Led by Trae Young’s season-high 38 points, the short-handed Hawks — without De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish in addition to Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kris Dunn — mounted a comeback that not only led to a victory but also returned them to .500 on the season at 7-7. Clint Capela added a season-high 27 points to go with a career-high 26 rebounds and tying a career-high 12 offensive rebounds on the night.
For the Pistons, Jerami Grant continues to impress the league as he enjoyed a 32-point outing in Atlanta. Blake Griffin added 17 points.
If you need to catch up on how the game unfolded, you can do so here, because we’re going to be jumping straight into the action today and jumping into the fourth quarter.
Well, we’ll jump in with some slight game context...
It was...not looking good for the Atlanta Hawks. A poor second quarter put them in a bad spot heading into the break, a quick run for the Pistons inside the opening minutes of the second half blew the game open before the Hawks made a solid comeback effort. Alas, their work was quickly undone as Detroit ended the third quarter on an 11-0 run — capping off a 40 point third quarter for the Pistons — to take a 14-point lead heading into the final quarter. It did not take them long to push the lead to 17 points — 99-82 — with seven minutes remaining.
It truly did look like a lost effort for the Hawks, who were severely underhanded and with effectively no offensive help from their bench and the starters’ minutes racking up, the Pistons were looking comfortable in more ways than one.
This game was, for all intents and purposes, finished — all that was left was for the Pistons to stretch the lead by a few more points to 20. So, how did the Hawks mount this comeback?
We’re not going to look at every single play for the remaining 7:08 of this game (that would be crazy), but we’ll look at some of the bigger plays from both sides as the Pistons’ advantage was gradually edged away.
It started, ironically, with a Rajon Rondo jumper: the first made field goal for Rondo since the Hawks’ last game against the Pistons on December 28th, though he’s only played five games since that one (credit to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic who tweeted that during the game) — that is a wild nugget, but it got the Hawks on their way.
The Pistons shot 3-of-15 from the field and 0-of-5 from three from the 7:08 mark. What had them stuck to begin were missed three-pointers. Not bad three-pointer attempts, these were decent looks that didn’t go down, so the Pistons were actually unlucky they didn’t either kill the game or maintain their lead.
Svi Mykhailiuk had his jump shot flowing in the second half and he gets a fantastic look to shoot over Young to put the Pistons up by what would have been 18 points with just under 6:30 remaining:
After a made three from John Collins in the corner, the Pistons still lead by 12 points with 5:40 remaining — not home-and-dry but still comfortable. They get another good look on a three as Rondo goes under the screen, giving Delon Wright a good look at a three-pointer that would have put the Pistons back up by 15 points. Fortunately for the Hawks, the shot doesn’t fall:
The next big play came on the defensive end for the Hawks — in addition to Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce, who hung on to his coach’s challenge, deciding to use it to challenge this foul on Capela on what looked like a clean block on Mason Plumlee:
This foul-call was successfully overturned and Capela won the subsequent jump-ball at center-court, returning possession to the Hawks — in addition to preventing Plumlee to go to the free throw line.
From the jump, the Hawks reduce the lead to 10 points with this huge, confident pull-up three from Kevin Huerter, leading to a Detroit timeout:
It’s cliché, but’s a make-or-miss league: the Pistons hit any one of those good-looking threes we saw (they also had another missed three in between the two showed but it was a contested three on a Josh Jackson attempt) and it’s probably a different ball-game. The Hawks hit theirs and now it’s a 10-point game with four minutes to go — still work to do but it provided a lift, provided life.
Derrick Rose then proceeded to miss two shots for the Pistons after this timeout, one coming near the rim with Capela to contest but this second miss was a little more notable, guarded by Collins near the perimeter on a switch, who successfully contests the shot:
It’s a good contest by Collins but it’s also just a poor shot from Rose, who literally has Collins on an island.
After splitting a pair of free throws before that Rose miss, Young continued his second half comeback of his own. He comes off of the Collins screen, gets inside, takes the bump from Grant before laying the ball home:
Poor from Blake Griffin, who should probably make a slightly more concerted effort to help at least attempt to block Young’s shot here. Mason Plumlee did not enjoy a good game but could let off the hook here, since one might expect Griffin to challenge somewhat? An easy layup all things considered for Young.
