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Hawks show fight without Young, eventually succumb to Miami

Even without Young, the Hawks hung around in this game.

NBA: Miami Heat at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their third consecutive game as they fell to the Miami Heat, without Trae Young, on national TV on Thursday night — 106-97.

Jabari Parker led the Hawks in scoring with 23 points as they looked for guys to shoulder the scoring load in the absence of Young. DeAndre’ Bembry also enjoyed a strong game, flirting with a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight rebounds.

For the Heat, Kendrick Nunn burst for 28 points as he continues the quest to become an undrafted Rookie of the Year (he’s probably the leader in that department so far).

Let’s break this one down, shall we?

The Hawks show fight

Heading into this game, you weren’t sure what to expect. Without the heart and soul of this team on the court, Trae Young, you figured things were going to be tough — that things might get ugly.

And the Heat certainly threatened to do that on multiple occasions throughout this game but what was most impressive about the Hawks’ performance last night is that when things looked like they were getting away, they responded and found ways to get back into the game, even when it would’ve been easy to make an excuse and pack it in.

The Heat reeled off a big run in the first quarter, a 19-2 run to take an 11 point lead and you thought ‘Welp, this is about what I was afraid would happen’ but the Hawks would respond with an 8-1 run to cut the Miami lead to just four points.

John Collins got the run started with this dunk through the lane after the find by De’Andre Hunter:

DeAndre’ Bembry turned up his aggressiveness in this game and it translated into good things for the Hawks last night, taking the ball in transition, stepping inside and scoring the layup on this possession:

Jabari Parker got on the board with this basket, receiving the pass from Bembry and driving to the rim:

A rookie mistake as the help defender from Tyler Herro made that basket possible — he’ll learn to plug that gap in time.

To cap off the run to end the quarter came one of the best sequences for the Hawks as Cam Reddish (who we’ll talk about later) blocks the shot, outlets the ball to the streaking Bembry, who thunders home the dunk:

Not only was the block from Reddish great but also the pass — he gets it off quickly because he’s falling out of bounds. Not much else to say about Bembry’s dunk, that’s a national TV dunk, and it helped cap an 8-1 run to bring the Hawks back into this one.

The second quarter came and the Heat, again, established a double-digit lead and the game is dangerously close to a blowout should the Heat go on one more run. But the Hawks, again, go on a run to end the quarter and bring themselves back in this game.

With 3:29 remaining, the Hawks trailed by 14 points but an 11-2 run for brought them back and, once again, DeAndre’ Bembry was heavily involved again, in addition to Tyrone Wallace.

On this play, Wallace uses the, firm, Damian Jones screen, gets downhill and finishes at the rim:

This was a great play from the Hawks: great contact on the screen from Jones, the drive from Wallace and the screen from Bembry on Meyers Leonard, who now can’t help on the rotation. Tyler Herro, again, gets a little lost defensively, and you have John Collins spacing the floor which takes Bam Adebayo away from the rim while Vince Carter’s three-point shot is one you have to respect, and Jimmy Butler did on this possession, taking him away from the action.

Wallace made his impact on the defensive end too on this possession, embellishing the contact made from Jimmy Butler in the post, drawing the offensive foul:

Wallace was a positive for the Hawks last night, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with him in the rotation should Young return to action on Tuesday.

One of the highlight plays from this game from courtesy of Damian Jones, who is found by Bembry for the oop as the second quarter draws to a close:

Jones obviously gets the credit for finishing the play but a great play from Bembry to tap the ball up in the air, collect it and then set up the play for Jones.

Bembry again continued to highlight his aggressiveness, taking the ball to the rim coming off of the pick-and-roll with Jones, steps inside and finishes with the floater:

Impressive play by Bembry, who was instrumental in the Hawks making this second quarter run and, all of a sudden, it’s just a six point deficit heading into the break and very much game on.

Sadly, the Hawks did not start the third quarter hot and things threatened to get ugly as the Heat took an 18 point lead and that was before the Hawks had a scare as John Collins seemed to roll his ankle on the drive to the basket:

Having just lost Trae Young to an ankle injury (not a serious one but an ankle injury nevertheless), there were hearts in mouths but the good news was Collins was cleared to — and did — return to this game, but with the Hawks down 18 and now without their best player in the absence of Young... A blowout loomed.

But it didn’t come.

Once again, the Hawks found something in themselves and responded, and it was in this time Jabari Parker — who replaced Collins after the roll — who stepped up and contributed to the run with eight quick points.

An impressive play from Parker here as he briefly backs down Jimmy Butler before fading away and hitting the shot with Butler contesting:

Parker also hit two three-pointers in this stretch too, including this one on the find from Wallace and the contest from Adebayo:

Timely points from Parker and the Hawks, who cut the 18 point lead to just seven points but arguably had their, metaphorical, back broken by a three-pointer from Tyler Herro to end the third quarter to shove the Miami lead back up to 10 points heading into the fourth quarter:

That’s a tough one for the Hawks to take but they still continued to chip away and the Hawks cuts the lead to just four points with just under 10 minutes left. The Heat pushed that back up to nine after scoring nine unanswered, the Hawks cut that to six points before a Heat timeout, and coming out of that timeout a 10-0 Heat run pushed the lead to 16 and that was all she wrote for this one.

