In their final home game before a two-week road trip, the Atlanta Hawks welcomed the Charlotte Hornets and old friend Dwight Howard to town on Thursday night. The Hawks were the walking wounded, especially on the perimeter, where they were missing Kent Bazemore, DeAndre’ Bembry, Malcolm Delaney, Jaylen Morris, and Antonius Cleveland. Tyler Dorsey started in Bazemore’s absence and both Damion Lee and Andrew White saw the floor for Atlanta to back up Dorsey and Taurean Prince.
Lee was the highlight for the Hawks as he continues to hit his shots and play hard on his ten-day contract with the club. He finished 5-for-8 from the field and 3-for-5 from three to try to keep the Hawks within striking distance but Charlotte eventually proved too much for the young Atlanta squad. It seems likely that Lee’s earned his way onto the roster for the rest of the season once his ten-day contract is up.
For the Hornets, it was Howard who led the way as he put up a monster double-double with 33 points and 12 rebounds. The Hawks doubled hard whenever he caught the ball in the post, but the Hornets made them pay from outside when the ball was kicked back out. Charlotte finished the game 17-for-33 from behind the three-point line. John Collins was the best defender against Howard for Atlanta, using his strength and quickness to give the ex-Hawk Howard trouble in the post.
Atlanta’s big man rotation, always an area of intrigue this season, left Miles Plumlee out in the cold against the Hornets. Collins and Dewayne Dedmon started the game for the Hawks with Mike Muscala and Tyler Cavanaugh drawing the backup duties, though Atlanta did go small for a lot of the fourth quarter, using Prince at the power forward position in an attempt to juice the offense.
Dennis Schröder paced Atlanta in shot attempts but finished with a relatively inefficient 7-for-18 from the field for 17 points. He particularly struggled to get his jumper working, making just one of his ten shots outside the paint. On the other end, he put up some resistance to Kemba Walker for the majority of the game, but once things got close in the end, Walker stepped up in a big way, hitting a trio of threes to remove any doubt about which team was to be victorious on this night.
Given the Hawks weak wing rotation in this one, Charlotte ran a lot of their offense through Nicolas Batum, who took just nine shots but finished +25 to go with 10 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds for a triple double. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist even got in on the act in his 16 minutes, making all five of his shots against Dorsey and Isaiah Taylor.
Taurean Prince stayed hot from beyond the three-point line in this one and brought the Hawks within touching distance in the fourth quarter with 16 points in the period as Atlanta made a late run that came up short. Prince has responded very well since being benched for the second half against Indiana last week as he takes on more of the offensive burden with Bazemore out for the rest of the year. He finished 6-for-12 from three for another big performance from deep.
Atlanta starts a long road trip out west after Thursday’s loss. The trip starts in Milwaukee on Saturday before stopping off in five Western Conference cities, including a Friday-Sunday duo against Golden State and Houston next weekend.