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Hawks unable to protect the paint, drop ninth straight in loss to Raptors

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Vince Carter reached 25k, but there was also a basketball game to be won on the night...

Toronto Raptors v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their ninth consecutive game as the lost to the Toronto Raptors 124-108 on Wednesday night at State Farm Arena.

Jeremy Lin led the Hawks with 26 points, Vince Carter added 14 points.

For the Raptors, Kyle Lowry led with a triple-double of 21 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds while Jonas Valanciunas added 24 points and 13 rebounds.

Let’s break this one down

Vince reaches 25k

Let’s get this out of the way...

Vince Carter needed 13 points to reach 25,000 points heading into this one.

He was chipping away at it in the first half and then when the game got away from the Hawks in the fourth quarter, he got his chance (only needing six points) and he did indeed secure it right at the buzzer:

Very cool moment, very fitting that it was a dunk and, obviously, against the Toronto Raptors.

“Way to add some suspense to it,” said Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce. “He missed the three, we get the offensive rebound, and it’s fitting that he gets it with the dunk with no time left. It’s just a great moment for Vince...”

And once that basket was sunk (or, dunk as the case was), all the congratulatory messages came through:

From Jalen Rose, Chauncey Billups, Dirk Nowitzki, Commissioner Adam Silver, Stephen Curry...the league’s past and present all poured out love for their favorite old guy, Vince Carter.

The Hawks and the Hawks broadcast were really pushing ‘Vince Carter night’ and everyone knew he was approaching the milestone, including Vince himself. And he just wanted to get it over with.

“It got to a point where I was pressing because I just wanted to get it over with. It’s a special moment, I definitely knew about it,” said Carter.

Carter got to keep himself some souvenirs including the game-ball, the net in which he scored and was even interviewed at the podium postgame — that’s usually a playoff thing for the Hawks.

It was clear he knew and everyone knew what he needed when he checked back into the game late in the fourth quarter. Vince let those shots fly (season-high 15 shots, the most he’s taken in a regular season game since April 5th 2016 where Carter shot 15 times against the Bulls when he played for Memphis) and his teammates did what they could to find him. It was hilarious to watch in real-time as the Hawks did everything to try get Carter some buckets.

Everyone was pushing to get Vince over the line including Lloyd Pierce.

“Like I said, I cheated,” said Pierce in his opening statement. “I didn’t want to do that, but I had to do it. We had to keep Vince out there to get that milestone, and I feel a lot better for doing it. What a night for Vince, what a night for the NBA - to see a guy (with) 21 years in the NBA is a long time. 25,000 points is a lot of points, and he just reflected in there… just wow. All I can say is wow. To be here, to reach that number, to play this long, we’re all thankful and we are all in a good spot to have witnessed that.”

There were a few stars that aligned that helped Vince be in a position to reach the milestone last night. Injuries being one of them.

“...A couple of things happened tonight,” said Pierce. “We’re down bodies. So, I knew going into the game that we had to be creative with our lineups and he was going to be a big part of playing anyway. When John (Collins) came back, and (Omari) was there, he knew he was going to take a little bit of a hit playing-time wise, but Omari, Alex Poythress, and Alex Len are out, and just him being on the court—someone pointed out, I think one of the coaches pointed out, he needs six points. We’re scrambling to get back in. We need layups, free throws, and threes, and Vince is our highest three-point percentage shooter anyway, so it just made sense. It just gets to a point where the guys know, and they were just seeking him out.”

It’s clear that Pierce, ideally, wouldn’t have done what he did last night. He didn’t like putting Carter into the game when he did (in what was an awful matchup with Toronto’s bigs) and didn’t like force-feeding him the ball and shots but I think he’s relieved that Vince did reach the milestone last night and can begin to phase Carter out of the rotation, once the Hawks’ recover from their injury bug — John Collins is now back, as poor as Omari Spellman has been at times you want him to play over 41-year old Carter and Justin Anderson is now back into the fold. There’s just not a need for Carter to play, really, at all once everyone is back.

But not to take away from Carter’s big night. It was a really cool moment that everyone in the NBA can appreciate.

Demolition in the paint: Toronto bigs too much

Right, let’s talk about the game itself.

The Raptors absolutely smashed the Hawks in the paint, scoring 64 points in the paint and the Raptors’ trio of Siakam, Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka combined for 65 points. In addition to that, the Raptors scored 26 second chance points as they grabbed 14 offensive rebounds — they just killed the Hawks in the glass.

Exhibit A, as Valanciunas is able to just tower above his competition and grab the board and score:

Exhibit B, as Ibaka sneaks in:

Valanciunas himself was just able to get to wherever he wanted and do whatever he wanted once he got there.

On the block, Valanciunas is able to take the bump and still hook over Dewayne Dedmon for the basket:

Here, Lowry feeds Valanciunas off of the pick-and-roll and Valanciunas is able to finish in a crowd and over Miles Plumlee:

Valanciunas was very good last night, so was Paskal Siakam as mentioned, who just roasted Vince Carter when guarded by him.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Kyle Lowry also played his role in all of the Raptors’ success in the paint as he broke down the defense and created opportunities for bigs in the paint as well obviously getting it done himself.

Here, Lowry breaks down the defense, is aware of his surroundings and knows where Valanciunas is and drops a pass to him for the basket:

This was almost identical to what he did in the first half:

With Kawhi Leonard absent for the Raptors (this game being the second in a back-to-back), Lowry was just outstanding, and he just toyed with the Hawks at times. He was playing chess, the Hawks were playing chequers.

