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Hawks unable to cash in offensively, fail to impact defensively in loss to Raptors

The Hawks had chances but were unable to convert.

Atlanta Hawks v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks headed north for a tilt against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday night but were unable to add a second consecutive victory, falling 130-114 — the hosts picking up their eighth straight victory.

John Collins enjoyed a strong night offensively, leading the Hawks with 28 points and 12 rebounds while both Cam Reddish and Trae Young added 18 points apiece, the latter adding 13 assists to the fray.

For the Raptors, six players scored in double-digits, both Serge Ibaka and All-Star Paskal Siakam leading the way 24 points each.

Heading into this game, the Hawks were shorthanded.

DeAndre’ Bembry, Jabari Parker, Alex Len and Bruno Fernando all missed this one for the Hawks, which left them particularly short in the big-man department last night — basically leaving Damian Jones and Collins as the only centers for the Hawks.

With Toronto’s quality of bigs, this is a tough matchup on a normal night, let alone when missing Len and Fernando. Fortunately for the Hawks, Collins and Jones were able to avoid foul trouble and caught a break when Gasol re-aggravated a hamstring injury and was subsequently ruled out for the rest of the game.

However, it didn’t swing things in the Hawks’ favor on a night where they had opportunities offensively but just couldn’t take advantage — that was the main takeaway for the Hawks in this one. They created some good looks.

What stands out in particular were the Hawks’ 47 three-point attempts, of which they only made 12, some of them coming in garbage time.

Here, Kevin Huerter breaks down the defense — drawing multiple Raptors — and finds the open Reddish in the corner, who misses the open three:

Huerter had already made a three-pointer by this stage, but was unable to add another as he missed this quick but open three in transition:

You’d live with this shot every day of the week.

The Raptors obviously focused on Young defensively and this allowed some good opportunities for others. The Hawks swing the ball on this possession and, perhaps ordinarily, Fred VanVleet rotates and ensures Huerter — a noteworthy three-point shooter in this league (perhaps not to everyone) — doesn’t get a look at an open three, but you’d rather have Huerter shoot that three than Young:

On the drive, Brandon Goodwin draws the defense and finds the open De’Andre Hunter in the corner for another three-point opportunity:

Here, the Raptors’ pressure forces Young to bail out of his three-point attempt but is able to find an open Hunter in the corner for a three-pointer which is missed:

You get the general idea — the Hawks missed a number of good opportunities (these were just in the first half alone and only from behind the arc).

Defensively, the Hawks struggled to generate any stops or make life hard for Toronto in any way.

This drive from Gasol to the rim is just far too easy:

Again, Jones finds himself in a difficult spot when he doesn’t really need to be — there are defenders behind him who can rotate if need be — and allows an easy, open shot for a reliable three-point shooter in Serge Ibaka:

On this play, Kyle Lowry is easily able to body Young and with Collins trailing the ball-handler there’s absolutely no help for the beaten Young and the result is a quick, easy two-pointer at the rim:

Smart on the part of Lowry to attack in that situation, aware, I’m sure, that Collins was trailing.

On this possession, Terence Davis catches Young napping and cuts for the easy bucket at the rim:

This is pretty inexcusable from Young here and, to be fair, I think he knew it too.

Directly after a bucket from Collins, the Raptors push with Lowry up the floor and he simply drops it off and finds VanVleet for the open three-pointer:

This is just really, really poor from the Hawks having just made a bucket and how no one picks up VanVleet on this possession, I have no idea — it’s not as if VanVleet is a borderline All-Star worth paying attention to or anything...

Paskal Siakam is a fantastic player, and that was evident last night. However the scouting report, surely, would’ve said ‘Hey, this guy likes to spin. Let’s be ready to help off of the spin.’ One-on-one with Hunter, Siakam gets deep into position, spins to shed Hunter and Collins is stationed too far away from the rim to challenge the shot and it’s an easy bucket for All-Star Siakam:

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great move from Siakam, the footwork is fantastic. But the Hawks should be expecting it and should’ve been ready.

In transition, Siakam gets ahead of the competition as Lowry collects the rebound and his outlet pass is received by Siakam, who has an easy job to finish at the rim:

The lack of hustle and urgency is concerning, borderline alarming. No one is busting a gut to get back to stay with Siakam, or to contest the layup. It’s just really poor, and perhaps unsurprising that Lloyd Pierce took a timeout after the make.

The Raptors, to their credit, also did a great job turning defense into offense, whether it was off of a Hawks miss or a steal/turnover (of which there were plenty of: 18).

