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Hawks drop second straight at home in 129-120 loss to Hornets

Defense was an issue.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

After a wildly successful road trip, the Atlanta Hawks returned home this week and fell flat against the Toronto Raptors. While there is no shame in losing to a top-flight squad, Lloyd Pierce’s team struggled mightily after halftime and presumably entered Saturday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets with a bit of extra motivation as a result. While there were positive signs at times, Atlanta’s defense was unable to generate consistent resistance and, in the end, the Hawks dropped their second straight home game by a final score of 129-120.

The evening began in shaky fashion for the Hawks, especially on the defensive end. The Hornets immediately raced to an 11-2 run to open the game and Charlotte connected on their first eight shots, including five three-pointers.

Atlanta did produce a mini-run of 6-0 in response, however, and that flourish included back-to-back dunks from Kevin Huerter.

Charlotte’s onslaught wasn’t over, though, and the Hornets began the night by making 15 of their first 18 shots (including 7 of 8 from three) to make Atlanta’s life difficult. The Hornets scored a mind-boggling 39 points in the first 8:44 of the game and that explosion concluded with a 9-2 run.

Jeremy Lin did beat the buzzer with a jump shot for the Hawks but that shot only helped the home team climb within a 15-point margin after 12 minutes. Charlotte’s offense was almost comical in its efficiency (92.4% true shooting, for one) and Atlanta provided little resistance.

The second quarter was kinder, however, and it began with an early 7-2 run to slash the lead to 10. One key play was a steal and finish from Lin.

The wildest highlight of the first half came from an unlikely source in that old friend Marvin Williams... produced a poster.

Aside from that hiccup, the Hawks outplayed the Hornets for much of the period as they chipped away at the deficit. Charlotte led 59-42 but, from there, the Hawks quickly bounced back to within ten points and Trae Young had it going in a big way.

The rookie point guard finished the half with 10 points and seven assists, including a nice feed to Dewayne Dedmon, who connected on a trio of triples in the first half.

Young kept it going off the dribble.

Down the stretch, Atlanta put together a 10-2 run that included threes from Young and Taurean Prince and the result was a 73-68 halftime deficit. While that wasn’t ideal by any stretch, it was a far cry from the significant deficit earlier in the half, leaving some room for optimism that a comeback victory could be in the offing.

Some of that positivity vanished in short order, though, as the Hawks briefly cut the margin to two before the Hornets put a big-time run together. Led by Kemba Walker playing at an obscene level, Charlotte outscored Atlanta by an 11-2 margin to go up by a score of 95-80 and, at that point, the Hornets scored those 95 points in just 29 minutes of game time.

After a (much needed) timeout, there was a nice bright spot, however, as DeAndre’ Bembry threw down a wildly impressive jam.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, that didn’t stop the bleeding and the visitors pushed their advantage to 20 by the end of the third quarter. Charlotte shot a blistering 58 percent from the floor and generated 11 assists in that 12-minute frame and, when it was all over, Atlanta was in serious trouble.

There was a bit of hope in the early going of the fourth quarter, as the Hawks opened the closing period with a 16-6 spurt keyed by seven points from Kent Bazemore and a big three from Lin. That brought Atlanta within 10 points and, considering the haste of that run, there was plenty of time remaining.

From there, the Hornets did enough to preserve their advantage, with Walker knocking down something of a dagger at the 3:31 mark to give Charlotte a 13-point lead. To their credit, the Hawks did provide more defensive resistance in the fourth quarter but, when Walker hit another triple to put Charlotte up 16 with 2:47 to go, the result was virtually academic.

Offensively, it was a balanced effort from the Hawks, with six players in double figures and strong efficiency across the board. Young finished with 20 points and 11 assists, Collins generated 21 points, Bazemore and Lin added 13 points each in reserve duty, Huerter shot his way to 17 points (on 9 field goal attempts), and Dedmon contributing 14 points including four connections from beyond the arc. Still, the defense was the sticking point throughout the evening and the issues on that end were the biggest reason for the defeat.

The Hawks will return in action in short order, as they play host to the Orlando Magic on Sunday evening. Stay tuned.