After more than a week away from game action, everyone was excited for NBA basketball in Atlanta on Friday evening, with the Hawks playing host to the Pistons in the “second half” opener for both teams. The game lived up to any reasonable billing (and more), with the Hawks succumbing to the Pistons in what was a 48-minute battle by a final score of 125-122.
Things were sloppy at the outset for the Hawks, with the Pistons scoring the first five points sandwiched around an errant inbounds pass by Atlanta. Beyond that, Detroit used a 7-0 run to take a 15-8 lead and Dewayne Dedmon picked up two fouls in a hurry to put the Hawks behind the eight-ball.
The home team did spring to life, however, and Kent Bazemore was the early catalyst. The Hawks scored seven straight points to tie the game and the veteran wing (making his first start since Dec. 29 in place of the injured Kevin Huerter) began the night by making his first four shots on the way to 10 points.
Kent was not going to Baze any less. pic.twitter.com/J0bWkm7FWp— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) February 23, 2019
Later in the period, Atlanta used another 8-0 run to take the lead. During that spurt, Taurean Prince connected on a three-point play, backup point guard Jaylen Adams buried a three of his own, and DeAndre’ Bembry finished in transition. That allowed the Hawks to take a one-point lead into the second quarter and the fun was just getting started.
The second period was marked by runs on both sides, with the Hawks striking first. Atlanta outscored Detroit 8-3 to open the quarter and, moments later, Trae Young connected on a three to give the Hawks their largest lead of the night to that point.
DeAndre' Bembry is a man on the go. pic.twitter.com/H73ZD7JHDB— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) February 23, 2019
Trae spotting up from the aquarium. pic.twitter.com/l2I9UbjhoE— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) February 23, 2019
Young continued to cook, leading a 9-0 run later in the quarter that gave the Hawks a 14-point advantage. During the explosion, he found his range from long-distance and the rookie point guard made a play off the bounce that the entire NBA was talking about on Friday night.
Sometimes you have to slow Trae Young down to see everything that happens. pic.twitter.com/eOLpKBluBF— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) February 23, 2019
The Pistons would recover, though, and Detroit chipped away at Atlanta’s cushion. A 7-0 run by the visitors slashed the margin to five and prompted a timeout from Lloyd Pierce. Then, the Pistons kept coming and, when the dust settled at halftime, Detroit trailed by only two points after a relative collapse from Atlanta.
Still, the offense left plenty to be excited about in the first half, with Young posting 20 points and six assists and the team making 52 percent of its shots, including 57 percent from three. Atlanta was unable to generate stops consistently, however, and that allowed the Pistons to hang around in a half in which the Hawks scored 70 points.
After the strong offense of the first half, the Hawks struggled mightily in the early part of the third quarter, allowing the Pistons to take control. Detroit opened with a 21-8 extended run to take an 11-point lead and the Hawks scored only those eight points over an eight-plus minute period. Atlanta missed 10 of 12 shots and committed seven turnovers during that span, wandering aimlessly when it came to offensive production.
Things changed with haste, however, as Blake Griffin was thrown out of the game (on his second technical foul) with 4:19 to go in the third quarter. At that point, the Pistons led by 11 points but, from there, the Hawks responded, keyed by nine points and all kinds of energy from Vince Carter.
Carter and Alex Len capped a 9-3 tun to climb within striking distance and, later in the quarter, Bembry and Carter contributed noteworthy highlights.
Vince 3, Vince vocals. pic.twitter.com/dxeaovRpLm— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) February 23, 2019
The end result was only a five-point disadvantage and, considering how putrid things looked early in the third, that felt like a gift for Atlanta. Then, Bembry and Carter knocked down threes early in the fourth quarter, with the veteran’s long-distance connection giving the Hawks the lead at 101-100.
Vince Carter has 16 points in 13 minutes to represent all of the old men. He just gave the Hawks the lead. pic.twitter.com/6eBiytaaXN— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) February 23, 2019
The Pistons would not roll over, despite a lengthy scoring drought at the outset of the fourth quarter. Led by Bruce Brown, Detroit righted the ship and, in a hurry, the Hawks trailed by a 113-106 margin before Pierce called timeout at the 6:33 mark.
That stoppage did the trick, as Atlanta came out of the break with nine consecutive points. John Collins produced a highlight block and Young connected on a three-point play as the capper to give the Hawks a 115-113 lead with 3:44 remaining.
The stretch run was a wild back-and-forth, with the Hawks in control but the Pistons never fading. Collins buried a three to give Atlanta a 118-115 lead and, after a foul, Dedmon scored to put the Hawks up by five. The Pistons quickly closed the gap, however, and Andre Drummond tied the game with a pair of free throws with 44 seconds to play.
Then, the Hawks came up empty with Young missing a floater and, seemingly on cue, Thon Maker gave the Pistons a three-point lead with a corner three on the ensuing trip. With 16.7 seconds remaining, Atlanta did have a chance to knot the game but three-point attempts came up begging for both Young and Carter and the Pistons escaped with the victory.
Young led things for Atlanta, scoring 30 points (on 11-of-23 shooting) and dishing out 10 assists in what was an explosive performance. Elsewhere, Carter’s contributions (16 points on eight shots) were noteworthy and important, with Collins (19 points, six rebounds), Dedmon (14 points, 12 rebounds), Bazemore (12 points, seven rebounds) and others chipping in along the way.
The Hawks will return to action on Saturday evening, with a quick turnaround to face off with the Phoenix Suns at State Farm Arena. Stay tuned.