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Jazz cruise past undermanned Hawks

NBA: Utah Jazz at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks are now 0-3 this week, with all three losses coming at home. The latest defeat came at the hands of the Utah Jazz, who blew past a short-handed Hawks group on Thursday evening. Trae Young, De’Andre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu were unable to suit up for Atlanta, while Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kris Dunn remain out.

Utah started the game on a 12-2 run, and largely controlled the entire game. The Hawks led once, by two points when it was 2-0, and never led again. The Jazz dominated most aspects of the game, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given their record and the fact that Young was sitting.

If you’re looking for positives, Atlanta’s defense was solid in the first half, holding the Jazz to just 45 points in the first two quarters. They also only committed 11 turnovers in the game. However, no starter finished better than -20 in the +/- department, exemplifying the dominant performance by Utah, who has now won 13 of their last 14.

“Tough night, we look like a team that’s missing a lot of offensive power and depth,” said head coach Lloyd Pierce in an opening statement following the game. “I thought our guys from a game plan standpoint tried to do what we wanted in the first half.”

Pierce continued to speak on the offensive struggles and the difficulty that entails in any game, but especially against a team like Utah, who currently possesses the best record in the NBA.

“Give up 45 down eight at half shooting 30%...execution of the game plan defensively was solid,” Pierce continued. “You shoot 30% for the game, and it’s going to be tough.”

Atlanta struggled mightily from the field, finishing the contest at 32.7% from the floor for the game. It was even worse for the first two-and-a-half quarters, as they began the contest 15-for-57 from the floor.

“Sometimes it just happens,” said Kevin Huerter. “Obviously it’s ugly, ugly game all around, kind of sloppy. We just didn’t make shots”.

Huerter did note he thought some of it was just missing, not a total lack of shot creation.

“We got some good looks, it wasn’t like we were generating nothing,” Huerter continued. “We didn’t make shots, we got a little bit stagnant.”

Huerter also spoke on how things adjust with Young out of the lineup.

“It’s an adjustment obviously, our offense has to change a lot,” said Huerter. “A lot of what we do is Trae and pick-and-rolls and everyone kind of feeding off of that, so when he’s out we gotta kind of pick it up and find it elsewhere. It’s tough, obviously you’re missing someone like Trae, someone like D-Hunt, the other guys that we have out, it’d be nice to get some of them back for sure.”

As Pierce noted, the defensive effort was good to start, but the Jazz did wind up scoring 112 points in the game, and 54 in the paint compared to just 36 paint points for the Hawks. This disparity was in no surprise largely due to the presence of Utah big man Rudy Gobert. Gobert, a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year, helped hold Clint Capela to 3-of-14 from the floor.

Rajon Rondo, who slotted into the starting lineup for Young, was unable to offer much of anything, scoring 0 points on 0-for-7 shooting from the floor. He did have eight assists, but was -28 and struggled mightily on the defensive end trying to reign in the Utah backcourt.

“Consistency in general in where you start,” Pierce said of missing Young and others. “With Trae, without Trae, we’re taking hits down the line. It’s hard to add consistency when there isn’t consistency with regards to our personnel. That’s the challenge... it affects everyone down the line.”

“You can’t prepare for that,” said forward John Collins. “When stuff like this happens it changes the the dynamic, changes the way we have to think about the game... you really can’t prepare, just have to have the next man up.”

Collins also spoke on the shooting struggles as well, citing Gobert and the Utah defensive effort.

“Obviously you gotta give credit where credit is due, Utah being a great defensive team,” said Collins. “On the other hand we got a lot of open shots, a lot of good shots that didn’t fall tonight.”

Utah held Atlanta to a 95.4 offensive rating, and a true shooting percentage of 42.8%. The Hawks shot a dreadful 34.3% from inside the arc, which is truly staggering, even without the presence of Young and Hunter.

Meanwhile, Utah shot 13-of-27 from three-point range in the contest, and nearly 50% from inside the arc. They were the much more efficient team on the offensive end, and it proved to be far too much to overcome for the undermanned Atlanta unit.

No one particularly had it rolling for Atlanta, with Collins leading all scorers with 17 points. Huerter added 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field. Capela had only six points, but did have 17 rebounds (eight offensive). Tony Snell got hot in the fourth quarter, going 4-for-4 from the three-point line in the period. Cam Reddish had 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting to go along with three assists and a steal.

Jordan Clarkson led the way with 23 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench for the Jazz, as he continues his campaign for NBA 6th man of the year. Gobert had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds, but more importantly controlled the game on the defensive end as he often does. Donovan Mitchell had 18 points and five assists in the win, while Bojan Bogdanovic had 21 points and six rebounds.

Utah was able to get to the rim at will, particularly in the second half. The Hawks provided a valiant effort on the defensive end for the first two quarters, but some halftime adjustments by Jazz head coach Quin Snyder appeared to open up the flood gates to the rim.

Atlanta will be back in action at home again Saturday evening, when they will host the Toronto Raptors. Toronto started the season in a miserable funk, but has won 6 of their last 10 to crawl back towards the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference standings.