Trae Young led the Hawks with 20 points on 50% shooting from the field while Alex Len added 13 points off of the bench.
For the Magic, All-Star Nikola Vucevic led the way with 27 points and 20 rebounds while Aaron Gordon added 20 points for the Magic, as they continued their playoff hunt.
This wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, so let’s break this one up, shall we?
Gradual effort from Magic gets the job done
The Hawks entered this game on the second night of a back-to-back after their trip to Boston on Saturday afternoon, and they looked like a side that had played the night before as the Magic ran out to a 13-4 lead.
The Hawks survived the Nikola Vucevic onslaught — scoring 17 first quarter points — and, well, the All-Star had to check out of the game eventually and when others had to attempt to fill the giant scoring hole he left on the court, the Hawks were able to recover well to end the first quarter, considering they started 2-of-11 from the field and had three turnovers early on.
This was a game that never really had a defining run in the second half for either team, the Magic’s separation was gained in the early stages of the second quarter as they began the quarter with a 8-0 run. Once they established a double-digit lead, for the majority of the game, that’s how it stayed — in the 10-15 point range.
The Hawks did bring the deficit to single digits in the fourth but, honestly, watching this game as it happened, you just got the sense the Hawks weren’t going to turn things around in this game. The Magic had it all under control. They were better over the course of the 48 minutes and once their lead was established, that was it.
There was, though, one play where things may have gotten interesting if there was a different outcome. Down six points in the fourth quarter, the Hawks are close to making it interesting but were unable to finish this play that saw Wes Iwundu a free path to an offensive rebound and put-back off a miss from the ball-side, putting the Magic up by eight points again.
It wasn’t a pretty game and the shooting numbers weren’t great from either side — the Hawks ultimately scored just 91 points, tied for their fourth worst offensive outing of the season.
Postgame, Lloyd Pierce said his side felt the effects of the back-to-back on the road in what was an ‘ugly’ game.
“(We) just played like it was the second night of a back-to-back,” said Pierce via Fox Sports Southeast. “I told the guys at halftime it was an ugly game and ‘if we were going to win, it was going to have to be ugly.’ The shot 39% percent (from the field), we shoot 42%) — neither team really got it going...”
The only real consistent aspect of last night’s game for the Hawks was Trae Young’s floater, it was the one thing that worked offensively.
(There is basically no game-footage available for this one on NBA.com, so we’ll have to use a combination of Twitter and timestamps from YouTube to look at some film, just click the video)
Here, Young comes off of the Collins screen and the Magic didn’t really try and step-up on these, leaving Young free to float:
This was a funny play where the Hawks set a double-screen but Young already has the separation after the first one from Carter, and basically motions Len out of the way/roll, almost running right into him, before hitting the floater:
The Magic didn’t really do a good job contesting some of these attempts from Young, allowing him decent percentage shots (Young shoots about 46% on his floaters):
Young, in general, just did a good job getting to the rim last night, this move at the end of the first quarter was particularly impressive, the cross on Michael Carter-Williams to get by before taking it to the bucket for the layup:
This play may be even more impressive — Young is harried by D.J. Augustin (the two were getting into it with each other at times in this game) all of the way on this drive and Young is able to fend him off as he drives from the perimeter to the rim and hit the layup:
That’s a really impressive basket, Augustin applied great pressure defensively too.
While that aspect of Young’s game went well, the outside shot wasn’t there for Young — 0-of-5 from three but despite that, Young still shot 9-of-18 from the field.
There weren’t many bright spots for the Hawks in this game, however, and a lot of things didn’t go well for the Hawks offensively that resulted in this loss, let’s break those down.
Free throw disparity and foul trouble
Arguably the most important stat from this game was the free throws disparity between the two teams — the Magic shot 26-of-33 from the line while the Hawks shot just 7-of-10 from the line.
Pierce highlighted the lack of free throw shooting as the ‘difference’ between the Hawks and Magic last night.
“...We couldn’t get any calls from the officials tonight, which is tough,” continued Pierce in his opening statement. “29 of 15 on fouls (Hawks fouls versus Orlando fouls for the game) is tough in a game like this where you got to find ways to score ugly and we just couldn’t get any at the free throw line, and they did and that was the difference.”
This was particularly troublesome for the Hawks in the fourth quarter where they found themselves in the penalty early on and the Magic would go on to shoot 10-of-12 from the line in the final period. The Hawks attempted just three free throws in the final quarter.
The Hawks were called for a total 29 fouls on the Magic in this game and this, as you could probably imagine, this led to not only a ton of Orlando free throws but foul trouble up-and-down the roster — again, as it often has been this season, it was mostly the bigs that found themselves in foul trouble
This was the theme right from the off (so, whatever you wish to say about the officiating, the foul problems were there from the start) and it began with Dewayne Dedmon picking up two quick fouls, struggling with Vucevic early on. Taurean Prince and John Collins would also pick up two fouls apiece before the first quarter was said and done, before picking up third fouls in the second quarter — immediately in the second quarter in the case of Collins, playing just 19 seconds in the second quarter, the opening 19 seconds.
Dedmon managed to avoid a third foul in the first half but picked up two fouls in the third quarter and while Prince’s foul trouble fizzled out, Collins continued to struggle and would go on to foul out of the game with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Collins finished with 10 points and six rebounds in just 20 minutes of action, never really establishing himself in this game.
“Really couldn’t get him in the flow of the game,” said Pierce of Collins’ foul trouble. “I know he ends up with 10 and six or 10 and seven, but he only played 20 minutes but the 20 minutes were hard, they were stretched out over six different stints because of the foul trouble early on and then obviously the foul trouble in the fourth quarter more. Tough night.”
The foul trouble led to a few consequences.
Firstly, between the first half foul trouble between Prince and Collins/Dedmon, Vince Carter ended up playing the most amount of minutes for the Hawks in the first half and finished with 26 minutes. (Shoutout to the fan who brought the ‘Vincent’ Carter sign to the Amway Center last night)
But the other thing it did was, obviously, forced Pierce to go to Alex Len, and Len was actually one of the positives last night, enjoying a strong performance when the Hawks really needed it with Collins and Dedmon in foul trouble — 13 points and three rebounds in 24 minutes won’t wow you but his performance on the court and what he provided for the Hawks in their time of need was important in this game.
“I thought Alex was great, he was one of the bright spots tonight,” said Pierce of Len. “He really came in with the right energy, obviously he’s the guy that didn’t play a ton of minutes last night (Len played 10 minutes in Boston) so he probably had the energy that we needed. But he played well. He presents a big problem when he’s making threes or when he’s just aggressive going to the basket. His game was one of the bright spots for us.”
In addition to the Hawks struggling to accumulate points at the free throw line, they struggled to accumulate points behind the arc, shooting 8-of-35 from three-point range.
The Hawks wouldn’t register a made three until the second quarter when Kevin Huerter finally broke the three-point deadlock for the Hawks. No one shot well from three — literally everyone shot either 0%, 20% or 33% from three for the game, and Vince Carter and Dewayne Dedmon were the only Hawks to register more than one three-pointer.
The Hawks are one of the more proficient three-point shooting teams in the league — it’s one of their great assets, given that most of the roster, one through five, can stretch the floor and hit threes — but when that shot isn’t falling, it’s a struggle.
The Hawks are 1-12 in games where they fail to make ten threes in a game. Coupled with the free throws and fouls, that’s about all you need to know for this game — it was not an interesting game nor a pretty one.
The Hawks (24-46) are back in action on Tuesday where they take on James Harden and the Houston Rockets at State Farm Arena.
Should be fun.
Until next time...