The Atlanta Hawks dropped their eighth game in a row as they kicked off their 4-game home-stand with a loss against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night, 127-119.
Trae Young led the Hawks with 25 points and 17 assists (an NBA season-high, per Hawks PR) while Taurean Prince added 21 points.
For the Clippers, Montrezl Harrell led with 25 points and 11 rebounds while Tobias Harris added 24 points.
After strong third quarter, Hawks fumble in the fourth
The Hawks looked like they side-stepped all of their landmines that we’ve seen them step on this year. They enjoyed a very enjoyable 34 point first quarter, led at halftime and the third quarter — where things have gone wrong often this season for the Hawks — was a strong one in which the Hawks had built up a 15 point lead over the Clippers.
And they did all of this only to be undone by the Clippers’ 38 points fourth quarter, outscoring the Hawks 38-23 in the final period.
Of course, you can’t talk about the Clippers’ fourth quarter without talking about former Hawk Mike Scott, who went off for 12 points in the fourth quarter, hitting four three-pointers in the final period.
Let’s take a look at them.
This first one starts with Lou Williams and Boban Marjanovic combining on the right wing, Prince is sucked over to the action and Williams zips a pass to the weak-side corner to Scott, who hits the open three:
Did Prince need to shade over that much, to help cover Boban? Either way, Mike Scott got an open three out of it.
Coming in transition, the Clippers come with Lou Williams, who comes off of a Harrell hand-off and screen, draws the defense as turns the corner before finding Scott again for the three-pointer:
This was a big three-pointer for the Clippers, it was the bucket that saw the completion of their turnaround, trailing by 15 points in the third quarter.
The Hawks conceded a number of threes in transition last night and add this one to the books as the Clippers come in transition, the ball finds its way to Harris, who makes the extra pass to Scott in the corner for his third three of the final period.
And to wrap up Scott’s fourth quarter frenzy, and arguably the shot that ended the game, Lou Williams draws Kent Bazemore, John Collins sits in the lane and when Williams drops a pass behind him to Scott, Collins does reach him to contest (had to cover a bit of ground) but Scott cans it anyways:
You could make a case that the biggest difference between the two sides in the fourth quarter was Mike Scott.
“Mike’s been shooting the ball so well,” said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. “We put him in at the three and just told him to stand still and if the ball comes to him, shoot it and he did that.”
Other key contributors in the fourth quarter were Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams and Boban Marjanovic.
Harrell was obviously huge throughout the course of this game and in the fourth quarter where he scored nine points. Williams registered eight assists in the final period, some of which we’ve seen already and some we’ll see here.
Kent Bazemore puts his team in a difficult spot as he leaps to try intercept Harrell’s pass to Williams, which forced Dewayne Dedmon to step away from Harrell in order to cut off what would’ve been an easy drive to the rim for Williams. Williams uses Bazemore being out of position to his advantage, finds the more open Harrell, who scores the layup and draws the foul:
If Mike Scott’s three didn’t end the game this bucket certainly did, as Williams lifts a lob to Harrell:
A very easy bucket in the end. Between Prince and Collins, one of them has to put a body on Harrell in that situation — too easy.
The third quarter was a bit of a desperate time for Doc Rivers. He tried going deep into his bench in search of something, anything. He found Boban Marjanovic, who was able to have an effect in this game when he did enter the game in the second half.
Boban scored seven points in the final period and, as he usually does, just towered above everyone else:
A 15-2 Clipper run in the final period ultimately killed the Hawks, who couldn’t finish out the game after their strong three quarters that saw them build a 15 point lead in the third quarter.
The Hawks haven’t been in too many situations where they hold a fourth quarter lead and have to close the game out. They’re a young team, an inexperienced team — this was the focus from the Hawks postgame.
“...I thought our guys came out and fought hard,” said Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce. “The lack of effort wasn’t there -- there was no issue with our effort tonight, which was very encouraging. I thought we were really good with our execution. We had a stretch in the middle of the fourth quarter where… we’re still learning how to finish. We know we can win games. We know we can compete. We’re still learning how to finish, and that was an example of us in that process right now, with them learning how to finish.”
Trae Young echoed a similar call.
