The Atlanta Hawks picked up their first victory of the new campaign as they exacted some preseason revenge against the Orlando Magic in their second matchup against their Southeast division rivals on Sunday evening, triumphing 117-106.
Trae Young led the Hawks in scoring with 21 points and seven assists, while Bogdan Bogdanovic led the bench effort with 18 points.
For the Orlando Magic, Markelle Fultz scored 21 points while Nikola Vucevic added a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Let’s get into it. If you’re unfamiliar with how this can work when I’m at the wheel, I sometimes break the game down into its finer components and hit on various topics worth talking about. You’ll pick it up quickly.
As always, if you want to read up on how the game unfolded as it unfolded, you can catch up here.
Hawks show their offensive potential in third quarter, potential from behind the arc
The Hawks had gotten off to a quick start in this game as they scored 36 points in the first quarter to take a double-digit lead into the second quarter. The ball movement was sharp at times but what impressed me were how the Hawks were contesting some of Orlando’s shots.
Here’s one, as John Collins contests Dwayne Bacon’s three-point shot:
Again, Collins is there as his vertical challenge is enough to deter Aaron Gordon from scoring near the rim:
Bogdan Bogdanovic does well defensively to keep with Markelle Fultz and successfully contests his jumpshot:
You get the idea — things were going well for the Hawks.
The second quarter, things slipped away for the Hawks. Their offense stalled somewhat, scoring just nine points in the first six minutes of the second quarter. The Magic didn’t punish the Hawks in the first half of the second quarter for their slowed offense but they did manage to catch up to end the first half, the Hawks taking just a six point lead into the second half having led by as many as 14 points.
The Hawks did not start the third quarter well, the Magic taking the lead with a 7-0 run to open the second half. The Magic, after their end to the second quarter and their quick start to the third, were now looking the sharper of the two teams as the Hawks’ momentum from the first quarter had truly vanished.
The came the big run of the game, the run we’re going to focus on this morning. The Hawks reeled off a 19-0 run to take a situation where the Hawks weren’t looking fantastic to suddenly take a 83-66 lead.
The Hawks ignited from beyond the arc in this stretch, starting with Solomon Hill, who returned the lead to the Hawks after Kevin Huerter rejects the Collins screen before passing the ball to Collins, who zips the ball to Hill for the contested three-pointer:
Off of a rebound, the ball finds its way to Huerter again, who gets into the paint all the while Young slips undetected to the corner and flashes the danger he possesses off of the ball as he drains the corner three:
This is the kind of situation the Hawks should relish a lot more this season with players like Huerter, like Bogdanovic on the court at the same time (as they were last night, both when Young was on and off the court) as Young opening up opportunities similar to this. Opportunities like this are fantastic all around, because it allows Young a high-percentage shot with minimal effort for Young himself.
Continuing the Hawks’ run, a defensive breakdown allows Clint Capela an easy basket in the middle, found by Young, leading to a Magic timeout:
Huerter had a difficult night from the field shooting the ball (3-of-12) but what I did like was how he was aggressively seeking some of these shots, even if he missed some last night. Here was one of his makes however, hitting a step-back on Evan Fournier:
Hill continued his fine work in the third quarter as Danilo Gallinari drives from the wing, draws the attention of Vucevic and fires the ball to the weak-side corner for the Hill three:
Bruno Fernando setting that screen on Evan Fournier might be the best thing he’s done all preseason...
The Hawks were now up by 11 points but they were not done yet.
Here, Fernando runs down the loose-ball and finds Huerter, whose quick touch-pass to Bogdanovic is a thing of beauty, and Bogdanovic has time to set himself — as Fernando wrestles Vucevic — before draining the three-pointer, much to the bench’s delight:
To cap off the run, the Hawks come in transition with Hill, who weaves his way towards the paint before finding Bogdanovic for the three-pointer, giving the Hawks a 17 point lead and resulting in another Orlando timeout:
“It was good to have that type of momentum and that type of run we did in the third ... we’re starting to gel a little more and it’s showing,” said Young of the third quarter run.
