The Atlanta Hawks were unable to add another victory on their seven-game road-trip as they fell on Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center — 135-113
Trae Young scored 23 points while John Collins added 14 points.
For the Kings, Harry Giles scored a career-high 20 points, Buddy Hield also added 18 points as the Kings enjoyed double-digit scoring efforts from six players.
Hawks outclassed by classy Kings
The Hawks kicked this game off in a positive way as they got off to a 15-6 start and took a 10-point lead in the opening six minutes.
...That’s honestly as good as it got for the Hawks.
The Kings found their feet and gradually reeled in the Hawks in the first quarter before taking the lead before its expiration behind a 13-4 run. Heading into the second quarter, the Kings picked up where they left off and eventually ran out to a 15-point lead just before the half before entering the half itself with a 14-point lead, outscoring the Hawks 35-22 in the second quarter.
The third quarter showed no signs of life for the Hawks as the Kings continued to extend their lead, opening a 29 point lead well before the third quarter came to a close and that was all she wrote in this one and it was never, ever in doubt in the second half.
In fact, over a 30-minute period of the game, the Kings outscored the Hawks 80-43, and that’s about all you need to know with this one.
It was a truly horrific game from the Hawks’ point of view with very few positives but, if nothing else, everyone watching got to see a fantastic Sacramento performance. Not to harp on the Kings’ drum for too long here but, man, they played some fantastic basketball — just super, super fun to watch.
Similar to the Hawks, the Kings are a young team that play extremely quickly (2nd in the league in pace, trailing only Atlanta themselves) and, postgame, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce praised the Kings and their young group, who he sees similarities with.
“That group’s a couple of phases ahead of us right now,” opened Pierce postgame via Fox Sports Southeast. “The pace they play with, the ability to attack off of the dribble, get downhill. For some reason they just have our number pretty good. We didn’t have the energy or the energy to play a team like this tonight.”
This marked game number four of the Hawks’ season-long seven-game road-trip, and Pierce is continuing to use the trip and the difficulties it’s throwing at his young side as a learning experience.
“We’re not going to use any excuses,” said Pierce. “The real message is ‘This is part of the NBA.’ This is our longest road-trip and this is part of the NBA where we really want to get some growth.”
Pierce bemoaned a lack of ball movement as a key reason why the Hawks weren’t with it last night, describing his side as being ‘easy to guard.’
“We just didn’t move,” said Pierce. “(If) You watch our Clipper game the other night and the ball was moving. We held the basketball tonight. No separation, we held the basketball a little too much and that’s easy to guard. We try and pride ourselves on being hard to guard with body and ball movement. We didn’t have that tonight.”
The Hawks did have 24 assists on the night but in comparison to the Kings who had 36 assists on the night, there’s no comparison.
Even overlooking the total number of assists, Sacramento’s ball movement was exemplary and cannot be compared to the Hawks’ last night.
Exhibit 1, as Harry Giles drops this beautiful pass to the cutting Bogdan Bogdanovic:
On the slip of the screen by Nemanja Bjelica, the Serbian receives the ball and drops a nice pass to the cutting Willie (Trill) Cauley-Stein for the dunk:
Again, the Kings were doing a good job moving bodies, making cuts and were willing passers in finding those cutters:
The Kings did everything that Lloyd Pierce would’ve wanted to see from his own team and part of the reason, I’d imagine, that Pierce draws similarities to the Kings when he says ‘they’re a couple of phases ahead of us’ — that’s where they want to be.
Speaking of, Pierce was asked how it felt about coaching against a coach who Pierce enjoys a good relationship with, Dave Joerger, and again Pierce drew more similarities from his side to Joerger’s side.
“I think he’s doing an unbelievable job,” said Pierce of Joerger. “He’s got a bunch of young guys that have been in the situation we were in in their first years and trying to get them minutes and balance them out. You’re seeing De’Aaron Fox be dominant, you’re seeing Harry Giles turn the corner, you see Marvin Bagley have a great game, Bogdanovic in his second year is still a good player, Buddy Hield shooting over 45% from three. A lot of guys are growing up here in Sacramento, I think coach Joerger has done a great job in helping their development.”
As Pierce was listing off individual Kings players, you can’t help but feel he has players from his own squad in mind we talking about those individual Kings players.
The Kings sweep the season series with the Hawks after dominating proceedings in Atlanta earlier this season — somehow, this 22-point loss was not the Hawks’ worst outing against the Kings.
Between the two games, the Kings scored 146 points in the paint — 70 in their first meeting and another 76 last night.
