For the vast majority of 48 minutes on Sunday evening, the Atlanta Hawks out-played the Detroit Pistons. Though things got dicey in the final minutes, the Hawks escaped with a 98-95 victory that served as Atlanta’s third straight win.
The Hawks have had a hard time this season in the early going of games, but today was no issue as the visiting team managed to get their offense rolling early in Detroit. Kent Bazemore and Dewayne Dedmon were carrying the team early on until Vince Carter entered the game. Atlanta’s elder statesman must have been feeling pretty spry on Sunday, as he began to pile up the points, including a four-point play that really seemed to shift the momentum from a back-and-forth game into a dominant early effort by Atlanta. When the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter, the Hawks held a 28-21 lead and looked pretty solid while building it.
The second quarter was much like the first, with Dewayne Dedmon and Kevin Huerter re-entering the game to give the Hawks some fresh legs. Atlanta really could’ve put the beat down on the Pistons quicker had the Hawks been able to control the ball better. Turnovers have been quite the issue for this young team in 2018, but you can definitely observe a slight improvement game by game.
Trae Young came back in for the Hawks late in the second and did a good job of getting into the paint. One of the big stories of the second though was Young’s first three-point attempt in six quarters (which he missed). Young is definitely making a concerted effort to get in the lane and make plays first, scoring second which is a great mindset for him to be in as he continues to struggle with his shooting from beyond the arc.
The Hawks continued to play some solid basketball and turned in one of their most complete halves of this season, going into the locker room with a 57-43 advantage. I believe Hawks broadcaster Bob Rathbun said it best when evaluating the look of how the Pistons played the first half when he commented that “the Pistons look like a team with a bunch of pieces that don’t fit correctly.” Detroit’s game plan made them look confused during multiple sets and had players standing with hands on hips watching ISO basketball.
As expected, Detroit came out of the break with a little more fire, but the Hawks were still able to maintain pace with the Pistons. The offense of the home team was pretty putrid for the length of the game and even without their best player (John Collins) the Hawks were able to easily deal with the Pistons attempts to come back.
It seems like Detroit is going to need to make a decision soon on the direction they want their team to go. They have some pretty valuable pieces to deal if they wanted to consider a re-tool/re-build. As currently constructed, they look like a team destined for mediocrity in the Eastern Conference which is pretty hard to do with so many teams in the conference already rebuilding.
The third quarter seemed to drag to an end with Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson taking turns at ISO plays and with the Hawks missing shots. It was a quarter that both teams would soon love to forget, but Atlanta held serve and took a 79-66 lead into the final frame.
Detroit showed some signs of life early in the fourth quarter when Langston Galloway decided he wasn’t going to miss a shot and went on a personal 11-0 run. Atlanta was able to weather that storm and maintained a ten-point lead midway through the quarter. The Hawks have been playing some solid ball of late and all of a sudden found themselves looking for their third straight win just having to survive the final few minutes. Huerter and Carter returned after Galloway’s tirade but really had no effect on the Hawks offense which seemingly disappeared towards the end of this one.
With a little under three minutes remaining in the game the Hawks had scored just nine points in the quarter, but were still clinging to a three point lead. Needing some offense the Hawks turned to old reliable Vince Carter. Galloway continued to terrorize Atlanta and got the Pistons deficit down to just one point with a minute and a half remaining. The Hawks turned to Jeremy Lin late for his veteran presence of mind late in the game and it paid off as he was able to hit a driving layup to take the lead back to three around the one minute mark.
Reggie Jackson was fouled going to the rim with just under a minute to go and made both bringing the deficit back to one. After an empty trip for the Hawks, the Pistons went back to Blake Griffin who was also fouled. Griffin went to the line and proceeded to miss both free throws. Jeremy Lin secured the rebound, was fouled and showed Griffin how to do it by nailing both.
Up by three, the Hawks needed someone to make a play on defense to secure their third straight. The Pistons decided to go quickly with Reggie Jackson taking it to the rack for two. Atlanta conceded the points and continued to play the foul game with Jeremy Lin. Lin again hit both free throws and Detroit attempted to go quickly again, but hilariously none other than Langston Galloway (who had been unconscious most of the night) blew a wide open layup. Kent Bazemore rebounded the ball and was fouled needing just one make to effectively end the game. Bazemore stepped up and made both to secure the win for Atlanta.
This game should have never been as close as it was late as the inexperienced Hawks still have much to learn about closing games out late. Atlanta will be back in action after Christmas back at home to face the Pacers looking for their fourth straight win.