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Hawks suffer a painful loss against the Knicks

NBA: New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks renewed a burgeoning rivalry in State Farm Arena Saturday night, but there was little drama this go around with Atlanta falling to New York 99-90. The Hawks arrived riding a 7-game winning streak, including a laugher of a victory at Memphis the previous night, but it appeared as though the tiredness from that contest less than 24 hours prior to the Saturday night meeting doomed the Hawks from the start.

Their offensive woes were very evident, having shot 33-of-93 (35.5%) from the field and 9-of-37 (24.3%) from three for an unsightly 44.2% true shooting percentage. Their 90 total points was their worst scoring output thus far this year, and their 97.7 offensive rating was their second worse in efficiency this season, per Basketball Reference.

Trae Young, however, put forth his best effort at carrying the Hawks to a victory. He had just about everything working, especially in the first half, to the tune of 22 points on just 11 shots.

Young would finish with a game high 33 points and seven assists. Clint Capela had a monster night on the boards, with 21 rebounds and five on the offensive glass. He added 16 points as well — albeit from 14 shots.

However, the role players just could not muster enough offensive support to lift the Hawks to victory. Other than a John Collins 12-point effort, no other Hawks reached double figures. And this was especially evident in their struggles from long range. All Hawks not named Young finished 4-for-27 (14.8%) from three point range Saturday night.

“It was a tough shooting night,” head coach Nate McMillan said. “It seemed like we had heavy legs throughout the night. We knew they were physical defensively. They get into you. You have to run through that contact. I thought we had some open looks that we didn’t knock down.”

Two of the key contributors from last postseason’s series victory over these New York Knicks had nights to forget. Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari combined for 6-of-24 (25%) shooting from the field and just 1-for-12 (8.3%) from beyond the arc.

Gallinari in particularly had time and space to find the laces but simply could not find the bottom of the net. In this clip, Lou Williams pushed the ball in transition and draws three men near the rim. A touch pass later, it ends up in Gallinari’s hands, typically a win for the Hawks offense.

Another time, off a scramble for the ball during an offensive rebound, Gallinari is way off with the shot despite the muddled Knicks defense failing to pick him up.

This last miss is a real shame since it came off a well-executed set. Collins and Gallinari set up for a double drag screen, but a quick down screen from Collins gives Gallinari the separation he needs off the feed from Delon Wright.

McMillan also pushed back against the suggestion that playing the tail end of the back-to-back was to blame for the loss, saying, “[The Knicks] played a back-to-back too. When we would get close, they would make a bucket. We couldn’t get a stop to get ourselves over the hump. It just seemed like they had a little bit more in the tank than we did [...] we had some open looks that we normally knock down. We didn’t knock those shots down tonight.”

Even from point blank range, there was a figurative lid on the basket, as this next sequence demonstrated with help from Capela and the sparingly used Solomon Hill.

Capela summed up the offensive struggles, saying “[scoring] 90 points to win an NBA game. It’s pretty tough to do.”

Unfortunately there was much more than a loss in the standings for Atlanta tonight. The team would lose Cam Reddish and Bogdan Bogdanovic to separate injuries during the proceedings. Reddish suffered a left wrist sprain and Bogdanovic sprain his right ankle within mere minutes of each other. Both will receive MRI scans to determine the severities of their setbacks.

Here is the moment when Bogdanovic rolled his ankle on Capela’s foot during a defensive stand.

“You hate to see that,” remarked McMillan on the injuries. “We’re hoping that the MRIs come out negative and that these guys can get back to the floor soon.”

McMillan also indicated both Reddish and Bogdanovic would get an MRI shortly. “Both X-rays were negative but they want to take a closer look with both injuries.”

“For sure it’s tough,” Young said about the loss of his two teammates. “Two of our really key guys. They contribute a lot to our team. It’s tough but that’s no excuse. We still needed to find a way to win.”

“We’ve got a rhythm right now going and a chemistry in what we’re doing in winning seven straight,” he continued. “They’ve both been a part of that. So when those two guys go out, throwing in [Solomon Hill] and [Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot] into spots they just haven’t been in in these past couple of games for us.”

“We felt it. The spacing wasn’t the same,” remarked Capela, referring their play after the injuries. “The chemistry wasn’t the same.”

On a more positive note, Capela indicated he spoke to both players in the locker room after the contest and was able to judge their states of mind. “They’re fine,” Capela said with respect to their spirits postgame. “I think Cam is fine and [Bogdanovic] is going to be fine. Spirit-wise, they look ok.”

The Hawks now have three days off while we await the status of the injuries players. They will next suit up against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.