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Hawks take non-competitive road loss to Pacers

It was one of the uglier performances on the season from Atlanta’s regulars.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks handed a surprise loss to the playoff bound Indiana Pacers last week in Atlanta. On Friday night, the Pacers made it clear from the opening tip in Indiana that this game was going to go differently.

Dewayne Dedmon knocked down a jump shot on the game’s first possession. But that would prove to be the only lead the Hawks would hold on the evening, as the Pacers got separation early in the first quarter in what would eventually be a 112-87 victory by the home team.

Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo made the only shot he took in the first quarter yet Indiana got out to a 34-15 lead by end of the opening period. Point guard Cory Joseph, who was scoreless in last week’s match up in Atlanta, scored 10 points on just five shooting possessions in the first quarter. The Pacers took advantage of a host of uncontested looks early in the contest including hitting 5 of their 6 three point attempts to establish to the early lead.

After a mostly even second quarter Oladipo came out playing aggressively on offense in the third quarter to push the game into garbage time before the game reached the fourth quarter. The All-Star scored 13 points on just seven shooting possessions in the third frame. The Pacers led by 24 points heading to the final period.

Dedmon was the only Hawks starter to appear in the fourth quarter. Josh Magette and Andrew White, both currently on two way contracts, played more than 10 minutes in the final period. Curiously, Taurean Prince sat for the entire second half despite the team confirming he was healthy. Jaylen Morris, who is currently on a 10-day contract with Atlanta started the third quarter in the place of Prince.

It was a defensive struggle from the beginning as the Hawks had trouble staying attached to Indiana shooters coming off of screens. Transition defense was an issue for most of the night as well. The Pacers, who are third in the league in fast break points (15 per game), scored 25 points in transition.

The Hawks give up the eight most fast break points per game. As such, the Hawks would have had to have one of their better performances in that phase of the game to have a realistic hope of keeping the game competitive. The Hawks outscored the Pacers 18-16 in transition in last week’s win at home.

The Pacers found comfortable shots from the beginning of the game.

Oladipo is able to step into a dribble hand off with Pacers center Myles Turner on this possession. He seals Turner’s defender, John Collins, and Kent Bazemore stays in the paint. The Hawks don’t demonstrate much resistance nor sense of urgency and Turner knocks down the uncontested look from the three point line.

This play is an example of another easy, comfortable look the Pacers get from the three point line. Oladipo is running a side pick and roll with Pacers’ power forward Thaddeus Young. Dennis Schroder helps from the weak side “at the nail,”but loses track of Corey Joseph as he slips toward the left three point break. A simple screen from Turner seals him from the play and neither Prince nor Dedmon rotate out to the open shooter.

This play will look familiar. It’s just like the three point make by Turner in the first quarter only that on this play Oladipo is comfortable enough to make the pass between his legs.

The Pacers, who are sixth best as a team on three point attempts this season, hit 14 of their 28 attempts from behind the three point line in this game. The defense on many of the possessions from which those attempts were generated look a lot like these plays.

The Hawks were led in scoring by rookie Tyler Dorsey who had a new career high 18 points in the game. He led Atlanta with 15 field goal attempts but demonstrated an aggressiveness that stood out.

Mike Muscala had another familiar game providing efficient scoring. He had 12 points on just 6 shooting possessions including hitting on 3 of his 5 attempts from beyond the three point line.

Muscala had been unusually cold from the three point line upon returning from the All-Star break. He led the Hawks in three point percentage entering the break, but hit just 1 of his 14 three point attempts in the first four games upon return. He has now converted 6 of his 12 three point attempts in his last four games.

Dorsey works with Muscala on this play to take advantage of the help defense Lance Stephenson provides on the ball. In recent seasons in the NBA, elite three point shooters have started to position themselves 5 feet or so behind the line as to space the floor more significantly and to leave room to step into a shot without risking getting a toe on the line. Dorsey demonstrates the technique perfectly on this play.

On this play, Dorsey and Muscala are working together again. With the screen action they are able to get the switch. Dorsey sets up veteran big man Trevor Booker with the dribble and comfortably hits the step back three.

A bit strangely, this Hawks reserve unit demonstrates possibly the best collective execution in a half court possession in the game. White initiates a back screen for Miles Plumlee who rolls as a lob threat toward the rim. Magette recognizes Booker helping cut off the lob threat and hits the skip pass to Dedmon in the weak side corner.

Dorsey and Dedmon execute a dribble hand off which creates the space for another comfortable look from the three point line.

This Muscala three point make comes on an after time out (ATO) play with some intriguing action. The Hawks continue to do innovative things even during this tough season, as Jeff Siegel recently wrote.

The Hawks initiate a rare 1-2 pick and roll (PG/SG) with White spacing the floor in the weak side corner. Plumlee sets a screen for Muscala at the free throw line and the result is an open three point attempt.

Hawks’ rookie big man John Collins had a fairly quiet game but did deliver on a highlight play.

One of the areas of Collins’ game that some observers are looking for him to demonstrate more development is his ability to create his own shot. He has largely been dependent on lobs and put back dunks for a significant amount of his scoring volume thus far.

On this play, he starts to initiate the familiar dribble hand off action with Bazemore. Next Collins demonstrates some of what he did at the college level last season that allowed him to lead the NCAA in PER. He transitions from the DHO into an extended post with a full pivot. His quick first step allows him to zip by his defender and get to the opposite side of the rim for the uncontested dunk.

Magette amassed six assists and no turnovers in his 15 minutes of play as a reserve. Jaylen Morris had nine points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 24 minutes of play off the bench. He also continues to demonstrate solid play defending at the point of attack.

The Hawks ended play on Friday night tied with the Orlando Magic with the third worst record in the league. They will return home to host the Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon.