The Atlanta Hawks returned to winning ways as they topped a shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers — playing without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley — on Wednesday night, 102-95.
The Hawks — playing without Trae Young, DeAndre’ Bembry and Jabari Parker — were led by John Collins’ 33 points and 16 rebounds, while Brandon Goodwin added 19 points, all coming in the fourth quarter. For the Clippers, Montrezl Harrell scored 32 points off of the bench while Lou Williams added 18 points.
Brandon Goodwin takes over the fourth quarter...again
You would’ve been forgiven for thinking this game was, perhaps, over in the first half as the Clippers — with relative ease — opened a 21 point lead (as well as a stretch that saw the Clippers go on a 26-1 run). The Hawks entered the break trailing by 19 points and, really, you were just waiting to see how long it took before this game got away — it just looked like to be too much of a challenge offensively without Trae Young (highlighted by a huge dry spell in the first quarter that saw the Hawks go without a field goal for over seven minutes).
The Hawks, however, weren’t done and a 12-1 run kept them there-or-thereabouts and they managed to cut the lead to single-digits and when the Clippers re-established a double-digit lead in the final quarter, you wondered if the Hawks had another run in them.
Enter, Brandon Goodwin.
Backing up Jeff Teague in the absence of Trae Young, Goodwin ignited in the fourth quarter for all 19 of his points. Goodwin scored a three toward the start of the fourth quarter but there was a key stretch where he really got it going, turning the deficit into a lead.
So, naturally, we’re going to look at a few of these plays from the final quarter from Goodwin.
With the Hawks trailing by 11 points, Goodwin brings the ball up the court and gets a good screen from Alex Len, opening an opportunity to launch from the outside and Goodwin connects:
After two free throws from Collins, Goodwin rejects the screen and drives by Rodney McGruder and gets all the way to the rim for the score:
Goodwin seemed to relish facing Lou Williams last night — both obviously share a Gwinnett County high school connection — and on this possession he sizes up Williams, works an opening and hits the three:
Goodwin turns facilitator as Collins creates separation, forcing Harrell to have to prevent Goodwin from turning the corner and getting to the rim, opening the path for Collins and Goodwin to connect on the alley-oop:
After another Collins basket — there were a few of those to be had last night — Goodwin would give the Hawks their first lead since the first quarter as he drives by McGruder once again to score at the rim, plus the foul:
Two easy layups for Goodwin at the end of the day, no help defense for the Clippers to attempt to block the shot.
Now that the Hawks had taken the lead, they needed to try put a gap between themselves and the Clippers and, again, it’s Goodwin who provides, drawing the shooting foul on a three-point attempt as Landry Shamet fumbles into Goodwin:
Goodwin would hit all three free throws, giving the Hawks a five point lead and some breathing room.
Switching focus away from Goodwin briefly, the game saw its biggest swing not long after this play. The Clippers reduced the lead to three points and carry possession of the ball with just under two minutes to go. Lou Williams shoots a three-pointer that would’ve tied the game, only for it miss and the Hawks go down the other end with Goodwin, and De’Andre Hunter — who struggled mightily shooting the ball — hits the three from the corner on the find from Goodwin to put the Hawks up by six points:
And to wrap up, with the game basically over, Goodwin ices the game with a little shake-and-bake before hitting the finger-roll:
It capped off a 19 point final quarter for Goodwin, a 33 point fourth quarter for the Hawks and a second half where the Hawks outscored the Clippers 61-35 — impressive, since the Clippers scored 32 points in the first quarter alone.
The Clippers shot 12 of 36 from the floor, 2 of 15 from three and 9 of 20 from the free throw line in the second half.— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) January 23, 2020
It’s quite remarkable that the Hawks managed to win this game despite shooting 35% from the field — in fact, it’s the third lowest shooting percentage from a team in a win (Phoenix and Minnesota have each won a game shooting 34% from the field) in the NBA this season.
It highlights the imperfect nature of this game for the Hawks, especially the first half where the game obviously threatened to get away, but Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was pleased with how his team responded after a poor first half.
“Hate to start with the negative but there’s nothing more disturbing than watching our guys in that first half,” opened Pierce. “The message was we’re just not in a position to come out and not compete the way we were in the first half and to not have a sense of urgency against a team that played the night before. I hope this is a momentum builder. I hope this is an understanding of how we have to play from start to finish. But, I couldn’t be prouder of the guys in that fourth quarter and the way they battled. We out-rebounded them by 17 in the second half and it’s just effort, it’s just effort. I don’t think there was anything other than us trying to wear them down and us playing with a lot of effort and energy, so I’m happy for our guys.”
The Hawks — and it was evident from the first few minutes of the third quarter when they went on that 12-1 run — showed much improved defense and energy, not by coincidence.
“It was a rough start,” said Collins of the first quarter. “We didn’t like the way we started competitively. When we got into the locker room at halftime, we just made an effort. It was our talking point to come out with more emphasis and more energy. We did that and accomplished our goal.”
“We tried not to quit,” said Kevin Huerter. “We’re a young team. We have young legs. They’re on a back-to-back. There’s no excuse for us to not have more energy than them.”
As Huerter eluded to, the Clippers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, but they refused to allow that be an excuse.
“It’s a cop-out,” said Montrezl Harrell of the idea fatigue played a role in the loss. “We were up at the beginning of the game. We should have finished the game the same way that we started off. We thought our scoring was going to carry us all the way to the end of the game and it didn’t.”
Pierce referenced the rebounding differential and we’ll talk about the Hawks’ rebounding in a little more detail soon, but it was obviously key.
Another key? Brandon Goodwin. Interestingly, however, had it not been for a silly fourth foul picked up by Jeff Teague to end the third quarter it may not have happened.
“Well, when Jeff picked up his fourth (foul), that’s where we put Brandon out there and he started the fourth quarter and obviously it just kind of spiraled from there,” said Pierce of Goodwin’s fourth quarter. “He got going. He gave us a punch. He made a couple of shots, but he really settled us. It’s just one of those things. You could feel the momentum going and he was the main reason behind it. But I liked his composure. I thought he gave us great execution down the stretch. He obviously made a bunch of shots, but I thought he gave us great execution. We were organized on every set. It was just a slow, slow process throughout the entire fourth quarter. I’m happy for him, I really am.”
Execution is an excellent way to describe Goodwin’s fourth quarter. ‘Scrappy’ was how Goodwin himself described it.
“I’m coming off the bench, so I get a better feel for the game watching it as things are going on,” said Goodwin postgame. “I see what’s not working, so I have an advantage in that way. (Coach) just told me to bring energy. Be scrappy. Pick up Lou (Williams) full court. I think those little things got me going offensively instead of just trying to come in and shoot the ball.”
This isn’t the first time Goodwin has taken over a fourth quarter, memorably doing so in Orlando — another game Trae Young did not play. Naturally, the question again arises of Goodwin and his contract situation. Goodwin has shown he belongs (even though the three-point shot has regressed of late) and I think he will be once the futures of impending free agents Evan Turner and Chandler Parsons are resolved.
Former Hawks guard Lou Williams is hoping the Hawks ‘do the right thing’ and sign Goodwin.
“I hope they do right by him and sign him long-term,” said Williams of Goodwin. “He’s proven his worth on this team, not just tonight but his ability to be able to stick around and change games. I thought he single-handedly changed the energy, changed the momentum of the game tonight and went and got that win for them.”
Time will tell on Goodwin’s future but last night, it was his show in the fourth quarter (and that’s despite Collins’ big night).
Attacking the glass
Arguably the biggest aspect of this game that went in favor of the Hawks — offensive rebounding and second chance scoring. The Hawks out-rebounded the Clippers 63-45, secured 23 offensive rebounds (the second-most in any NBA game this season) leading to 25 second chance points.
You can shoot 35% from the field and still win when you snatch 23 offensive rebounds and shoot 24 more field goals than your opponent (102 to the Clippers’ 78).
The Hawks picked up offensive rebounds all across the board (only Goodwin and Damian Jones failed to collect an offensive rebound) but were led by Collins (seven offensive rebounds) and Bruno Fernando (six offensive rebounds) in particular.
“...To have seven offensive rebounds tonight but to get nine defensive rebounds against a team that had 19/20 offensive rebounds last night was tremendous,” said Pierce of Collins.
The Clippers, as we’ve talked about, were on the second night of a back-to-back. While they didn’t want that to be an excuse, the Hawks tried to prey on that and wear the Clippers down, and Pierce attributed that to the Hawks’ rebounding differential (most of which came in the second half, where the Hawks out-rebounded the Clippers by 17).
“You have to understand that this is the NBA. We’ve been on the other end of the back-to-backs a lot this year, and we feel it,” said Pierce. “So, we wanted to pick up full court. We wanted to keep the ball out of Lou Williams’ hands. We wanted to blitz him every time he touched it, and the overall effect was to try and wear them down because they played last night. That’s why I think there was a bigger rebound differential in that second half...”
The Hawks played a little larger than previous games (something Pierce referenced postgame when talking about Collins playing more of the four last night).
Part of it was the bigs avoiding foul trouble this time, part of it was due to the lineup change the Hawks rolled with (starting Jeff Teague, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Bruno Fernando — Collins has obviously been starting at center of late) and part of it was due to the return of Alex Len, returning from a back injury.
Len grabbed three offensive rebounds (seven in total) as he played just under 20 minutes (as part of his minutes restriction).
Not a ton else to say in this spot — a huge effort from the Hawks on the offensive glass, absolutely instrumental in the Hawks taking home this victory.
Lifting the offense without Young
The absence of (potentially, All-Star, as of tonight with the All-Star starters being revealed) Trae Young obviously leaves a large offensive hole, and the obvious question is: where is the scoring going to come from?
Ideally, it’s Collins leading the way and wings like Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Cam Reddish contributing at least 10 points.
Collins did indeed lead the way, scoring 33 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the field, 3-of-6 from three and 6-of-6 from the line.
I think Wednesday’s box score might flatter Collins somewhat — 33 and 16 (rebounds). Not in the sense of ‘he’s not that good’, but it just made it looks as though Collins dominated this game. He was good, don’t get me wrong, but I think he was more so consistent.
‘Consistent’ would be a better way to describe Collins’ scoring output: seven points in the first quarter, 10 in the second, eight in the third and eight in the fourth — a nicely balanced scoring effort across the game.
It was the type of game where you glanced over at the box score and ‘Oh, Collins has 17 points in this first half? That was quiet.’
And that’s not a bad thing, there was plenty of good things Collins did offensively last night, highlighting his diversity.
From finishing in the pick-and-roll:
Hitting the three-pointer (often):
(Collins hit a few catch-and-shoot threes last night but I liked this one in particular because the play develops, Collins realizes he’s on his own and basically says ‘Oh, no one is here? I’m just going to shoot this.’ And he makes it.)
Creating his own shot off of the dribble:
And, as you would imagine, scoring in second chance scenarios (scoring 11 second chance points last night):
Defensively, Collins enjoyed more good moments — some instinctive steals, another block (the one block he picked up last meant that he surpassed his block total from last season, in just 19 games played)
It was a complete night for Collins, a mature night. And then he proceeded to get roasted for his postgame outfit, which looked like a young Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Elsewhere, Huerter got going in the third quarter — particularly in that opening 12-1 run to begin the third quarter (he eventually finished with 12 points) but De’Andre Hunter struggled, shooting 3-of-16.
Hunter hit that clutch three-pointer to give the Hawks that six point lead but 3-of-16 is obviously rough going, especially in a game where the Hawks just need offense from anywhere without Young. And Hunter can provide that, we (collectively) have seen him score 13/14 sometimes more in a half, or even a quarter — it’s happened a number of times this season.
Reddish added 10 points and Goodwin, as we’ve talked about, obviously ignited in the fourth quarter for his 19 points.
Huerter, I thought, had a standout quote from the postgame interviews when asked if he felt the burden offensively with Trae Young on the sidelines.
“Everyone has to,” said Huerter. “With a game like this, you move the ball as much as you can. Whoever has it going, whoever is making shots, you just try to have the ball find those guys.”
Everyone has to...
The Hawks (11-34) are back in action on Friday, where they’ll make a trip to Oklahoma City for their annual road matchup against the Thunder.
A good test awaits the Hawks there, as well as a few old friends.
Until next time...