In the grand scheme, the Atlanta Hawks faced a relatively modest challenge on paper entering Friday night’s game with the Detroit Pistons. The team was a small home underdog but, in theory, Atlanta had the firepower to keep things close against a Detroit team playing away from home. In the end, however, a terrible first quarter paved the way to doom for the Hawks, as the hosts fell by a final score of 124-109.
From the opening tip, things did not go well for the home team. Atlanta’s defense was comically poor in the early going and, as a result, the Pistons claimed a 23-7 lead that prompted Lloyd Pierce to take a pair of timeouts in the first five minutes.
After the second stoppage, Pierce removed his starters from the floor and things stabilized to some degree. With that said, Detroit led by as many as 24 in the opening period and Pierce’s attempts to stop the bleeding featured the deployment of 12 players and six (yes, six) different big men in a 12-minute period.
With the exception of flashes from Miles Plumlee, Jeremy Lin and Omari Spellman, there was very little to be excited about at any point in the first half. The Pistons claimed a 25-point lead during the second quarter and, despite a (modest) 6-0 run from the Hawks to climb back to some degree, the margin was 23 at the halftime break.
The Pistons converted 60 percent of their field goal attempts and 48 percent of their three-point attempts in the first half, with the Hawks struggling offensively (2 of 15 from three) and giving the ball away to the tune of 10 turnovers and 18 points for the visitors. Poor defense was the biggest reason for the sizable halftime deficit but, simply put, it was a ghastly half of basketball from Atlanta.
While the second half wasn’t as hideous from the home team, a comeback never materialized. To Atlanta’s (small) credit, the final three quarters were competitive when taken in a vacuum and the lion’s share of the damage was done in the opening period. Still, there wasn’t really a moment when the game felt competitive (even as the team closed the gap in the final minutes), which is a more damning characterization in some ways.
Individually, there wasn’t much to claim in terms of positive takeaways. Plumlee enjoyed his second consecutive positive performance, finishing with 14 points (on 7 of 8 shooting) and four rebounds, with both Dedmon (13 points, nine rebounds) and Spellman (14 points, 10 rebounds) producing in the frontcourt. Trae Young wasn’t dominant by any means, but he did finish with 16 points and five assists (to go with six turnovers), while the rest of the starting lineup (Prince, Bazemore, Len) struggled mightily. Finally, Lin scored 19 points and dished out four assists in another step forward in his reserve role.
Following Friday’s game, the Hawks will have an off day (for travel) on Saturday, before embarking on a very difficult road trip that begins on Sunday against the Lakers in Los Angeles. Stay tuned.