Their lead now only seven points, the Pistons are in a slightly precarious situation as the momentum is now in the Hawks’ favor. Again, they seem to get a decent look at a three as Solomon Hill — inserted into the starting lineup for Hunter — gets pinned on a Plumlee screen but, as Jerami Grant winds up from downtown, Hill closes out and contests the shot well from Grant and the shot is missed;
It looked like Hill’s contest wouldn’t be effective enough but by the time Grant releases it, Hill has covered considerable ground and his contest I think was ultimately an effective one — great recovery from Hill, who looked like he wasn’t getting there to effectively contest Grant.
With a chance to now cut the lead to a two-possession game, Young receives a good hand-off and screen from Huerter. From there, Capela slips the pick-and-roll and Mason Plumlee proceeds to shown said pick-and-roll to prevent Young from turning the corner. Plumlee’s feet fail him, and Young is able to get goal-side. Blake Griffin is faced with basically an impossible decision: either attempt to block Young but leave Capela wide open or stick with Capela. Ultimately, Griffin is powerless to stop Young at the rim and powerless to prevent the Hawks cutting the lead to five points:
After both sides exchange buckets — a tough shot from Grant inside is immediately replied with a Collins alley-oop as the Hawks had a man advantage with Rose hobbling to the sideline during the play — the Hawks produce another stop as Solomon Hill and Grant clash, the latter putting up a bit of a wild shot after contact before Capela grabs the rebound and is fouled on the play, sending him to the line where he splits a pair to bring the Hawks within four:
The Hawks produce another stop on a three-point attempt as Collins contests Griffin’s shot, before Collins draws the foul on the other end as he rolls to the rim and is crashed into by Plumlee. Collins dispatches both free throws to close the gap to two points.
For a brief moment, things threatened to get away from the Hawks as Blake Griffin shows his class as he makes this ridiculous up-and-under shot, plus the foul to put the Pistons back up by five with just over a minute to go:
Credit where credit is due: that is a ludicrous shot from Griffin.
A play like that could have easily demoralized the Hawks but they stuck with it, as Young draws another foul but splits the pair — not for the first time last night in what was an uncharacteristic night for Young at the line.
Up four and with the chance to seal the game with a make, the Pistons fail to take advantage as Grant’s pull-up on Capela is long:
Going the other way, Young draws a foul and doesn’t need another invitation to dispatch two free throws to bring the Hawks within two with 33 seconds left.
At this stage, a Pistons made basket puts them firmly in the driving seat. Coming out of the timeout, Derrick Rose attacks Young as the Pistons clear a path for Rose to do so. Hill gets close on the help but Rose gets to his spot and misses the shot:
Coming out of the timeout, you could be forgiven for asking why Brandon Goodwin wasn’t out on the floor for this defense-only possession but Young, to his credit, does well to stick with and contest — as best as he can — Rose’s shot. It was a good idea from the Pistons, to attack Young and make a play off of the possible defensive breakdown.
Taking a timeout themselves, the Hawks have the chance to tie or win the game with a three. In the end, Young attacks on the drive — rejecting the screen before Collins gets there — which draws Plumlee away from Capela, who receives the ball from Young and smashes it to tie the game:
However, with time left on the clock, the Pistons have time to win the game at the buzzer. From the timeout, Grant gets the step on Collins from the perimeter drive. Bearing down at the rim, Grant would appear to have a path to an easy basket but Collins recovers excellently to block the game-winner at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime:
The recovery and block from Collins was spectacular here, but I wonder if the Hawks could’ve had a claim on an offensive foul as Young puts himself in front of Grant and goes down. It would’ve put about a second on the clock for the Hawks — with a timeout to advance the ball — and maybe go for the win themselves in regulation? In the end, it’s a no-call and Collins’ block sends the game into overtime.
“John’s block at the end of regulation was kind of the summary of that fourth quarter: we got back in the game because we got stops and we went into overtime because he made a key block at the end of it,” said Lloyd Pierce of the fourth quarter.
The first overtime of the Hawks’ season didn’t start well as the Pistons raced out to a five-point lead. Behind a big three-pointer from Solomon Hill — and then free throws from John Collins after Grant’s free throws put the Pistons back ahead — the Hawks and Pistons were once again all knotted up with two minutes to go.
To take their first lead since the first quarter, Huerter — as the Pistons try to switch Wayne Ellington from Capela — zips a beautiful left-handed pass into Capela, who is fouled by Griffin on the make at the rim for the ‘and-1’ play:
Out of the Pistons timeout, Grant attacks the rim and despite the obvious hold from Jahlil Okafor on Capela, Capela still gets a good contest on Grant and the shot inside is missed:
Now with the opportunity to put some margin between themselves and the Pistons, Young hits Rose with a cross and pull-up three, draining it to give the Hawks a six-point lead with a minute to go:
“I saw D-Rose looking for the screen and I knew... we kept running it and I was getting over the top or just trying to get to my right hand, they were ready for that drive,” said Young of the play. “That’s a move I use pretty often, that right-to-left-cross, and was able to get a good shot and a good look at the basket and it went in.”
