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Hawks triumph over Clippers behind strong second half

Not a straightforward victory, but the Hawks took care of business against the shorthanded Clippers

LA Clippers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks returned to winning ways on Tuesday night as they secured a 108-99 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at State Farm Arena, snapping their seven-game winning streak in the process.

For the Hawks, Trae Young’s strong second half saw him pour out 38 points. De’Andre Hunter added 22 points as all five starters hit double-figures.

For the Clippers — without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley — Reggie Jackson led the charge with 20 points while Serge Ibaka added 15 points.

If you need catching up on how the game unfolded, you can do so here, but today we’re going to just jump into in assuming you know, for the most part, how this game went.

This game was... a battle. It was a difficult game for the Hawks for most of it as the resilient Clippers hung around.

The Clippers, shorthanded as they were, took the challenge to the Hawks in the first half, who struggled offensively, and struggled shooting in the paint/at the rim — not the greatest thing in the world to happen when you attempt a season-low seven three-pointers in a half as the Hawks did in the first half.

The Clippers stuck with the Hawks the entire first half and shot a ton of perimeter shots but couldn’t convert from the outside in the first half. Arguably, they should’ve been leading by more than the five points they did at halftime, putting together their largest lead at that point before the break.

Bluntly, it was a pretty bad offensive showing for the Hawks in the first half.

Heading into the third quarter, the Hawks finally got some consistent baskets to drop as they quickly erased the Clippers’ five point-lead en-route to a 33 point third quarter, flipping the Clippers’ five point lead into a six point lead of their own to end the third quarter, outscoring the Clippers 33-22 in the period.

For context on the turnaround in the third quarter, the Hawks connected on 14 field goals in the first half — they shot 12-of-18 in the third quarter.

In the above shot chart, you can see the Hawks’ struggles at the rim, but to start the third quarter, the Hawks finally found their success at the rim. Arguably, the game turned here, so let’s look at some of the Hawks’ baskets from the Hawks’ much improved third quarter and how they finally got some good looks at the rim and how the game expanded from there..

Atlanta got a lot of looks at the rim to begin the third quarter — a stark contrast from the first half — and a lot of it just came off of penetration.

On the pick-and-roll, the Hawks get a switch on the block with Collins. Serge Ibaka gets drawn toward the ball to help, leaving Capela an open lane and dunk once Collins throws the ball to him:

Next, Terance Mann shows Young to his left, a space that Young happily drives into. Ibaka seems to get caught in two minds: between helping to protect the rim and not wanting to leave Capela open under the basket. In the end, Young finishes at the rim with ease:

On this possession, Hunter splits the defense on the drive before finding Capela in the dunker’s spot for the dunk at the rim, with Ibaka not wanting to leave the rim open for Hunter to finish himself:

The Hawks put together a number of defensive stops in the third, as Nic Batum drops a pass in the paint for the turnover. Hunter collects the loose-ball and sets off in transition, before finding Collins on the alley-oop:

What would be ideal in future transition plays like this is Young fanning all the way to the corner, rather than stopping at the slot. Had the ball swung to Young here, Reggie Jackson would’ve been in a good position to help and contest Young at the slot, as opposed to the corner where Jackson has to make a tougher defensive decision.

Not to worry on this possession, and Hunter finds Collins, but just something that popped out seeing it again.

The Clippers proceeded to take a timeout after this possession, their lead now essentially wiped. But the Hawks didn’t stop rolling after the timeout.

In transition, Jackson zips a pass to Luke Kennard at the rim in transition, where Collins proceeds to swat the shot at the rim. Huerter picks up the loose-ball and throws the pitch-ahead to Young for the easy transition layup:

Again, another block — this one courtesy of Capela — fuels a transition opportunity for the Hawks and another opportunity at the rim, as Young brings the ball up the floor, draws the crowd in the paint before finding Capela, who angles himself to finish at the rim:

In transition, Young receives the ball and changes gears as he gets to the three-point line, drives to the rim, draws the defense and finds Hunter for three in the corner:

The three-point shot finally began to fall in the third quarter, including this impressive play from Brandon Goodwin, who drives, passes to the corner, relocates to the left-slot before receiving the ball again and hits the three-pointer:

Taking a six point lead into the fourth quarter, the Hawks started the period slowly, allowing the Clippers to erase the Hawks’ six point, leading to an early timeout from Lloyd Pierce.

