The Atlanta Hawks dropped their second straight game as they fell to the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, 106-94 on Friday night at Oracle Arena on the second night of a back-to-back (the Hawks in action the previous day in Sacramento).
Taurean Prince led the Hawks in scoring with 20 points while Dennis Schröder added 16 points and dished out seven assists.
For the Warriors, they were led by Stephen Curry’s 29 points before leaving the game with a knee injury. Nick Young picked up the scoring load for the shorthanded Dubs — without Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green — adding 24 points.
Dubs run away late
The Warriors didn’t play a particularly great game, that should be pointed out straightaway — they were quite shorthanded after all.
But the Hawks had earned the right to hang around in this game, and even led by as many as 15 points earlier in the game. Some of their defense was pretty good at times (particularly at the rim in the first quarter, when the Warriors only scored 16 points):
The Warriors were placed in a difficult position when Steph Curry was forced to leave the game with a knee injury (reported to be an MCL injury) — where would their scoring come from? Who would lead them down the stretch, only leading by four points with 5:45 remaining?
Despite missing Curry, the decisive stretch in this game went in the Warriors’ favor and took place between the 4:43-1:37 marks of the final quarter, when the Warriors went on a 11-2 run to put the Hawks away and won in the end by 12 points.
Let’s look at a few of those plays in that decisive 11-2 run.
The run started with this Nick Young basket, made possible by a down screen by David West — which Taurean Prince got pinned on — allowing Young an open shot:
Perhaps Dewayne Dedmon — if he was aware of the developing danger — could’ve stepped up to challenge Young in this situation, since Prince struggled with that West screen? Nick Young is not someone you want to allow to have open shots — only feeds his confidence.
Going the other way, Prince manages to split the defenders but David West plugs the gap between Prince and the rim, forcing Prince to kick the ball out to the corner to John Collins, who is forced to put up a three from the corner near the end of the clock and it misses:
This isn’t a ‘worst case scenario’ shot from Collins near the end of the clock — the corner three is one that he practices but Nick Young contests the shot well.
The Hawks manage to grab the rebound on this play and set up again. Dennis Schröder gets the switch he wants and tries to take Kevon Looney off of the dribble to the rim. Looney, though, sticks with Schröder is credited for a block:
Dennis enjoyed success in this game for punishing those type of switches (particularly against Jordan Bell in the first half) but credit Looney for forcing this miss.
Heading the other way — and off of the pass from Quinn Cook (former Hawks, Quinn Cook, former...) — Looney attempts to drive but is thwarted by both the slippery surface and Mike Muscala. Looney kicks it back to Andre Iguodala behind the three-point line and Tyler Dorsey doesn’t close him down quick enough (looking the other way as the Iguodala receives the ball) and by the time he realises what’s going on and what he needs to do to prevent it the ball is already in flight and the three is canned by Iguodala:
Dorsey initially has his head turned where the ball is — not sure why he looks in the direction of Looney when Iguodala has the ball but alas...
Speaking of Iguodala, when people say the Warriors had no ‘leader’ as such in the absence of Curry, Green, Thompson and Durant down the stretch they clearly discount Iguodala. Yes, Iguodala doesn’t shoulder the scoring load but he led this team down the stretch — a calming influence. His game-high +/- rating of plus-25 (despite scoring just five points) is reflective of what he brings to the game.
“His IQ on both ends of the court, making plays... They have a great appreciation for him, the whole league has a great appreciation. You can’t really look at points when you’re looking at Andre Iguodala’s impact on the game...” said Budenholzer of Iguodala.
“It’s crazy to see what he does defensively,” said Collins of Iguodala. “The way he’s able to move the ball and his impact, his leadership on the court is something crazy. That’s why he was Finals MVP a couple years ago. He does all the right things...”
Next, Taurean Prince attempts to quickly respond as he sizes up (I believe) Kevon Looney, sets up the drive but springs into an open three instead that misses as Looney sagged, expecting the drive:
The percentages say that is a good shot — Prince shoot 38% from that area of the floor on the season and it was open at the end of the day...just didn’t go down. As Dominique Wilkins said in commentary, you could see it coming all day...
Coming out of a Warriors timeout, Looney is well challenged in the paint and his runner is off. The rebound eludes both Damion Lee and Jordan Bell, and Looney picks up the pieces from his own miss and shovels it to an open Nick Young in the corner for three:
Can’t really blame Lee for leaving Young to go contest the rebound — you never know which way the ball is going to bounce when it goes up there and, unfortunately for Lee and the Hawks, it bounces right back into the hands of Looney and the killer pass is made...and Nick Young doesn’t need an invitation to fire away.
Things are suddenly desperate for the Hawks, now down 12 points (98-86) with little over two minutes remaining having been within a shout just a few possessions prior. They answer with a Dedmon layup, as he slips the screen and is found by Schröder:
A quick response but the Hawks still trail by 10 points with time quickly running out.