Out of the resulting timeout, Rose turns the ball over after, essentially, driving into Capela before stumbling out of bounds. On the other end, Young gets by Rose with ease, forcing Okafor to step up, leaving Capela wide open for the game-sealing alley-oop with 37 seconds left:
And there you go: there’s the anatomy of a 17-point fourth quarter turnaround, as well as how the Hawks pulled away in overtime. What once looked like a bleak situation and a very poor loss incoming, the Hawks somehow managed to flip into a much-needed victory.
“Not to sound cliché but I think we truly wanted to win this one, I felt the energy the moment walking in the arena” said Collins postgame. “We had some tough breaks with our shots, I feel like a lot of good shots we were taking weren’t falling but we continued to play hard and just understand that we’re not out of the game. I felt like that was the biggest thing is knowing we can win and banging on that and trying to go out there and play like it.”
“I’m just happy we never gave up, from beginning to end — no matter who was in there,” added Young postgame.
Postgame, Pierce mentioned Collins and Capela’s immediate postgame work in the weight-room as a reflection of his side getting better in what he labelled as a “confidence builder.”
“The best part of the night... You walk over here to do media and you see Clint Capela and John Collins in the weight-room lifting right now. After playing 43 (minutes) for John, 39 for Clint, and they’re in there still getting better, and I think that was a summary of tonight’s game,” said Pierce in his opening statement. “I thought we got better as the game went on, I think our guys are getting better. Monster game for Clint Capela. Not sure if there’s any way of not highlighting a player after a performance like that and it’s just good to see. That was what we call a ‘We’ win: we had a lot of guys contribute in a lot of different ways but really a gutsy win for our guys tonight and a confidence builder.”
Capela mentioned postgame that this is something both he and Collins do after every game, adding that it builds camaraderie.
Going back to Pierce’s comments, he referenced how the Hawks received multiple contributions... Here are a few tidbits from last night:
- Capela’s 27 points: season-high
- Capela’s 26 rebounds: career-high
- Capela’s 12 offensive rebounds: ties a career-high
- Capela’s five blocks: season-high
- Capela’s 39 minutes ties a season-high
- Young’s 38 points: season-high
- Young’s 19 free throw attempts: season-high
- Young’s 44 minutes: season-high
- Collins’ 31 points: season-high
- Collins’ 43 minutes: season-high
- Hill’s 40 minutes: a season-high by 12 minutes
That’s just to name a few season/career marks last night, not to mention Huerter’s 3-of-4 shooting from three on his way to 17 points. He won’t be talked about much, but Huerter was very good on Wednesday.
The man of the moment, however, was Capela, who just stuffed the boxscore: 27 points, 26 rebounds and five blocks in 39 minutes of action, making both Hawks history and otherwise.
Clint Capela tonight:— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 21, 2021
He’s the first player with a 25p/25r/5b game since Shaquille O’Neal in 2004. pic.twitter.com/T17IPoKpwI
Clint Capela has Atlanta's first 25 point/25 rebound game since Dikembe Mutombo on 12/14/99 vs. MIN (27 pts/29 rebs).— Hawks PR (@HawksPR) January 21, 2021
Both of these are just hugely impressive, they speak for themselves. If you want to see how Capela did it, the NBA has conveniently posted a video to their YouTube of Capela’s big night:
Pierce believed this number in blocks could’ve even higher before speaking about the growing confidence regarding Capela.
“I thought he could’ve had 10 tonight, honestly,” said Pierce. “I think he was hugged up on his guy down the floor and I think he could’ve been in position to get some more. It’s an area we can continue to grow him. He’s all over the place: 10 offensive rebounds at the half. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that in a game, I definitely haven’t coached that in a game. I thought he has been tremendous. Every game he seems to be getting better. His confidence is building, he’s getting the line at a high rate now, he’s starting to knock them down as well. You can see his confidence skyrocketing. It’s good for us, it’s good for the guys. It’s a big confidence builder. It will allow us to pressure and do some things creatively up the floor, defensively, knowing we have a guy like that down the floor protecting the rim.”
“I feel I’m getting better, getting better,” said Capela of his 26 rebounds last night.
