The Atlanta Hawks went toe-to-toe with the defending NBA champions — the L.A. Lakers — on Monday night at State Farm Arena but ultimately fell short of glory in a 107-99 defeat.
Trae Young scored 25 points and dished out a season-high 16 assists, while John Collins added 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field.
For the Lakers — at the end of their seven-game road-trip — Anthony Davis was largely unstoppable as he scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting. LeBron James added 21 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter.
If you’re looking to catch up on how the game unfolded, you can do so here, but today we’re just going to jump in.
After a 30-point third quarter — and a fantastic third quarter from Young in which he scored 11 points and dished out five assists — the Hawks entered the fourth quarter with a one point lead. It remained to seen whether the Lakers had the legs to flick the switch, and the start of the fourth quarter was going to be an important one for the Hawks with Young on the bench.
It was here where the game lay, with the Lakers going on an 11-0 run to begin the fourth quarter to take their first double-digit lead of the entire night, as the Hawks died on offense.
Starting off, the Hawks come up with the steal as former Laker Rajon Rondo knocks the ball away from Alex Caruso for the steal. Kevin Huerter initially leads the break before handing it off to Rondo before he hands it back to Huerter who misses the three:
While you do love to see Huerter shooting without hesitation, perhaps this time, the better play may have been to swing the ball to the open Danilo Gallinari who, granted shot 2-of-10 from the field but shot 2-of-5 from three.
To get the Lakers going offensively, Kyle Kuzma leads the fast break after the rebound is tipped out. Kuzma finds Alex Caruso who finishes at the rim in transition:
With no John Collins or Clint Capela on the court — and Bruno Fernando contesting for the offensive rebound — the Hawks have no shot blockers back to contest Caruso at the rim. Huerter can’t give his whole attention to Caruso here, needing to stop the ball (which is what Rondo points out to Huerter on the play too), meaning Gallinari needs to get himself into the paint quickly to contest anything at the rim. However, Caruso’s speed is too much to handle and he gets in before Huerter can fully recover and before Gallinari can really get to the rim to better contest the shot.
On the Hawks’ next offensive trip, they get a favorable matchup with Gallinari posted up on Talen Horton-Tucker but Gallinari loses the ball on the way up, committing the turnover:
After a foul and the subsequent split free throws for the Lakers, the Hawks return for another look and get the same switch with Gallinari and Horton-Tucker. This time, LeBron James is out quickly to double/switch. Gallinari gets the shot up, mildly contested, but can’t convert:
Switched against Fernando, James is in a favorable situation. The Hawks actually get themselves into a decent position should LeBron go for the blow-by, but elects to side-step to his left and hit the three-pointer:
I think Fernando defended this as well as he could have: just LeBron James doing LeBron James things.
The Hawks — still without a basket in the quarter — find themselves down towards the end of the shot clock. Rondo gets the switch after the solid Fernando screen and passes to Gallinari on the perimeter, who drives inside as the clock winds down into traffic, takes the tough layup, misses, grabs his own miss and is called for the travel:
I’m a little surprised Gallinari didn’t just shoot over Talen Horton-Tucker — may have been the better option here with the Lakers’ presence in the paint but hindsight is 20-20.
After coming up with a stop, the Hawks get going in transition. As Rondo reaches the three-point line and passes the ball to the open Gallinari, Caruso catches Fernando out as he establishes position and Fernando fails to spot it and barrels into Caruso and is called for the offensive foul:
Next, LeBron gets switched onto Gallinari — toys with him as he whips the ball around the world before finding Kuzma in the corner for three as Horton-Tucker sets the screen on Huerter:
Now down by eight points and now scoreless for three minutes of the fourth quarter, the Hawks are now in desperate need of a basket and it wouldn’t come on this next possession as Caruso steals the ball from Gallinari before finishing with the dunk at the other end, resulting in a Hawks timeout:
That capped the 11-0 run for the Lakers inside three minutes, taking their first double-digit lead of the evening, and that was with Anthony Davis to return to the floor...
The Hawks battled back but it looked like they were hosed with 3:47 remaining as the Lakers went back up by 10 points. The Hawks reeled off an 8-0 run and then pulled within one point after a Young three.
Just as quickly as the Hawks got back into this game, the Lakers put them out of it again in a matter of possessions, starting with this James three-pointer as Cam Reddish goes under the screen:
LeBron then strips Capela inside after he’s found by Huerter on the out-of-bounds play — which was almost certainly going to lead to a basket at the rim — before turbo-ing in transition, receiving the ball from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to finish at the rim:
To seal it, Young coughs it up in transition as he rushes forward, his bounce behind his back skipping too far in front of him, as former Hawks point guard Dennis Schröder jets to collect the loose ball:
That was, in essence, all she wrote as the Lakers sealed the game at the free throw line with LeBron (who scored the last nine points of the game for the Lakers). The Hawks showed a lot of spirit to fight back twice in the fourth quarter but that drought to begin the fourth quarter proved very costly, with the Hawks — while getting close — never got back in front again.
After the game, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce wasn’t too pleased with how his side started the game — given their focus heading into the game — but was more satisfied with how the Hawks competed after the first quarter.
