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Double-digit lead evaporates as Hawks fall to Blazers, 112-106

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks put together a strong first half on Saturday evening, putting the team in position to potentially emerge victorious in Portland. However, the second half was a different story and, when the final buzzer sounded, the Hawks fell to the Blazers by a final score of 112-106.

In contrast to some previous outings, Atlanta’s offense clicked immediately. The Hawks came out of the gate strong, making 9 of their first 12 shots and generating six assists in the first seven minutes.

The Blazers also started hot offensively, but the Hawks used a 14-5 run to close the quarter with a four-point edge. Overall, Atlanta’s offense was zooming, but a big part of the onslaught before halftime was the play of Trae Young.

Young has scuffled, at least by his standards, in his recent days, but he scored 17 points and dished out eight assists in the first half to key the attack.

The other star of the first half was Clint Capela. Playing without Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers had a glaring hole in the middle, and Capela plowed through it, putting up 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots in the first half.

Atlanta led by as many as 16 in the second quarter and, while that margin dwindled to seven by the halftime break, it was still a very promising 24-minute output for the Hawks. Atlanta shot 58 percent, generating 18 assists, and scored more than 1.3 points per possession, taking full advantage of Portland’s weaknesses on the way to 36 points in the paint.

Coming out of halftime, the Blazers were short-handed, with CJ McCollum ruled out due to a foot injury. Portland played well, however, and the home team cut the margin to four in short order.

Atlanta started cold, but a wonderful pass from Young to Kevin Huerter pushed the lead back to eight with about three minutes to go in the period.

The rest of the quarter went Portland’s way, headlined by a 10-2 run, and the two teams went to the closing period in a tie game at 86-86. The Blazers pushed ahead in the early going of the fourth quarter, winning the battle between bench units and forcing a timeout by the Hawks with 7:32 to go, trailing by four points.

From there, Atlanta trailed the rest of the way, though the Hawks did slash the margin to two points with fewer than two minutes remaining. The visitors couldn’t quite execute to get over the hump, however, and the Blazers held on, overcoming a 16-point deficit to defeat the Hawks.

Capela led the way statistically for the Hawks, finishing with 25 points and 15 rebounds in 36 minutes. Young finished with 26 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, but the third-year guard shot just 2-of-12 from the floor and 0-of-5 from three after halftime. Hunter (15 points, six rebounds) and Huerter (13 points, six rebounds, four assists) also reached double figures.

As a team, the Hawks shot just 29 percent from the floor — and a dismal 1-of-15 from three-point range — in the second half. That is the simple explanation for the evaporation of the lead and, in the end, Atlanta did enough defensively to be in contention. In terms of final numbers, the Hawks converted just 6-of-30 from three-point range and, after a great first half, Atlanta had only 24 total assists, including only six in the final two quarters.

The Hawks will return to action on Monday afternoon with an MLK Day match-up against the Minnesota Timberwolves at State Farm Arena.

Stay tuned.