There were a number of turnovers and jump shots during this time, and postgame Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce eluded to as a “stagnant period”.

Despite that, Pierce was happy with the competitiveness of his side, praising the players who were — in one way or another — instrumental in all three end-of-quarter runs: DeAndre’ Bembry, Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Parker.

“I thought our guys competed tonight,” said Lloyd Pierce in his opening statement. “(We) had a tough time finding ways to score early, and used our defense and our energy to get back in the game in the second quarter, and (we) did the same thing in the third and in the fourth. I’m really proud of DeAndre’ Bembry. I’m really proud and happy for Jabari Parker. (I) thought those two guys really gave us a spark and created some energy. Ty (Tyrone) Wallace, who has been with us for about a week now, really played great.

“We’re still learning each other. We’ve got a lot of young guys. We’ve got a lot of guys that are trying to figure out when the ball is not going in the basket how to compete. I thought the guys I just mentioned really showed that tonight. We’ve got to get everybody to do it.”

You have to give the Hawks a lot of credit because, on multiple occasions, they could have given up and rolled over, and no one would’ve blamed them: no Young (which is enough of crutch in itself) and then the scare of the Collins injury whilst trailing by 18 points — but they fought through it and on three occasions made a run at the end of the quarter to cut the deficit. They just didn’t have enough.

The Hawks’ next game takes place on Tuesday, which gives the team a great opportunity to recover and for Young and Collins to shake-off their sprains, as well as Evan Turner to recover from his Achilles pain and Kevin Huerter in his rehabilitation.

“It can help us regroup,” said Jabari Parker. “Get down and really learn from the mistakes and really get adjusted to each other. It’s real good that we have these couple of days off.”

Rookie nights, point guard duties

Generally speaking, the Hawks’ three rookies have played well in some regard — De’Andre Hunter has been able to just slide in and contribute and has looked like an NBA player from the get-go, Cam Reddish has had good moments defensively and Bruno Fernando has had flashes on both ends — but last night was a difficult night for the rookies.

Heading into this game, the big focus was on Cam Reddish, who Lloyd Pierce announced pre-game was going to start at point guard in the absence of Young, with Kevin Huerter being re-inserted into the starting lineup.

Reddish’s game was...a mixed bag — nine points on 2-of-11 shooting, 1-of-4 from three, six rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block in 28 minutes.

Let’s start with the positives...

Reddish finally got off of the mark from behind the arc having missed his first 14 attempts from behind the arc:

A big three there for Reddish, and now that he has that three-point monkey off of his back having finally made one, he can kick on from here.

“It took a minute,” said Reddish of his first three-point make. “It surprised me. It’s been crazy. I’m just going to keep pushing forward. Leave it in the past and just keep pushing.”

We’ve looked at this play already but this was easily the best play of the night from Reddish as he blocks the shot and outlets to Bembry for the big dunk:

Defensively, Reddish had good moments last night and that was certainly the highlight. the tough stuff.

Reddish’s offensive struggles have been documented already and I don’t like to harp on it’s hard to ignore and just gloss over, and shooting 2-of-11 is tough.

And some of those were just not good shots, just not good:

I have no idea what that shot is.

This shot was not advisable either:

Reddish’s shot selection hasn’t always been fantastic and this, in addition to his inability to make shots right now, is a tough combination right now in his NBA career.

The ‘Reddish is our point guard’ narrative was probably overstated because the Hawks not only started Kevin Huerter (now working with a 25 minute restriction) but ball-handling responsibilities were split between Reddish, Huerter, Bembry and Wallace.

But when Reddish is handling the ball, there are some plays he’ll have to do a better job spotting, such as this play:

That ball has to go to Collins in that situation, it just has to. Plays like this, you would imagine, will be made in time but for someone who has been touted as a playmaker, you would’ve like to have seen that pass made to Collins there.

Look, it’s game five for Reddish. His offensive struggles continue and his true shooting percentage for the season is 28% — that’s tough. He’s been thrust into things very quickly, more quickly than the Hawks probably would’ve wanted to with Huerter still progressing from his knee injury.

Defensively, there were some lapses too and, perhaps worth noting is that the Hawks took two timeouts on the back of Miami three-pointer’s that Reddish’s assignment hit.

The first came in the second quarter, where Reddish initially gets away with a poor closeout and contest as Herro misses:

As the Heat crash the offensive glass, another look is set up for Herro, Reddish is caught ball-watching, is too late on the rotation and Herro hits the three:

Yes, Reddish is close enough to contest but he should’ve been there to deny Herro the shot in the first place, and Lloyd Pierce took a quick timeout after that made three.