“The NBA is a game of runs and they had one more run than we did,” said Young. “For us, being a young team and getting to know each other even more, getting better on the court. It’s just going to take time to close out games, and that’s something we have to focus on.”
“...it’s just something you have to go through to learn,” continued Young. “It’s tough because, as a competitor, everybody on this team wants to win now. I know everybody in Atlanta wants us to win now. It’s tough, because we’re right there. It’s just that finish, and we’re going to get it done.”
I, personally, never liked teams/players/coaches that talk about ‘no excuses’ and being a ‘no excuses locker room’ and then go ahead and say ‘Oh, we’re a young team, that’s why we didn’t close out this game’...which sounds like an excuse.
The Clippers were just better over the course of 48 minutes, something the Hawks have not done often this season — be the better team over a full game, the full 48 minutes — and that’s one of the main reasons why they’re sat with a 3-14 record.
John Collins did not do this, however, pinpointing where the Hawks fell short last night, an actual basketball reason as to why this one got away.
“First off, we have to take care of the ball,” said Collins on learning how to close out games “We had some really devastating turnovers down the stretch. Also, (we need to be better) following the game plan. We had a game plan that we set and sometimes we didn’t do the little things on defense that accumulate to a win. I think that hurt us in the long run with a team that’s so solid like them.”
Tough loss for the Hawks and one of the rare occasions where a team broke Lawler’s Law (first team to 100 points wins) — Hawks led Clippers 101-99.
Shout-out to Clippers play-by-play commentator Ralph Lawler, in his 40th and final season on the Clippers call.
The bench story ended up being a major one in the context of this game.
For the Hawks, they totaled 50 bench points, led by John Collins’ 18 points. With Collins continuing to improve as he works himself back from that injury, his place in the starting lineup will surely be returned to him soon. But in the meantime, he’s feeling good and played well, and showcased a little bit of that three-point shot as he hit two last night.
“I felt good,” said Collins post-game. “Teammates were finding me on the rolls. They did a good job of getting me involved and I tried to do a good job of just helping out on defense, running the floor and trying to create easy buckets.”
With how things have worked out and other decisions, you have both Collins and Dedmon both coming off of the bench — Atlanta’s two best big-men coming off of the bench. Despite that, we did get to see what I think will be the Hawks’ ideal lineup, best lineup and possibly lineup in Young, Bazemore, Prince, Collins and Dedmon — not for a long time mind you but expect to see that lineup a lot more now that everyone is back into the fold.
But just continuing with the bench story, the Clippers and Hawks were trading bench blows but the Hawks couldn’t keep up, outscored 73-50 in the end by the Clippers’ bench.
We’ve talked about Mike Scott’s fourth quarter, he scored 22 points in the end, Harrell scored 25 and Lou Williams, despite taking on the play-making role in the fourth, scored 16 points — all very steady sources of points for the Clippers throughout the game whereas the Hawks’ bench scoring dried up in the second half in comparison as the likes of Kevin Huerter and DeAndre’ Bembry faded from the game.
“You don’t see many teams get much better when they go to their bench,” said Pierce. “I thought the Clippers did a great job - Harrell and Lou Williams, and Mike Scott. All three of those guys came in and really changed the complexion of the game. They were hard to match. They were aggressive with getting Harrell to the foul line and spacing us out (with) Lou’s penetration and Mike Scott’s ability to shoot the three.
Justin Anderson’s Atlanta debut
Speaking of the bench, Monday night saw birthday-boy Justin Anderson make his Hawks debut after being sidelined with a leg injury.
Anderson only got to play two and a half minutes and missed his only shot in the corner. I wouldn’t worry too much about Anderson’s playing time. The fact it was a close game in the end was more than likely the reason why Anderson didn’t see much time in the second half as he would’ve, say, in a blowout.
You’ll be seeing more of him on Wednesday, I’m sure. Because that game has the potential to get really ugly, really quickly.
Omari Spellman injury
Omari Spellman was limited to 14 minutes in this game due to a hip contusion he sustained. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game and his status currently unknown ahead of the Hawks’ tilt against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
Might just be the perfect excuse for Lloyd Pierce to insert John Collins into the starting lineup...
The Hawks (3-14) continue their home-stand on Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors.
This has the potential to be a blowout but hopefully it’ll be a fun game.
We shall see.