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Hawks fall to Kings as protests headline lottery clash

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Proceedings were quite different on Thursday night...

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks continued their six-game road trip with game number three taking place in Sacramento on Thursday night, but the Hawks were unable to top the Kings, 105-90.

In the absence of Dennis Schröder (rested to help the tank on the first night of a back-to-back) Isaiah Taylor scored a career-high 18 points while Damion Lee and Dewayne Dedmon added 13 points apiece (Dedmon also adding 10 rebounds, a double-double).

For the Kings, Justin Jackson also scored a career-high with 20 points while Frank Mason and Buddy Hield both added 16 points off of the bench.

A different type of night

Not a lot of people are talking about the ‘highly’ anticipated lottery showdown — or its implications — between two teams that are in contention to receive the number one pick this summer, but about the events occurring outside of the arena.

Protests against police brutality took place outside of Golden1 Center prior to the game in the aftermath of the death of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, prompting the Kings to lock-down the arena for security reasons, preventing further fans from entering the arena and resulting in a very low game attendance, with those who arrived early being the only ones to spectate the game in person:

The fans in the upper tiers were all moved to the lower bowl and the Kings did their part to facilitate those that were there (free food, alcoholic drinks and will refund those unable to enter the arena) but it was hard to ignore the empty seats in the arena — and the scenes outside.

It was, obviously, a major talking point postgame but we’ll get to that...

It was unclear for a period if the game would go ahead but it eventually did — after an initial delay — and it was an interesting game.

The Kings established a double-digit lead just before the end of the third quarter and the Hawks couldn’t cut that lead below six points and went cold down the stretch — scoreless over the final 3:42 and unable to produce the stops they needed to give themselves a chance to win this game.

The Hawks committed some costly turnovers in the fourth and, somehow, conceded 20 points in the paint in the fourth quarter. Twenty. And it wasn’t a case of the bigs crashing the boards for put-backs (though, the Kings did score 20 second chance points), it was the mostly the guards: Buddy Hield and Frank Mason.

Here’s one example with Buddy Hield...

The Kings run two screens for Hield to come off of and Damion Lee is pinged by the second screen made by Kosta Koufas. Hield gets into the paint and rises into an uncontested jumpshot:

That’s an easy shot to give up... Mike Muscala probably should step up to contest Hield here... In addition, the Hawks’ guards — all night — struggled quite a bit with screens. Tyler Dorsey in particular struggled getting around screens...

In the end, the Hawks lost by 15 points, which wasn’t, really, reflective of the game itself — a 10 point loss would be a little more accurate...

Postgame, the talking point was, of course, about the events occurring outside of the arena, which — as a by-product — resulted in a very unusual atmosphere inside the arena with just a handful of fans in attendance.

Tyler Dorsey admitted that it was difficult to play an NBA game knowing what was going on outside.

“It’s very odd,” said Tyler Dorsey of the environment in which the game was played at the start of the night. “That’s a serious situation that happened in this town, I know it hurts. It’s hard to play a basketball game knowing that’s going on. It was a tough one for us as a team but the NBA felt it was best for us to play this game. That’s a serious situation, it’s tough to play under that and knowing that’s right outside the arena.”

“Just thinking about us African-Americans playing and should we play the game or not, or under these circumstances, but it’s tough,” Dorsey said when asked about the discussions amongst Hawks players and between both Hawks and Kings players. “At the end of the day, it’s basketball, but it’s bigger than basketball. It’s just best for us to play the game, but it’s bigger than that. It was definitely on our minds probably the whole time.”

Kings veteran Vince Carter said that while both teams had a job to do, what was going on outside did not escape their notice.

“We had multiple conversations,” Carter said via the Sacramento Bee. “And when I say we, I mean both teams, with each other. We have a game to play, we have a job to do, but it didn’t go unnoticed.”

Everything was out of sorts for the players last night: delayed warm-ups and a near-empty crowd... It was just an odd situation for everyone, I don’t think anyone felt right.