“When you figure out you can get into the paint, you keep doing it until the team stops. We just couldn’t stop them from getting into the paint,” said Pierce. “...it’s hard when you have a team that figures our your weakness and they got right at it. They figured out our weakness tonight.”
The Kings did a great job breaking down the Hawks’ defense and drawing the big protecting the rim, leading to easy dump-offs to players like Harry Giles, who attacked the rim all night long:
In fact, the Hawks just had no answer for Giles’ energy and activity:
To close, not a great night for the Hawks at all.
Trae Young was the only real positive from this game, scoring 23 points on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting from the field, 4-of-9 from three while also dishing out eight assists, continuing his fine form on the road trip.
In his last 3 games, Trae Young has averaged 26.3 points and 8.0 assists— Kevin Chouinard (@KLChouinard) January 31, 2019
(.636 FG%, .429 3FG%, .875 FT%)
The only other positive besides Young and the return of Kent Bazemore (we’ll get to that) was this big-time dunk from DeAndre’ Bembry on Bagley:
This had trap game written all over it for the Kings. This was their first game home from a six-game road-trip and the beginning of a six-game homestand, and generally, the first game home after a long trip is a bit of a dud for the home team. But not last night.
The Kings were well worth their win last night as they continue their push for a playoff spot. The scored 19 second chance points, scored 26 fastbreak points, 76 points in the paint, shot 55% from the field and scored a whopping 135 points. All of this coming despite an inefficient game from Bogdan Bogdanovic (5-of-14 shooting from the field, 3-of-10 from three) and star player De’Aaron Fox only scoring nine points.
For the Hawks, they were sloppy (20 turnovers) and mistakes like this, allowing Buddy Hield an open three in transition:
That’s someone who’s shooting 46% from three-point range... Leaving him open in transition isn’t going to get it done.
Ultimately, the Hawks — more than anything else — were just bystanders in the Kings’ highlight show:
Shoutout to the Kings, one of the surprise teams of the season and one of the more entertaining teams in the league to watch and, with the win last night, moved to 26 victories for the season. Why is that significant?
Well, prior to the season, their win total prediction for the 18-19 season by Vegas was set at 25.5, so with 31 games remaining on the season, they’ve already eclipsed that.
For reference, the Hawks’ line is 23.5, the lowest in the league.
I might take the over on that one...
Collins limited by Kings’ activity
John Collins has been on a tear of late — including a 35-point performance to start to road-trip in Chicago — but struggled last night, scoring 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the field and 0-of-4 from three.
Collins enjoyed a fine few opening minutes as the Hawks got going early — eight of his 14 points coming in the first five minutes of play — but that trend didn’t last for long.
We’ve seen Trae Young be the target of teams’ defensive schemes to limit Young as much as possible but last night’s contest was the most extreme I’ve seen an opposing team try to limit John Collins’ impact in a game.
The Kings tried to deny Collins the ball when they could, both coming off of pick-and-rolls (Yogi Ferrell keeping his arms outstretched after switching onto Collins after a pick-and-roll, in an attempt to deny a pass reaching Collins and Young commits a turnover on the play):
And off of penetration/dump-off situations, the Kings and Marvin Bagley reading this attempted pass underneath the rim to Collins on the Young drive, leading to another turnover:
The Kings were just aggressive when it came defending Collins, making him work for everything. Take this play for example, Bagley works really hard to try and deny Collins and showing great activity defensively, and Kevin Huerter can’t link up with his big-man:
Pierce has spoken about wanting teams to ‘feel’ his Hawks side defensively. Well, John Collins certainly felt the Kings on this possession, the Kings getting physical with Collins:
Anyone who switched onto Collins worked really hard to prevent him from scoring/receiving the ball.
Yogi Ferrell ends up switched on Collins (somehow the Hawks don’t look to exploit it) but Ferrell works incredibly hard to fend off Collins before managing to get in front of him and box him out and knock him off balance, and the Kings secure the rebound off of the miss:
Again on switch, it’s Buddy Hield who works hard to front on Collins and even when Collins does manage to grab the offensive rebound he’s smothered, and the Kings come up with the stop and the rebound:
Collins couldn’t get anything going from the pick-and-roll as he so often does after the Hawks’ opening run and couldn’t get anything going from the outside either, shooting 0-of-4.
The Kings allowed a couple of good opportunities for Collins to finally get going again to begin the second half with two good looking three-point opportunities but Collins couldn’t convert.