Obviously there’s two sides to any run: the Hawks would’ve had to get some stops to make this run possible, but I want to focus on the offensive side of things today.
The Hawks invested in their shooting and their depth this off-season, and runs like this show how it might pay dividends this season.
“We have a lot of versatile pieces,” said De’Andre Hunter postgame. “We have a lot of guys who can score, a lot of guys who can make plays for other teammates. A lot of guys who can play defense as well. Feels like we have more depth and more guys at each position.”
Another encouraging sign for the Hawks in that run was Young was barely involved in that run (coming off the court during it): he made one catch-and-shoot three and zipped an easy pass inside to Capela off of the Magic breakdown — that run was about Hill, Bogdanovic and Huerter.
The Hawks, of course, rely on Young heavily, but the fact they could reel off a run like this with Young’s impact in it minimal, that has to be an encouraging sign for the Hawks. With both Bogdanovic and Huerter on the floor in Young’s place, you’re very well covered in terms of shooting and split playmaking responsibilities. I’m looking forward to seeing more of that as time goes on — the numbers in that two-man lineup will be interesting to monitor.
The Hawks hit a number of threes in that spell, but for the game itself the Hawks shot 17-of-43 (39.7%). Let’s take a look at some of these, because there’s a few things to be said for some of these.
Very simple one to start off with, it’s Kevin Huerter, again, showing more aggression and less hesitation (which I liked even more on this possession after he gathers the ball back to his center) — something many have been calling Huerter to do more of:
This next play I think is something we (collectively) will see a lot of, and it’ll be interesting to see how defenses defend it.
It starts with the Young-Collins pick-and-roll. Collins sets the screen and rolls inside, with Vucevic hedging the pick-and-roll, leaving Collins to get into the paint. Young passes the ball to Gallinari behind the three-point line. At this point, Aaron Gordon has a decision to make: does he pick up Collins on the roll or get out to Gallinari and hope Vucevic can get back to Collins in time? You can see a bit of his indecisiveness but he attempts to closeout Gallinari but it does little to change the outcome as Gallinari drains the three:
The ball could’ve been zipped inside to Collins, alternatively. The takeaway, though, is that the Hawks have so much choice in these situations.
Speaking of Gallinari, this was another three that was interesting. Coming down the floor, Young receives the drag screen from Gallinari and steps into the deep three-pointer, the contest not enough to deter Young:
Young ended up taking and making this shot, but with the attention he commands this ball could’ve easily gone to Gallinari for an open shot as well — options. Nothing more to say on this possession other than that but I’m interested to see more of these Young-Gallinari screening actions.
Despite this run, the Hawks were not comfortable in this game. They took their foot off of the throttle and allowed the Magic to get back in this game before eventually tucking them away in the fourth quarter behind a few more three-pointers.
Still, despite that, there was plenty for Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce to take away from this game, happy with the unselfish mentality of the Hawks during that third quarter especially.
“One of the assistants told me that we were 6-for-6 on corner threes in that quarter — really an unselfish mentality ... A lot of ‘one more’ extra passes, just finding the open man which is what we’ve been trying to preach ... it was good to see that in the third quarter.”
From game one to game two, Pierce was happier with the execution of his side.
“I thought we executed better offensively. We eliminated some of the home run plays we made in that first game ... I think we have a team that’s capable of finding and creating a good shot on every possession. I thought we had more of that today than we did in the first night.”
A decent improvement from the Hawks from their first game even without Cam Reddish, who didn’t play on Sunday. They’ll be tested perhaps a bit more rigorously against the Memphis Grizzlies later in the week...
De’Andre Hunter continues to impress
After a strong opening game, Hunter continued to impress in the preseason, producing another solid outing in preseason with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 from three.
In that starting lineup, Hunter is basically the fourth option on offense so it’s important that he makes the most of the opportunities he does get. I’m really liking how Hunter is getting to some of these shots.
