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Hawks hang around, eventually slip in lopsided loss to Hornets

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An admirable performance through three quarters came apart in the fourth.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three days, the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets got together for some Southeast Division basketball. After the Hawks won a thrilling 124-123 game in Atlanta on Sunday, Charlotte bounced back in a big way, running past the Hawks on the way to a 108-94 victory to take a 2-1 season series lead. Trae Young led the way for Atlanta with 18 points.

The game started well enough for the Hawks, who were in foul trouble throughout the first quarter but took a 28-24 lead into the second period. Charlotte couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in the first 12 minutes but were able to get to the free throw line for 12 attempts. On the other end, the Hawks started out strong from beyond the three-point line, highlighted by this deep Young three-pointer:

Kevin Huerter, who was recently inserted into the starting lineup for veteran Kent Bazemore, had a strong first quarter beyond the arc, including a stepback jumper that looked awfully Harden-esque in its execution:

It’s not easy to get the footwork right on a shot like that, but Huerter makes the most of his gather step to create a ton of separation from his defender.

A 17-4 run between the end of the first and beginning of the second for the Hornets netted the home team a 33-30, headlined by a pair of baseline jams for Miles Bridges. Young splashed home his second three-pointer a few possessions later to put Atlanta back on top.

The second quarter was more of a defensive battle, though the scoring picked up in the last few minutes. Charlotte’s center rotation showed up in a big way in the period, as Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller helped to push the Hornets into a 55-49 lead at halftime. Their late run was spurred in part by Zeller’s phenomenal play — at one point he had scored eight points in a row for Charlotte. The halftime deficit could have been a lot larger had the Hornets hit their free throws; the home rims were not kind to them from the charity stripe to the tune of a 15-for-22 performance in the first half.

Taurean Prince came to play in the third quarter. Despite picking up his fourth personal foul early in the period, he poured in seven points in the first four minutes to keep the Hawks in touching distance of the Hornets. Another Young triple drew Atlanta within three points at 62-59, which drew a timeout from Charlotte head coach James Borrego.

A consistent theme throughout the last few games for the Hawks has been their offensive output, which has improved after a disastrous start. Getting John Collins back was the impetus for the improvement, as he provides a true pick-and-roll dive man with which Young can work. Young and Collins have quickly developed a strong chemistry.

Atlanta hung around for much of the third quarter, but the Hornets used a late 10-1 run to push their lead to 86-75 by the time the final period rolled around. Once again, the Charlotte bench outplayed the Hawks to close a quarter.

The Hornets were able to pry open a larger advantage through the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, breaking open a 17-point lead to force a timeout from Lloyd Pierce with 5:52 remaining in the game. The Hawks lost their luster on the second night of a back-to-back, which included a short flight up from Miami to Charlotte, and weren’t able to keep up. Quite a few of the Hornets’ buckets were straight-line drives down the middle of the paint, where the Hawks were just a step slow to help. All told, the fourth quarter went to Charlotte 22-19 on their way to victory.

In the final three quarters, the Hawks shot a dismal 32 percent from the field, including just 19 percent from beyond the three-point arc, to go along with 14 turnovers. Those numbers won’t get it done at any level of basketball.

Alex Len didn’t play at all, likely due to matchup issues. When healthy, the Hornets like to go small on their second units and Len has trouble with floor-spacing centers or in pick-and-pop coverage. Additionally, the Hawks went with a switch-heavy scheme in pick-and-roll defense, which doesn’t suit Len’s skills in the slightest. Instead, they used Dewayne Dedmon, Omari Spellman, and Collins as the three centers, all of whom are more adept at switching onto guards than Len.

Jeremy Lin missed a return to Charlotte with an ankle injury suffered on Tuesday against Miami and it showed just how much the Hawks miss their veteran backup point guard. Bench units for Atlanta did very poorly in this game, a situation that wasn’t improved by the combined 0-for-17 shooting by Spellman, Kent Bazemore, Vince Carter.

The Hawks will be back at it on Friday in Oklahoma City to complete their three-game road trip, where they’ll face off against old friend Dennis Schröder and the Thunder.