s take a look at some possessions in the opening exchanges, it ended up being the difference in the end and the bench unit was unable to dig the starters out of the 23-7 hole they dug for the team.

The Hawks did not help themselves with shot selection at times, exhibited by Alex Len in the corner, electing to take a contested three-pointer with Andre Drummond right with him to contest (and there were two of these in the opening six minutes):

Touched on effort briefly, and you can see some of that effort for yourself as Blake pulls down that Len miss, he heads the other way, isn’t met or challenged with the ball and while all of that is going on Andre Drummond is simply out-running the Hawks and Griffin simply feeds down the pipe and it’s an easy basket for Drummond:

Next, Griffin and Reggie Bullock are involved in the most simple exchange and as Blake sees an extra body he hands back to Bullock who is inexplicably wide open and even has time to set himself before taking the three-pointer, which misses:

That was not a difficult play to defend in any capacity and Bullock probably ended up being too open for his own good. Did Omari Spellman need to switch? Did Len need to come over and contest? Was Young too slow to rotate back to Bullock? Who knows...

Taurean Prince made his return to the starting lineup but it was not a happy one. He was one of a number of Hawks were were just, straight up, bad last night. And, as has been the case plenty of times, Prince was nowhere defensively on this play as his man is able to cut to the rim (found by the beautiful pass from Andre Drummond):

But the Pistons deserve credit. They came out and were ready to play and their ball movement was good, tallying 30 assists in the end thanks to plays like this:

Again, Prince is just nowhere defensively.

In a surprise to absolutely no one, the Hawks’ turnovers were an issue last night, and this helped feed the Pistons. Here, Trae Young gets caught in the air and his pass is intercepted and the Pistons head the other way. Again, it’s Blake Griffin who leads the way in transition and he lobs it up for the unchecked Langston Galloway for the basket and the first timeout for Lloyd Pierce:

After that timeout, the Pistons came up with this nice play. They park Andre Drummond on the weak-side corner and work with Griffin and Reggie Jackson on the opposite wing. Drummond simply has to wait for Griffin and Jackson to break down the defense, which they do, and then makes his move and Jackson makes sure his cut goes rewarded and Drummond finishes with the slam:

Andre Drummond was just too much for the Hawks. Look how easily his incredible body is just able to get in there and just squeeze Dewayne Dedmon out of the way to gain position for the offensive tip-in:

Blake Griffin was at the center of, essentially, everything good the Pistons did in the first quarter and here, he draws a double down-low, passes out and more good Pistons ball movement leads to another three-pointer:

Just another one of Detroit’s threes, one of their 20 made threes on 47 attempts. The Hawks, in contrast, shot just 7-of-28 — outscored 60-21 shooting the three-pointer.

But it was all started by Blake Griffin inside — both he and Andre Drummond were simply too much for the Hawks. Griffin was almost toying with the Hawks at times. It felt like he set himself a challenge to see how much his team could beat the Hawks without him taking a shot. But he was fantastic from a playmaking point of view. The Hawks would double him in the post and he’d pass it out and somehow the ball would end up in the net.

Andre Drummond, as Andre Drummond often proves to be, was similarly too much for the Hawks, collecting five offensive rebounds on the night.

Again, the Hawks were solid enough after that first quarter but their start, and mostly the effort the starting unit put in, wasn’t good enough and it cost them the game. But credit to the Pistons, they actually turned up to State Farm and their ball movement was very good and they were well worth their win.

“They were together right from the start,” said Pierce of the Pistons. “I think that’s a testament to (Pistons head coach) Dwane (Casey). He’s got a new group, it’s his first year there, he’s doing a great job with those guys. They’re moving the basketball and playing with an energy and spirit that we’re trying to find.”

A 15 point margin of victory doesn’t really tell the full story of this one... It was over by halftime, really.


Ah, I love visiting old friends. But this is not a welcome friend...

Turnovers, again, were an issue for the Hawks last night as they committed another 16 of them, leading to 23 Pistons points and helped fuel part of the Pistons’ 24 fastbreak points, though Lloyd Pierce credited that to more of a lack of effort than the Hawks’ turnovers.

The Hawks finished with 17 assists and 16 turnovers...that’s just not going to get it done.

Trae Young had another six turnovers — part of that was the Pistons reading what he wanted to do and part of it was just inexperience.

While the Hawks are placed 11th in the league in assists per game and their assist percentage is 8th best in the league, they’re tied for 28th in assists/turnovers with just 1.31 assists per turnover. Oh, and they still lead the league for most turnovers per game with 18.8.

For the City

Earlier in the week the Hawks unveiled their new City edition jerseys and last night saw their debut.

It’s safe to say that the jerseys were easily the best thing about last night’s game from the Hawks’ point of view and nothing would’ve come close.

Trae Young could’ve gone for 35 again, Taurean Prince could’ve played defense, Vince Carter could’ve cracked his 25,000 point mark and none of these things would’ve taken the shine from these jerseys in my eyes.

They. Were. Amazing.

And in-game...

Detroit Pistons v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

(Shoutout to Miles Plumlee, who scored 14 points off of the bench and was actually solid in his production on the court last night, this was the only shout he was getting.)

Detroit Pistons v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The gold print looks fantastic with the black and white base — way better than their standard white kit with the green and red with the triangles... Nah, strip it back: black, white, gold. Done.

Sometimes less is more. These should be the Hawks’ home jerseys all of the time, at least in my opinion.

And, of course, the Hawks had a secondary court to go with these beautiful jerseys.

Detroit Pistons v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

And a closer look at center-court...

Detroit Pistons v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Absolutely beautiful, of course, dedicated to celebrating 50 years of Atlanta Hawks basketball.

And when you compare to the Hawks’ City jerseys from last year...

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Is there an award for ‘Most Improved Jersey’? If so, the Hawks have to be in the conversation...

Anyways, I’ll look forward and relish every game the Hawks use these new City jerseys. Again, the best part of last night from the Hawks’ point of view.

The Hawks (3-9) are back in action on Sunday as they kick off their four-game road trip, starting with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now that should be fun.