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Hawks fail to impress against Magic in undermanned effort

Orlando Magic v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic linked up in State Farm Arena on Wednesday night with both sides missing many of their major players. The NBA’s Health and Safety protocols, along with physical injuries, removed numerous key figures for both teams.

The Magic were without Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Terrence Ross, Mo Bamba, and Wendell Carter Jr. among others. The Hawks were similarly without Trae Young, Lou Williams, Kevin Huerter, Danilo Gallinari, and Clint Capela due to protocols related to Covid-19, as well as a long term injury to De’Andre Hunter and a handful more of bodies. As a result, the Hawks needed to lean on the likes of John Collins and Cam Reddish to try to pick up a win.

Skylar Mays tallied his first career start in the NBA alongside Collins, Reddish, Delon Wright and Gorgui Dieng. The Hawks’ rookies, Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper, also entered the non-garbage time rotation for the first time all year — as did NBA veteran and new signing Lance Stephenson.

Unfortunately for the home team, the offense sputtered until a late fourth quarter spurt and Atlanta fell to Orlando 104-98 in a game that never seemed that close. Collins finished with 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting and 11 rebounds, and Reddish added 36 points on 12-of-24 (50%) shooting in a career high effort.

Reddish came out of the gate with a couple of long step back makes. But it was his work in attacking the rim that earned some due praise.

In this next clip, Reddish takes the ball 94 feet in semi-transition and gets his defender, Chuma Okeke, on his back him with a nice drive to his left and finish at the hoop.

And another attempt, this time in a full fast break where Reddish speeds past the organizing defense.

On Reddish, head coach Nate McMillan said, “I thought he was aggressive offensively. I thought he was able to get a rhythm in the second half. We put the ball in his hands and he made some plays.”

For good measure, he also added some buckets from rhythm catch-and-shoot opportunities like the below, with help from a Collins pick-and-roll that added some separation using a well placed shoulder. Reddish would finish 6-of-10 (60%) shooting from deep.

Bogdan Bogdanovic returned after last appearing in a contest against the New York Knicks on November 27 of this year when he rolled his right ankle after landing on Clint Capela’s foot. He finished with just six points on 2-of-9 (22.2%) shooting along with two assists and two rebounds. Asked how he felt physically in his return, he responded, “I felt good. I didn’t have any issues with soreness or any issues with [my] ankle.”

Bogdanovic continued, “It’s really great to be back. I hate practicing individually. You like it at some point but I like playing more. That’s what you’re getting ready for. I can’t wait to get off this minutes restriction.”

McMillan made the choice to bring Bogdanovic off the bench to keep his minutes down, despite the lack of available players, saying, “He was restricted to 16 to 20 minutes. We went a little bit over that. That was a challenge to try to keep him under 20 but we did the best we could.”

But the big story of the night was the listless Atlanta offense through three quarters. The Hawks could only muster 61 points and a 86.8 offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) through three periods until a minor awakening in the fourth quarter while facing a double digit deficit.

Bogdanovic had a disappointing return to the lineup, and while the majority of his shots were threes he tends to make at a high clip, he seemed to press on offense at times. In this clip, Bogdanovic navigates an isolated weak side screen and attempts a runner despite the presence of five Orlando players with a foot in the lane to help.

The rookies Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper also had evenings to forget, with the pair combining for 1-for-7 (14.3%) shooting from the field and imposing little impact in their first real minutes of the season.

Here, Johnson seems to get caught between taking one more dribble off the curl toward the lane or just pulling up, and instead puts up an awkward runner that falls well short.

Despite logging some minutes on the floor together prior to this contest, Delon Wright fails to allow Collins to establish post position before attempting the entry pass here, leading to an easy steal for Orlando.

In another instance, Gorgui Dieng is double teamed in the post, and Reddish retrieves the exit pass angles toward the baseline, forcing a wild pass straight to the hands of a Magic player.

The offense was clearly out of sorts despite a late rally. But the coaches and players wouldn’t let missing players be an excuse for the loss. “That [other] team was playing in the same situation they were playing in,” McMillan remarked postgame. “A lot of guys out. I thought they had a better flow, a better rhythm. They brought the intensity for 48 minutes tonight and pretty much controlled the game from start to finish.”

On how hard it is to work in new players, he continued, “of course it’s a challenge but [the Magic] were doing the same thing. Our leaders out there have to make sure we help those guys out and we get organized and that we help them get in the right position to run the sets.”

“We cannot find excuses,” Bogdanovic had to say. “[Orlando] was [without] a lot of guys but they were playing better basketball than us.”

“That other team was very short handed as well,” said Collins, continuing a theme. “We have I think five new dudes that got added onto the roster and got minutes today so it makes things a little tougher.”

“It’s the same old story,” Collins remarked, showing some clear frustration with how the team continues to play. “We take bad shots. Don’t play defense. Don’t rebound. We lose. We got to fight our way back into the game. I could sit here and talk about it all day but [it’s the] same stuff. [...] You look around the locker room and half of the guys are missing. You look and you see new faces. How mad can we really get?”

This game equals the seventh straight Hawks loss at home, which drops them to 8-8 in State Farm Arena and 14-16 overall. Atlanta will try to regroup on the second half of a back-to-back again at home opposite of the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.