Here, he’s just playing with John Collins in the corner, numerous jab-steps before finally rising above the big-man for the three:

Here, Lowry receives the ball behind the three-point line and he knows what’s coming, he knows the close-out is coming. So he waits, and then when the moment is right, he just skips by then feeds Siakam for the easy layup:

He was never taking that three, was just waiting for the defense to close-out to him and he took advantage. Chess > checkers.

“He ended up with 17 assists tonight, so that is the result of him being unselfish and finding those guys but those guys also doing a good job of finishing…Really impressed with the 12 rebounds, 10 defensive,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse of Lowry. “He brought great energy and shot the ball pretty well as well; just a great game.”

Between the domination of the paint, the domination of the second chance scoring, the domination of the Raptors’ bigs and the domination from Kyle Lowry, it cost the Hawks the chance to snap their eight game losing streak and now the streak is nine.

They played OK-ish at times but didn’t do enough and didn’t shoot well enough from behind the arc (10-of-36) to stay in this game. They were chasing this one early, and for the whole way in fact — the Hawks never led this game and they didn’t deserve to: a team on the second night of a back-to-back, minus Leonard and OG Anunoby convincingly outplayed the Hawks on their home floor.

Not a great look. But no one cared, nor cares, because Vince Carter reached 25,000 points!

Jeremy Lin’s hot night

The one positive from last night was that Jeremy Lin was on fire. Lin scored a season-high 26 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from three.

From the distance of Atlanta to Ireland, that’s the gap between Lin and the next best Hawks player from last night. Lin was that good and the rest of the Hawks were that bad.

Lin obviously got hot in this game, hitting all of his 11 made shots in a row after missing his first two. Lin was hot from behind the arc but also did a good job nearer to the rim too, getting to his spots.

Here, a nice drive and fake pass to mislead the defense before scooping the ball home:

And a nice pull-up jumper after he gets to his spot:

It’s important to note that this level of shooting isn’t sustainable from Lin — he’s not shooting 11-of-13 and 11 in a row every night, that should be obvious. But he’s playing well at the moment, certainly a lot better than the start of the season as he continues to show the league that he’s back and he’s healthy.

Not a ton else to say here in this spot. Great game from Lin.

The starting lineup change

One of the other talking points heading into this one besides Carter’s chance for 25k was the change to the starting lineup. Order seemed to be restored as John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon were inserted for the injured Omari Spellman and Alex Len.

With the Hawks now seemingly with their best lineup on the floor to begin the game (Trae Young, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Collins and Dedmon), surely the Hawks’ fortunes starting both the first and third quarter — which have been slow at times this year — would’ve been better?

Yes?

No.

Both teams, to be fair, started slow but the Hawks started this game slower, going 0-of-8 to begin as they fell behind 17-6 in the early exchanges. Early subs had taken place well before the first timeout and then after the first timeout (just under six minutes remaining in the first quarter) the entire bench unit was out on the floor and they provided a spark for a time (led by Lin).

Things got weirder in the third quarter. A poor start again from the starting unit to begin the third quarter saw the entire starting unit yanked inside of two minutes after an early timeout.

Lloyd Pierce wasn’t happy with the energy his starting group was providing and his quick pull of the leash in the third quarter he hoped would send a message.

“Anyone that was working,” said Pierce on his different lineups throughout the game. “Our starting group - you know, again, we’ve had our holes throughout the year starting the game (with) our starting group. Both teams, neither of the teams, scored for the first three minutes, and we found ourselves in a 16-5 hole, I think.

“I just didn’t like our energy. I didn’t like the way we started and approached the game offensively. I didn’t like our energy and wanted to mix it up, and try and send a message and get those guys with a little fire underneath them. The second group came in, and they made a run, they made a push and it’s an 11-point game and we’re battling and competing and playing the right way. The same thing happened in the third quarter. The same group of guys was trying to figure it out. I keep talking about lineups and combinations, and just trying to find it.

“We’re still early in the season, we’re still early with our rotations, (and we’re) trying to find anything, any energy, that I can keep on the floor and guys that are willing to play together and compete together.”

We’re almost a quarter of the way through the season and Pierce, like many across the league, is still trying to figure out which lineups help the Hawks tick. Of course, he hasn’t been helped in making that decision since one of his better players, John Collins, hasn’t been around for very long to factor into some of those lineups. So the Hawks, in that aspect, are on the back-foot as Pierce has to figure out which lineups work best that involve Collins, who he didn’t have available to him until very recently. And he’ll have to do the same again when Spellman comes back, when Len comes back, and how Justin Anderson and Vince Carter now factor into things in their respective roles.

It’s a young season and the Hawks aren’t really (or shouldn’t be) in a real hurry to figure things out.

But the starters were straight up bad last night. Kent Bazemore was the only Hawk starter to shoot above 50% (4-of-5 for just eight points in just 14 minutes) while Young, Prince, Collins and Dedmon combined for 9-of-35 shooting from the field.

They were bad, it’s as simple as that. In fact, nearly everyone was poor bar Jeremy Lin...


The Hawks (3-15) are in action again on Friday as they continue this home-stand against a somewhat struggling Boston Celtics. That should be interesting.

Wishing all who celebrate the day a very Happy Thanksgiving. If you’re able to stomach more stuffing than the Hawks gave out last night (seven blocks) I’ll be impressed.

Enjoy.