Up to this point, Huerter had really been struggling during this game — shooting 0-of-5 heading into the final frame and struggling defensively too — but came out of the timeout and proceeded to score the next eight straight points for the Hawks as they extended their lead while Trae Young was still off of the floor.

Coming off of the screen, Huerter immediately rises into the three-pointer to get the Hawks back on track:

The next possession, Huerter rises immediately into the catch-and-shoot three-pointer:

Postgame, Pierce referenced how the Hawks could feel the energy from limited crowd allowed into State Farm Arena for the first time this season after those two threes from Huerter, which was noteworthy — they were big plays.

Huerter ended up shooting 5-of-10 from the field and 3-of-3 from three for 13 points, all of which came in the fourth quarter, which he played the entirety of.

“First half, especially that first quarter, I didn’t get off to a great start, missed a couple of bunnies,” said Huerter of his game. “I felt good because I was getting to my spots, I just wasn’t finishing, I feel like in a lot of ways it’s kind of been a tale of the last couple of games. That fourth quarter, in many ways I feel was more in rhythm, was taking better shots, catch-and-shoots threes and got back to the strongest part of my game. First half didn’t go my way but I thought I was getting good looks and the second half they fell.”

When Young returned to the action with 6:36 remaining, he took over proceedings, scoring 12 points in the final 6:36, including shooting 5-of-5 from the free throw line and a deep, deep three-pointer that should have iced the game, putting the Hawks up by 11:

The Clippers reeled a 6-0 run out of the timeout, putting them back in the game but after the Hawks called a timeout themselves after this run, Huerter tucks the game away as Hunter finds Huerter his third three-pointer of the quarter:

That was, essentially, all she wrote for this game. It was a strange game in which no real haymakers in terms of runs to pull away from the Clippers were made, but the Hawks gradually eased away, establishing their first double-digit lead for the first time with 3:47 remaining in this game and sealed the deal with the baskets we just took a look at.

Hunter added seven points himself in the fourth quarter as himself, Huerter and Young were the only Hawks to register points in the fourth quarter.

Collins was 0-of-4 in the fourth quarter as he struggled overall, shooting 4-of-11 for 11 points and 11 rebounds, but did register a new career-high five blocks on the night. For the season, Collins is blocking 1.2 shots per game and blocking 2.2 over his last five games.

Postgame, Pierce praised both Collins and Capela in their effort to holding the Clippers to under 100 points, which Pierce referenced as something of significance no matter what the situation.

“To hold anybody in the league to under 100 (points) is huge,” said Pierce. “I don’t care who you’re playing, I don’t care where it is, I don’t care if they’re on a back-to-back or if we’re on a back-to-back. To hold anyone under 100 is huge. I think both Clint and John have been tremendous for us as backline defenders — John has five blocks tonight, Clint has 19 rebounds. Not only are we changing and altering shots, we’re trying to limit them to one shot. The other night we were out-rebounded by a tremendous amount up at Milwaukee and that hasn’t been us. You miss Clint’s impact on the glass and around the paint but I think the combination of both of those guys has been tremendous all year on the defensive end.”

In the end, the Hawks shot 36% in the first half from the field and 1-of-7 from three. In the second half, they shot 56% from the field and 9-of-19 from behind the line while holding the Clippers to 38.6% shooting in the second half as they outscored Los Angeles 65-51 in the second half.

“I think we upped our intensity and played a little bit harder,” said Young on what changed from the first half to the second half. “Coming into the game, wasn’t really locked in from the beginning and they kind of stuck around, gave them life. For us, we just need to do a better job attacking that first half they same we do the second. Something we can work on for sure.”

There really isn’t a ton else to say about this game: the Hawks took care of business against the depleted Clippers, who looked as though they were ready to inflict a tough home loss on the Hawks if the first half was anything to go by. They were slowing the game down, using plenty of the shot clock, they prevented the Hawks from getting inside too much and even when the Hawks did get inside they couldn’t convert.

But the Hawks steadied the ship, finally got the looks they needed at the rim, hit their threes and huge fourth quarter efforts from Huerter and Young eventually brought them home. It really was as straightforward as that, but tonight probably will not be...

The Hawks (9-8) are back in action tonight when they take on a Brooklyn team they’ve already faced twice this season but with another dimension as James Harden enters the fold.

Should be an interesting game indeed.

Until next time...