The second one came in the second half as Reddish gets stuck on the Leonard screen and Nunn hits the corner three, leading to a Hawks timeout, again, in the early stages of the quarter:

Just a little messy from Reddish getting through that screen...

These are only worth noting because it was the second timeout called by Pierce after a made three from the man Reddish is guarding.

Look, these are minor things that Reddish will get better at. He’ll learn in time that he can’t allow a shooter like Tyler Herro opportunities like that, he’ll learn how to get through screens quicker than that.

As a defender in general, Reddish is in a good spot — good size, good instincts and he can switch, and he had good moments last night as well as tough ones.

Speaking after the game, Lloyd Pierce believed that Reddish played with good pace but sped up and played too fast at times.

“I thought he started the game off great,” said Pierce of Reddish. “He gets to the foul line, he gets downhill. There’s a fine line between playing with pace, and then playing too fast. I thought he had great pace in the first couple of possessions and I thought he sped up. I think it was the second quarter, he got caught on two, just wild shots.

“He’s playing too fast. I think it’s a new spot, it’s a new position, and it was good for him to experience that. Learning how to play with different speeds, (and) changing directions, that’s going to be a part of his growth.”

It was a sentiment Reddish himself echoed.

“I’ve got to slow down, for real,” said Reddish. “Slow down and let the game come to me. Just play my game. I’ll be perfectly fine. I’m starting to see it a little bit more. It’s coming. I’m looking forward to that moment. But it’s definitely coming.”

This is a big learning curve for Reddish and it’s been a difficult start offensively. I wouldn’t panic, obviously, but there are some things we (collectively, as everyone does when watching a young player) just have to make note of for future reference so that when they improve, we (again, collectively) see and know what those improvements are.

What Reddish will take onboard for future reference is this experience starting at point guard last night.

“It was a little bit different, of course,” said Reddish of starting at point guard. “I feel like I learned a lot tonight, especially at that position. Learning the plays from that position, stuff like that. I mean, it’s a step forward. I feel like I’m getting better and a little bit more comfortable. I’m going to just keep pushing.”

“I felt like I got more comfortable throughout the game,” Reddish went on to say. “I haven’t played point guard since high school. I played point guard pretty much my entire life. It’s coming back. I’m getting there. It’s a process. It’s a frustrating process, but I’ll be alright.”

Reddish also spoke of what it means to ‘keep the game in front of him’ which prompted an interesting answer.

“On offense, pushing the pace. Just try to get it up and get it out,” said Reddish. “Get easy buckets, easy two’s. Whether it’s for me or one of my teammates. Obviously, on the defensive end, just making sure we’re in the right spots and defending together as one. That’s key for us.”

All of the above that Reddish mentioned were things he struggled, at times, to do consistently last night in that role, and that’s where the improvement will come.

For the other rookies, De’Andre Hunter actually looked like one last night, probably for the first time this season, as he shot 1-of-9 from the field for just four points.

Not a ton to say here. Hunter is at a different level in his development than Reddish, so the expectations are obviously different, and Hunter has looked like an NBA player since minute one of preseason — just a difficult night last night.

He got into some good positions and got some good looks, he just couldn’t hit any last night:

Bruno Fernando only featured in three minutes and 50 seconds of this game, with Pierce electing to run with Damian Jones in the second half (who, to be fair, played well and the Hawks used him to extend the pressure on the ball, which I thought he did well).

All in all, a tough night for the rookies but nothing to be too worried about — just a few things to file away.

Dying by the three-pointer and at the line

The Hawks enjoy hoisting threes but last night was not one of the nights where they saw success with the long-ball — 7-of-34 on the night.

John Collins shot the best percentage of 40% (2-of-5) and Jabari Parker was the only other Hawk who hit more than one three (both coming in that third quarter burst). It was just a rough night all around: Hunter was 0-of-5, Huerter 1-of-5, Reddish 1-of-4 and even Vince Carter was 0-of-3.

Just one of those nights.

Elsewhere, and what is becoming a more worrying trend, is the Hawks’ free throw shooting, which, again, was not spectacular last night — 18-of-26 for 69%.

There were a few games in the preseason where the Hawks had issues shooting from the line (especially in the Chicago game, shooting 15-of-34 in that game) and it seems to have trickled into the preseason.

For the season, the Hawks are shooting 69% from the line, ranking 27th in the league. It’s a little worrying that the Hawks have left quite a number of free points at the line, even last night DeAndre’ Bembry shot 2-of-6 and that catches up to you in one way or another in a game. Granted, the Hawks made six more free throws than the Heat but that could’ve easily been 10+.

Just something to keep an eye on...

Up next

The Hawks (2-3) are back in action on Tuesday, when they will face the hot-starting San Antonio Spurs at State Farm Arena.

The status of Trae Young will obviously be the main piece of news to watch out for, but until then it’s a welcome breather for the Hawks.

Until next time...