The Atlanta Hawks returned to action on Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic after a disappointing loss on Monday night. The Hawks were favored heading into Orlando and they took care of business with a 111-99 victory at the Amway Center.
Trae Young led the Hawks with 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting, John Collins added 21 points and 10 rebounds.
For the Magic — without Jalen Suggs, Gary Harris, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba, Michael Carter-Williams, Markelle Fultz and E’Twaun Moore — they were led by Mo Wagner’s 19 points, Terrence Ross added 18 points.
The Hawks held the advantage early in this game and established a 10 point lead before the end of the first quarter before a poor end to the quarter — and an 8-0 Magic run — meant that the first quarter ended a little closer for comfort than perhaps it should have. It did not take the Hawks long to regain their momentum, and while the Magic kept the game within single digits for over half of the second quarter the Hawks eventually pulled that lead out again, leading by as many as 15 points in the second quarter before taking a 14 point lead into the half.
Collins was particularly motivated in the second quarter, scoring 11 points in 11:36 minutes in the second quarter.
From there, the game was largely of little contest as the Magic never reduced the lead to single digits, the Hawks running the lead to 20 points on a Danilo Gallinari buzzer-beater:
The fourth quarter was largely a formality and the Hawks were able to clear their bench, with Sharife Cooper getting some run for two and a half minutes.
In reality, it was a very comfortable victory for the Hawks against a, frankly, putrid Orlando Magic side. The Hawks did not play the greatest game either, let that be said, but it was honestly an eye-sore watching the Orlando Magic last night...as you might expect for a team now 5-24 on the season.
The victory did mark the Hawks’ fifth straight victory on the road — a stark contrast to their current home form where they’ve lost five straight — and Hawks head coach Nate McMillan was pleased with his side’s communication and consistency last night.
“I thought we were pretty solid throughout the game, all four quarters,” said McMillan postgame. “We dropped that fourth quarter but I liked our communication on the defensive end of the floor, I thought offensively we had some movement. We were pretty consistent for four quarters.”
Young believed the game to be a ‘must-win’ game after Monday’s horrid loss to Houston: a game everyone acknowledges that they should have won.
“It felt like a must-win game for us, even though it’s the beginning of the season and may not be (a must-win) but it felt like it,” said Young. “We knew we let one get away last game and so we needed to come out here and take care of business. I liked the mindset we had and the approach we had today. We came out and took care of business.”
It’s a revelation to no one that defense has been an issue for the Hawks of late. Prior to last night’s game, the Hawks had conceded 110 or more points in their last four games. For the first time in nearly two weeks the Hawks conceded fewer than 100 points in a game, and McMillan thought the communication of his side was improved last night.
“Our voices connect us on the defensive end of the floor,” said McMillan. “That is a way you are connected, or you get connected on the defensive end of the floor. It’s something that, since I’ve been playing, since I’ve been coaching, is one of the most difficult things to teach with a team. I thought we were better. Defensively we had a couple of mistakes. I thought we played every possession, played to win every possession. We were pretty consistent with that for four quarters.”
The Hawks have talked about defense at length at times this season as well as rebounding. The Magic grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and converted those to 18 second chance points.
“We’ve still got to get better,” said McMillan of the rebounding. “We were fumbling a couple of those boards. I told our guys, ‘If you don’t want to hear me talk about it then do it.’ It’s as simple as when the shot goes up— everybody’s name was put up on the board to rebound. Just to make it clear, I’m not talking to certain individuals, I’m talking to the entire team. We have to do a better job of getting in, boxing out and pursuing the ball. Teams are sending three, four guys to the boards so we have to do a better job with that.”
During the game, the ball had to be switched after it sailed into the crowd and landed in a fan’s drink. Collins believed that the ball that they officials switched to was slippery and accounted for some of the ‘fumbles’ McMillan mentioned.
“For me personally, when they switched the ball, the ball got a little slippery; was trying to grab four or five rebounds and they all slipped out of my hands,” said Collins.
Slippery game-balls aside, the Hawks have discussed rebounding recently again and have, again, highlighted the need for the team to help on the boards.
“He’s been preaching for everybody to go help rebound,” said Young on McMillan’s message on rebounding. “We know we have the best rebounder in the league but he can’t do it by himself. It’s not an individual sport. We know Clint needs help, JC needs help, so the guards have to come back and rebound and help them out, especially on the long rebounds. Just continuing to preach for everybody to get back and rebound because when we get rebounds we’re able to push and not give teams second opportunities.”
“We’ve just got to have a concerted effort of crashing,” added Collins. “CC and I are trying to do our best but sometimes those long rebounds it has to be a team effort, guards have to got to come in and crash. I feel like that would solve a little bit of the issues, so, easy fix.”
The problem with offensive rebounding/second chance scoring isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be at times — the Hawks are tied for 14th in opponent offensive rebounding per game and are tied ninth for fewest opponent second chance points per game — but when the Hawks do allow those opportunities they have seemed to inflate on those given nights.
All-in-all, this was a routine victory. I don’t think the Hawks played especially well at times last night, and even 99 points against the Magic team was a little too high (though, the end of the game unit did not cover themselves in glory as the Magic finished on a 10-2 run in the final two and a half minutes). Young (1-of-8) and Kevin Huerter (0-of-4) were a combined 1-of-12 from three last night, and Young was still 50% from the field — he carved the Magic apart with his floater with ease.
Elsewhere, I thought Cam Reddish played a good game. He wasn’t out of control or trying too hard. Sure, one or two shots weren’t amazing in terms of selection but I enjoyed his effective yet low-key impact off of the bench, scoring 13 points on 5-of-9 from the field and 3-of-6 from three. Lou Williams was cooking at the beginning of the second quarter en route to 14 points and Clint Capela looked good on the floor too.
A solid victory, as McMillan said, but this game honestly says more about the Magic than it does about the Hawks — the Magic were a tough watch. Still, a win is a win and the visitors needed it.
“I just like the way we responded tonight,” said McMillan. “Coming on the road and being solid throughout the game. Some of the things we talked about I felt we did, one of those was the communication on both ends of the floor. Defensively, communicating to each other. Offensively, communicating and getting organized. Trying to be solid from start to finish. One of the things I talk about is trying to play a perfect game — can’t do that, but we’re going to try. Every possession we’ve got to try to win that possession on both ends of the floor. That was our focus tonight, not just in the fourth quarter but the entire game.”
The Hawks (14-14) are back in action on Friday night when they take on the Denver Nuggets (14-14) at State Farm Arena, hoping to avoid a sixth straight home loss.
Should be an interesting affair.
Until next time...