“Try to be a presence,” Capela went on to say about his night. “Every time I see the ball go up, I put myself in a position to get the rebound. Every time I see the opposite team get into my paint, I try to protect my rim. Over and over, just trying to do it over and over. That’s what I do. That’s what I said when I first came in: this is what I do. I just did it multiple times tonight and I plan on keep having that presence: rebounds and blocked shots.”
“He’s beasting down there right now, no other way to put it,” said Collins of Capela. “We’re extremely hard to beat with him playing like that. Obviously we haven’t had a real center like that anchoring down the paint but I feel like Clint’s finding his feet with us. With him playing defense like that, grabbing rebounds like that we’re going to be tough to handle.”
Capela’s impact on the team this season has been, I imagine, everything the Hawks could’ve hoped for. He’s been a steady and reliable option at the back and is only looking better and better as he continues to ramp up after a long absence between injury and the Hawks’ long layoff.
Had Capela not broken out as he did, the focus postgame would be firmly with Young, who broke out of his recent struggles with a big game: a season-high 38 points on 11-of-26 shooting from the field, 3-of-5 from three, 13-of-19 from the free throw line, 10 assists and just two turnovers in a game-high 44 minutes.
It was a game of two different halves for Young, whose recent struggles appeared to continue in this game as he shot 2-of-11 from the field before the halftime break.
Trae Young is 29-100 from the floor in the last 6.5 games.— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) January 21, 2021
Young then ignited in the third quarter, scoring 21 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 6-of-9 from the field and shot 12-of-12 from the free throw line as the Hawks got into the bonus with over half of the third quarter.
Between the fourth quarter and overtime, Young added another 11 points on his way to 38 points, completing a sorely-needed bounce-back game for the All-Star.
“That’s his role,” said Pierce of Young. “He’s got a dual responsibility of getting everyone involved, picking apart the defense and then he’s our closer. We’ve talked about it, there’s no secret about it, he’s the guy we have to put the ball in his hands down the stretch. He’s the guy we have to put the ball in his hands when we’re in the bonus. He’s got an ability to get to the free throw line, he’s got a unique ability to get by his defender and he’s got unbelievable vision to where he can make any pass — great drop-off to Clint to send it into overtime, which was key. We don’t come back in this game if Trae Young doesn’t turn into Trae Young down the stretch.”
“The lid wasn’t on the rim,” said Young on the difference between the first and second half. “I think I was getting the same good looks in the first half and my floaters were going in-and-out or a little long. Shots I can hit weren’t going in. For me, it was about staying aggressive. My teammates told me to stay aggressive and that’s what I did.”
Pierce probably put it best: Trae Young was Trae Young — his shooting, his drives, Young just looked like himself again, and the Hawks need him to be this aggressive, they need him to play like the All-Star he is. The Hawks will be hoping he can carry this bounce-back game to Minnesota on Friday.
Elsewhere, Collins scored a season-high 31 points but also took a season-high 24 shots, which is noteworthy, especially if you’re in the camp of ‘John Collins should be shooting more’ (which, really, you should be). He was fantastic last night but won’t be talked about a ton due to the games of Capela and Young.
Defensively, Collins continues to move needles — highlighted of course by the block to end the game.
“I feel like I’ve taken a big step up on the defensive end and I’m going to continue to do that all year,” said Collins. I want to play winning defense for my team and I know that contributes to us winning regardless.”
“I want be All-NBA, all-whatever defender,” Collins went on to say. “I want to be able to defend multiple positions, I want to be able to defend five spots, I want to be a great vertical defender, I want to be a shot blocker. I want to do it all. I feel with my athletic ability I have the ability to do all those things. Obviously it takes time, it takes experience and repetition. I’m just going to continue to try to grow and as well as be a great communicator — that’s also something I’ve taken a big step this year. Always improving.”
The Hawks needed all of these big games (and Huerter’s 17 points) and big minutes (all five starters playing 39 or more minutes) given their shorthanded-ness and the bench production: just four points and those four points didn’t come until the second half. Onyeka Okongwu showed some decent promise in his 13 minutes but Goodwin and Rajon Rondo struggled to make impacts against Detroit.
Still, the Hawks were able to, somehow, rescue this game and the spirit of the group — from seeing how they interacted postgame and in postgame interviews — seemed high, and that’s a huge positive because this was barreling towards a very poor defeat.
The Hawks (7-7) are back in action on Friday when they meet the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road in a rematch of Monday’s MLK Day victory.
Until next time...