But the Kings deserve a lot of credit for how they handled Collins because no matter who was on Collins — whether it was Giles, Bagley or Cauley-Stein or even on switches with Ferrell and Hield — they showed great activity and disruption on Collins defensively, and all the small things added up.
Collins wasn’t effective in the pick-and-roll after the Hawks’ opening run, he wasn’t a force on the glass, he wasn’t in positions to stick-back easy shots, he wasn’t able to receive the ball from many Young drives/passes.
With how he has played, especially in January, it shouldn’t be a surprise that more teams are scouting for Collins and making sure that limiting him is a key focus of teams’ game-plans.
Second chance points
Moving on to some of the minor items from this game, starting with offensive rebounding and second chance scoring.
The Kings were dominant on the glass, out-rebounding the Hawks 53-36, including 15 offensive rebounds. The majority of these offensive rebounds were collected by Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley, who combined for nine of those 15 offensive rebounds.
“It sums up the night,” said Pierce of the rebounding battle going the Kings’ way. “Rebounding is an effort thing, especially on the offensive side. When our guys are committed to going to the offensive glass and creating extra possessions, that’s just our effort. We just didn’t have the effort that we normally do. They (the Kings) did. They had a lot of offensive rebounds. I thought the two young bigs, Giles and Marvin Bagley, were aggressive, were relentless on the offensive end and they just had a mentality to score tonight. They just outworked us.”
Bagley in particular was the one who, it seemed, after every offensive rebound would just score. He scored six of the Kings’ 19 second chance points but it felt like a lot more than that on the night.
It’s as Pierce said: The Kings outworked the Hawks, showed more effort and creating extra possessions allows you another bite at the cherry to score, and with the Kings shooting 55% from the field and scoring 76 paint points, you don’t need to ask them too many times to have another go.
Speaking of Giles and Bagley, they were part of a monstrous bench effort for the Kings last night — 80-49 the bench scoring difference last night.
Heading into the game, both teams actually averaged over 42 bench points per game but the last night was clearly a superb night for the Kings’ bench.
Postgame, Kings head coach Dave Joerger described the games of Harry Giles (a career-best 20 points) and Marvin Bagley (17 points) as the best of their careers so far. Just the wrong night for the Hawks then.
Elsewhere off of the Kings’ bench, Yogi Ferrell added 11 points, Bogdan Bogdanovic struggled to begin but eventually ended up with 16 points as four Kings ended up with double-digit scoring off of the bench.
The Hawks themselves had three double-digit scorers off of the bench (Alex Len with 13 points, Taurean Prince and Jeremy Lin both adding 11 points) but the bench really let them down in the first quarter when the second units came in, and obviously things shifted well and truly towards the King’s favor as their bench crushed the Hawks’ bench unit and then just crushed the Hawks in general after that.
Kent Bazemore’s return
One other positive from this game was the return of Kent Bazemore, making his first appearance since December 29th after suffering an ankle injury in a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Bazemore scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 from three in just under 19 minutes of action.
“Felt good to be back out there,” said Bazemore postgame via Fox Sports Southeast. “...A lot goes into recovering from an injury as severe as the one I had ... felt good to be back out there. I didn’t really miss a beat, it’s just all about trying to get back in shape where you can play as hard as you can for as long as you can.”
Pierce didn’t want to get too drawn on Bazemore’s performance — deflecting the question onto the team’s performance — but is glad to have Bazemore back in the fold.
“I thought our performance was bad,” said Pierce when asked about Bazemore’s performance. “Anytime you get a guy who’s been out for a while, you just want them to get their minutes, get their reps. He made a couple of shots, made a couple of nice plays but the bottom line is we have him back. We want to get his NBA legs back. It’s hard when you’re playing 3-on-3 versus our coaches, so playing against NBA players, feeling NBA bodies driving through the paint, defending, reacting... Bottom line is we got him back and he was able to play in an NBA game and progress.”
Bazemore seemed confident that he should be good to go for the Hawks’ Friday night tilt against the Utah Jazz, and seeing as how his minutes restriction was 20 minutes right off of the bat — compared to Taurean Prince’s 12 minute restriction when he came back — you’d imagine that, with the Hawks having an off-day today, Bazemore should be good to go off of the bench on Friday.
Time will tell.
The Hawks (14-36) are back in action on Friday as they continue their road-trip in Utah, against the red hot Donovan Mitchell and a Jazz side coming off of a bad loss against the Portland Trail Blazers, so they’ll be raring to go on Friday night.
Can the Hawks match the fire of a motivated Jazz team? We shall see.
Until next time...