“And then it even throws you off going out there and seeing all those seats empty, and you know why (the seats were empty),” said Kings rookie Justin Jackson. “It was definitely tough...”

Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said, on a night like last night, that basketball was secondary.

“I think basketball was secondary tonight,” said Budenholzer postgame. “I think what’s happening in Sacramento and the concerns and thoughts are with everybody. Guys played hard tonight and competed. I think that the crowd that was here appreciated them. And that’s it.”

“The league has a tough decision to make,” said Budenholzer when asked if there concern that the game wouldn’t be played. “The league obviously made the decision that I think was in the best interest of the safety of the fans already in the arena, both teams, to go ahead and play the game. I think there’s a lot of appreciation for the Sacramento players, for our players. Our owner spoke to the team and was appreciative of their efforts. I think it was the right decision by the league but certainly not an easy one.”

Hawks owner Tony Ressler wasn’t the only owner to address his team: Kings owner Vivek Randivé addressed the Kings crowd postgame:

The Kings are, generally, a laughing stock for many reasons around the league/amongst the fans but that was something that was legitimately well done by the Kings organisation. So, kudos to the Kings and Vivek.

A very different kind of night for both the Hawks and the Kings, and a night, certainly, where basketball takes a back-seat and the end result didn’t really matter (at least on the night).

Isaiah Taylor’s career-high

We’ll talk a little bit about the game itself because Isaiah Taylor had a very strong game: a career-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, three rebounds and three assists:

Taylor’s electrifying pace was too much for the Kings to deal with as Taylor got to the rim with ease, shooting 6-of-6 at the rim:

Courtesy of NBA.com/stats

Taylor also had a few excellent set-ups for assists in this game off of his penetration (the threes he set up for Andrew White and Dewayne Dedmon, which are both included in the video linked above).

Taylor was probably the only positive for the Hawks last night (though, Damion Lee had some good moments too) and drew praise from coach Budenholzer postgame.

“He continues to grow,” said Budenholzer of Taylor. “I think his aggressiveness, his ability to get to the paint, get to the rim and finish (is good). He started the game with a three, he’s growing and I thought defensively he had some great possessions. Happy with how he’s playing and happy with how he’s growing.”

Over his last six games, Taylor is averaging 9.8 points per game on 42% shooting from the field and five assists — he has definitely been playing well of late and it’s no surprise that coach Budenholzer is happy with his performances in the absence of Schröder last night and Malcolm Delaney in the past week since his ankle injury.

Bench battle

One of the major game stories for this game was the bench differential: the Kings’ bench was fantastic, scoring 59 points to the Hawks’ 31.

Kosta Koufas (14 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and four blocks), Frank Mason (16 points, seven rebounds, eight assists) and Buddy Hield (16 points) all made huge contributions off of the Kings’ bench. Tyler Dorsey led the Hawks bench with 11 points but shot 4-of-12 from the field to get there while Tyler Cavanaugh also struggled, shooting 2-of-11 from the field.

The plus/minus tells a very interesting story — all five of the Hawks’ bench players registered plus/minus ratings minus+20 or below (Dorsey -23, Josh Magette -25, Cavanaugh -22, Miles Plumlee - 22, Andrew White -23), combining for a plus/minus rating of minus+115. The Kings’ bench plus/minus totalled plus-89

Yikes.

I don’t think the difference between the two benches was as clear-cut as that but the Kings’ bench was definitely the better bench and by some margin, helping make up for the poor shooting nights of De’Aaron Fox (1-of-11) and Skal Labissiere (4-of-14).


The Hawks (21-51) are back in action tonight in the Bay Area, which can only mean a tilt with the defending NBA Champions: the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

The Hawks have pushed the Warriors close at Oracle in the past, and the Warriors are banged up at the moment... So it could be closer than you think.

Should be fun regardless, stay tuned.