This was probably my favorite as Hunter receives the ball from Young behind the three-point line. Dwayne Bacon closes out to Hunter, who attacks on said closeout. Collins fends off Aaron Gordon, allowing Hunter an easy path to the runner which he banks off of the glass and home:
Speaking to Fox Sports Southeast at halftime, Hunter discussed how defenses have to respect his three-point shot, allowing him to attack in situations like this.
Some of Hunter’s shots, especially from three, came perhaps a little fortuitously but he still cashed in on those attempts.
Speaking postgame however, Hunter spoke to his goals for the season.
“To be the best defender on the team,” stated Hunter. “That’s one of the goals I talked to with the coach. He said I was the best defender on the team and he wanted me to play like it. I’m going out there, whoever he tells me to guard, I’m trying to guard them to the best of my ability.”
There’s perhaps more riding on Hunter being a good defender than there should be given the lack of plus defenders on this team. While that’s a bold statement, it’s one you also like to hear from Hunter.
Bench providing boost, other miscellaneous stats
The Hawks’ depth has been a problem in recent years but last night you could see the potential it could provide. Granted, 18 points from Bogdanovic probably isn’t going to be the norm (since Bogdanovic will probably start), but he wasn’t the only player to provide lift off of the bench.
Gallinari also added 17 of the bench’s 47 points last night in what was more of a rehearsal for the Hawks, playing their starters 28-32 minutes (a little more than what Pierce said was probably going to be the case) and running, in essence, an eight-man rotation (with some scattered minutes out there for Bruno Fernando and Brandon Goodwin).
Again, I wouldn’t get used to Bogdanovic coming off of the bench but he provided a notable lift to this game, especially in that third quarter, in addition to Gallinari, who, postgame, Pierce talked about how Gallinari was also a player you could put in a similar conversation with regards not being a normal player to be able to bring off of the bench.
“You look at Gallo and you say second unit; this guy has been a starter for most of his career,” said Pierce. “Instantly that’s where you start, his ability to get to the free throw line, his ability to make plays for himself and then he’s going to open the floor up with his shooting. But he’s no second unit guy, he’s a starter for his career. We have him coming in and you just feel like you can’t miss a beat when he’s on the floor as a scoring option and a spacing option. He sets that tone. Cam did it the other night defensively, Gallo does that for us with his spacing and whoever comes off of the bench is still a viable option.”
“They’re both super skilled offensively, they can both score, they know how to draw fouls, they know how to get to their spots. They can just flat-out play,” said Young of Gallinari and Bogdanovic.
A couple of other miscellaneous stats worth briefly talking about...
The Hawks scored 16 second chance points last night as the Hawks grabbed 12 offensive rebounds — four of those coming from Capela, three of those from Collins, with both players notching double-doubles. They may make things look easy on the glass at times but rebounding is a huge area of improvement this season for the Hawks so far.
“I think the consistency in two games was our advantage on the boards,” said Pierce of the play of Collins and Capela. “We created a lot of second chance opportunities in game one but I thought we did a good job of limiting them to one shot tonight.
“They’re a tough team. They’ve got wing and guards flying in Markelle Fultz and Michael Carter-Williams in addition to Gordon and Vucevic. Just to have that rebounding advantage is really important for us. We’ve talked about that all off-season: the acquisition of Clint (Capela) and him addressing that need, and John’s been a double-double guy. The combination of the two and being able to fo that together really helps us on the boards.”
However, turnovers were an issue for the Hawks last night — 18 of them on night (leading to 22 Magic points), eight of them coming from Young. Young tried to thread a needle too tight at times, which I understand in preseason, but eight turnovers is still too many and an area for concern for Young, who struggled with turnovers last season (i.e. he led the league in turnovers per game last season). You’d hope that this isn’t a sign of things to come, but Sunday night certainly didn’t do anything to allay any of those concerns.
All in all, a solid outing for the Hawks but plenty of work to be done.
The Hawks (1-1) head to Memphis for their final two preseason games, the first taking place on Thursday night.
Until next time...