Here, VanVleet gets the steal on the pass from Young and goes coast-to-coast and finishes at the rim:

Off of the contested three-point missed, the Raptors grab the rebound and, again, it’s VanVleet who takes it all the way to the rim — with ease:

Off of the turnover from Huerter, the Raptors break the other way with Davis, who finds his running-mate Ibaka for the transition bucket:

Defense to offense toward the end of the second quarter as the Raptors swarm on the drive from Collins, Ibaka gets himself positioned well, the turnover is created and the Raptors come the other way with Lowry, who finds Ibaka open at the rim:

Huerter should probably be the man to rotate and roll with Ibaka on this one — it probably wouldn’t have helped given the size advantage but at least it wouldn’t have been as open as it was...

If you missed the immediate recap of this game, you can catch up here, but this was a game where the Raptors led the whole way. The Hawks never brought the deficit below double-digits in the second half and then the Raptors reeled off a 20-2 run to end this game, leaving the majority of the fourth quarter as redundant.

The Hawks just didn’t move the needle in this game. At all.

The Raptors, on the other hand, did as they pleased (and enjoyed a 61-26 advantage in terms of bench scoring — at one point in the fourth quarter, Terence Davis [15 points] outscored the entire Hawks’ bench). As we’ve looked at, the Raptors were able to get anything they wanted. Not once did the Hawks threaten or look as if they were going to launch any sort of comeback.

The Raptors scored 60 points in the paint and shot nearly 67.5% at the rim. You can see why.

The Raptors scored 25 points in transition. You can see why.

The Raptors scored 30 points off of the Hawks’ 18 turnovers. You can see why.

Postgame, Pierce was left to reflect on a poor showing from the Hawks, tying together his team’s missed opportunities offensively as part of the reason why they were poor defensively.

“Tough loss because it was a very winnable game for us,” opened Pierce via Fox Sports Southeast. “I think the easy answer is we missed a lot of open, wide-open shots that we’ll take every night we step out on the court. The reality is we didn’t change the game, defensively and physicality-wise, because we weren’t making shots. We let our offense really dictate our energy and our tempo and our pace and our mood.”

Pierce then turned to the defense, where the effort and intensity simply wasn’t good enough and failed to produce stops on a consistent level.

“...I thought there were opportunities for us defensively try and get some stops — no pressure on the ball, trotting back in transition,” Pierce continued in his opening statement. “We could’ve made this game a little bit different with the defensive intensity and we lacked that because the shots weren’t falling and we let that affect us.”

Heading in, this wasn’t really a game you expected the Hawks to win, but there was a legitimate chance with how the game actually unfolded last night.

“...I didn’t think they took anything away from us, they’re giving us a lot of threes,” said Pierce. “We didn’t have that aggression, that intensity offensively and it affected us because we were looking for shots to go in the basket to give us our mojo and our energy, and that’s the frustrating part.”

The focus from Pierce’s immediate analysis was on the offensive end and how that fueled, or did not fuel in this case, the Hawks’ poor defense, but I think that’s underselling how poor the Hawks were defensively/how easy it was for Toronto at times to score. It’s somewhat rare, at least when the team is at full strength with its core pieces, that the Hawks lose games because their offense isn’t good enough. They score enough points more often than not to be there in games, to perhaps have a chance. This was just a disaster defensively — it’s such an effort for the Hawks to set-up in transition, constant blown rotations, late/lack of help, a lack of effort at times and poor one-on-one defense. It’s a combination of so many things.

I think it was the defense more so than the missed shots that contributed to the loss last night, even if the misses contributed somewhat it still falls on the players themselves to get themselves set after a miss — turn-and-face, get back down the court quicker, pick up the open man even if it’s not ‘your man’. It’s at times like this where the lack of consistent veteran presence on the court hurts, perhaps that’s why Vince Carter plays as much as he does at times.

The Raptors, to their credit, did well to disrupt Young, who — aside from the third quarter — couldn’t really get going in the way everyone is used to seeing Young. He finished with 18 points on 5-of-13 from the field and 1-of-9 from three, wrestling with foul trouble in the first quarter.

“It was just one of those nights,” said Young via Sarah Spencer of the AJC. “Sometimes your shot doesn’t fall. ... Nights like that, sometimes, you’ve got to give them credit. They did a lot of different schemes defensively, but they didn’t want me to score.”

Even with his shooting struggles, Young was able to find his teammates for open opportunities but, as we’ve looked at, the Hawks couldn’t make these shots.

Collins’ offensive showing and Carter getting it going (to the delight of the home crowd at times) in the first half were some positives from this game but, really, after that it’s a bit of a reach in terms of positives. Reddish’s numbers will look decent in the box score, but the majority of his offense came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.

In the end, the scoreline is perhaps a little kinder to the Hawks than the actual game was — given how the fourth quarter unfolded — on a night where they just failed to move the needle.

The Hawks (12-36) are back in action on Thursday night when they’ll take on the Philadelphia 76ers at State Farm Arena.

Until next time...