But any hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed as Nick Young hits another three, after Mike Muscala gets caught up on the screen by Jordan Bell:
Again, could Dedmon have made things easier for his teammate and switched onto Young to contest that shot? Could Muscala and Dedmon have communicated that? Either way, that three puts the Warriors up by 13 points and the game is pretty much up for the Hawks, and the white flag was waved not long after that, the starters checking out at the 1:37 mark.
The Hawks were right there with five minutes to go, on the road, in Golden State without their big stars and without Curry down the stretch...
Though the Hawks are shorthanded themselves, there was a great opportunity to steal one in Golden State...I think they’ll be disappointed all things considered.
After holding the Warriors to 16 first quarter points, the Warriors scored 90 points in three quarters, and Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said the Warriors took it up a notch in the second half despite who was/wasn’t playing.
“The first half, the defense was really in a great place,” said Budenholzer postgame. “Holding them to 43 points (in the first half) and 38% (shooting from the field) but they’re a good team, no matter who plays. They’re well coached, they play unselfishly, they play hard. (In the) second half, they were making a lot of plays, making a lot of shots. (I) Think they upped their level, credit to them.”
The Hawks were disappointed that they weren’t able to pull off the win despite a strong first half.
“We did a great job in the first half on both ends: executing on offense and getting stops defensively,” said John Collins postgame. “Sad we couldn’t come out with the ‘W’ in the second half but it’s always tough when you come to Oracle.”
They fought and scrapped hard as always, something that is under appreciated about this Hawks team considering their record and how other teams with similar records have played.
I don't think this team is all that much more talented than the one Memphis put out there to lose by 61 last night, but difference in effort/style is palpable— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) March 24, 2018
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to come out with a win on this occasion.
Plenty of injuries to be had last night...
The big one to come out of this game was Stephen Curry, who hurt his left knee after teammate JaVale McGee accidentally bumped into it. Curry looked quite down on the bench as he was attended to, and reports are floating that it could be an MCL injury.
An injury to Curry would mean nothing from a Hawks point of view going forward, but for the landscape of the playoffs it could be massive.
At the time, Curry — who started off slowly — was shredding the Hawks: 29 points in 25 minutes. More will be known about his injury soon, though, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said that the atmosphere was ‘somber’ postgame in light of the Curry injury.
Per the Mercury News, Nick Young — for all of his heroics in the fourth quarter — was also dealing with an knee injury from the second quarter onwards, while Patrick McCaw described his lower-back contusion after a nasty fall as “pretty bad”...
The Hawks had their share of bumps and bruises too. After just returning from an ankle injury, John Collins suffered another ankle injury as he came down on Taurean Prince’s foot. It looked bad initially — especially having just come back from an ankle injury and persuading Budenholzer (per Fox Sports Southeast sideline reporter Andre Aldridge) to play last night — but Collins got it taped up and he returned and finished the game.
“It tends to go like that,” said Collins of the injury last night having just returned from a previous ankle injury. “You rehab, you rehab, you come back, you tweak it a little bit . . . it’s not too serious. It’s something you hate to happen but it’s part of basketball.”
The fact Collins did return and was able to finish game eludes that the injury — as Collins said — is not being too serious, so you’d imagine that Collins should be good to go in Houston on Sunday.
Dennis Schröder, meanwhile, also tweaked an ankle and he had to leave the game. Like Collins, Schröder also returned and finished the game, which was a bit of a surprise because it did look particularly rough.
We don’t officially know the status of Collins or Schröder going forward — they will, surely be added to the injury report regardless — but the fact they both returned and finished the game would indicate that those respective ankles aren’t suffering majorly. Though, it also wouldn’t surprise me if Dennis, maybe, misses a game for (ahem) ‘reasons.’
Leaving points at the line
Boy...this probably irked the Hawks in a big way postgame...
The Hawks left an awful lot of points at the free throw line as they shot just 9-of-20 from the free throw line: 45% — three of those came in that decisive stretch in the fourth quarter.
With the game being as close as it was for a good chunk of the fourth quarter, it makes you wonder if the game would’ve taken a different path if the Hawks had made their previous free throws (so that, for example, instead of a four point game it’s a tie game)...
Of course, we’ll never know but the Hawks will be frustrated to miss as many freebies as they did.
And it was everyone who played their part: Schröder missed two free throws, Prince missed two and Isaiah Taylor missed three...
As Bob Rathbun mentioned in commentary: you can’t hope to have a shot on the road against the Warriors if you’re going to miss those free throws.
Sadly, it cost the Hawks dearly indeed...
The Hawks (21-52) march on to Houston where they’ll match up against the Rockets on Sunday.
Should be a doozy, stay tuned.