“I thought our guys competed,” said Pierce postgame. “The most discouraging part was how we started the game from a game plan standpoint. We really wanted to crowd the paint, we had a couple of things that we focused on in the shootaround and walkthrough and they had 22 points in the paint (in the first quarter) and, really, from our standpoint, things we could have erased. But from that point on, eight points in the paint in the second quarter (for the Lakers), (we) did a lot of good things.
“Obviously the turnovers late, the execution late on a couple of end of clock situations — fumbled the ball on one, unaware of the shot clock on the other, then a late turnover — LeBron hits two big threes which gives them separation. I thought our guys competed. It’s a stepping stone for us to focus on execution, game plan and how important that is.”
“A lot of things to learn in this game from an execution standpoint,” Pierce would go on to say. “How to stay engaged, where the help needs to come from, where to be physical, where not to be physical and how to execute on the other end as well when they speed us up or take us out of our offense.”
Despite what Pierce had to say about the Hawks conceding 22 points in the first quarter, he reflected on the Hawks’ fight, which was there all game long.
“I thought, although we were down early, I thought we competed,” said Pierce. “Some of the mistakes were more technical and game plan mistakes but I thought we competed the entire night. There was no lack of competition, there was no lack of fight, our guys were engaged and locked in. We were a couple of steps late on a lot of things in that first quarter but some of the things were just going to happen during the course of the game, some of the the turnovers or missed shots, things of that nature. Our guys competed at a high level against a really good team and I’m proud of our guys for that.”
Going back to the Lakers’ 11-0 run to start the fourth (16-0 extended from the end of the third quarter)/the Hawks’ drought to begin the fourth...
Here’s the bottom line: Young has to rest at some point — he played 38 minutes in total and played just under 21 minutes in the second half out of a possible 24. The reason why you spend as much money as the Hawks did over the summer on the likes of Rajon Rondo and Danilo Gallinari is that they can (a) run the offense and create something and (b) to not shoot 2-of-10 from the field and commit three fourth quarter turnovers in three minutes as Danilo Gallinari did.
You can’t criticize Pierce for that: Young has to sit at some point and the players who were brought in to help alleviate the ball-handling and scoring responsibilities off of Young (and that’s not just Rondo and Gallinari) have to do better in doing just that.
What you could maybe challenge Pierce on was why he perhaps didn’t elect to use one of his four timeouts before the Hawks fell behind by 10 points — it seemed clear their offensive struggles weren’t going away in a hurry. But not for sitting Young for a few minutes to prevent him playing the entirety of the second half.
Obviously missing De’Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kris Dunn hurts right now but the Hawks had everything they needed to win this game against a Lakers team at the end of its seven game road-trip.
Turnovers also didn’t help the Hawks in this one: 17 turnovers leading to 21 Laker points (including six in the fourth quarter and 11 points for the Lakers. Collins and Young both eluded to the turnovers postgame and how the Hawks ‘needed to tidy some things up’, with Young taking responsibility for his turnovers, of which he committed seven of last night.
Something else of note was the Hawks’ free throws, or lack thereof. Not from Young, who shot 10-of-11 from the line, but until the fourth quarter when Huerter got himself to the line, the only Hawks who had attempted free throws up to that point were Young and Fernando — Collins nor Capela were able to get themselves to the line, which was unusual.
Elsewhere, just to quickly mention Reddish... He is still shooting some absolutely awful shots on the floor. Absolutely brutal shot selection at times en route to 3-of-8 last night, but Reddish did do well in his matchup against James. James shot 2-of-6 from the field when guarded by Reddish in just under seven minutes of total possession time in the matchup.
“I thought he did a tremendous job,” said Pierce of Reddish’s defensive job on James. “He’s upset to see him hit two threes late after struggling all game and not really getting going from there. The first one is tough, he chose to go under (the screen), it’s kind of a read and where it is — he’s flying off of the pin-down — and he gets the three and shoots it as he’s going under it. It’s a tough shot but I thought Cam did a tremendous job making him work all night. He was picking up in the full-court and trying to slow him down a little bit there and make him work before the possession starts. For LeBron to have 21 points is an accomplishment for anyone and I think Cam has something to do with that.”
Offensively, Reddish has been very disappointing (37% shooting from the field, 27% from three) and while he’s been strong defensively he’s been strong, the Hawks are going to need to rely somewhat on him to fill some of the scoring hole left in the absence of De’Andre Hunter. Defensively, he’s obviously capable but Reddish has to be better offensively — ‘better’ right now means not taking shots like this on two, three, four occasions a game:
A step-back shot, heavily contested by James? That’s just not a good shot. Throw in two other three-point attempts early in the clock, one contested by James, one contested by Davis too.
Reddish’s percentages would be so much better off if he didn’t attempt these kind of shots that have little-to-no hope of going in. ‘Be confident’ and all that but there’s a certain point where it just doesn’t work.
In any case, Reddish at least somewhat made up for his usually poor offense with a good performance defensively against James, and that’s pretty encouraging (I say ‘pretty encouraging and not ‘extremely encouraging’ because, let’s be honest, this is game seven of a seven game road-trip and LeBron is in year 18 in the regular season: he wasn’t exactly going all out here last night).
Overall, the Hawks can be pleased with how they reacted in the fourth quarter and how they made it a game once again with only a few minutes remaining but that’s what LeBron James does...
The Hawks (10-10) continue their four game homestand with a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
Until next time...