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Hawks fall short down the stretch in disappointing loss to Kings

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A second successive defeat on the road for the Hawks

Atlanta Hawks v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks were unable to avenge Monday night’s defeat in Los Angeles, falling to the Sacramento Kings 110-108 at Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night.

For the Hawks Trae Young scored 29 points and dished out nine assists. Clint Capela added 25 points and 17 rebounds.

For the Kings, De’Aaron Fox scored 37 points while rookie Tyrese Haliburton added 17 points.

If you need to catch up on how the action unfolded for the game as a whole, you can do so here. Today, we’re jumping right into things.

It was a back and forth game throughout, but it was the Kings who took seized the advantage, taking an 11 point lead after an 11-0 run to the end of the third quarter. The Hawks — while Fox was on the bench — cut into the lead to begin the fourth quarter and eventually re-took the lead with a Bogdan Bogdanovic three-pointer in the corner.

After a split pair of free throws by Fox, the Hawks and Kings would be tied with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The first big play of the stretch came just as the clock ticked under the five minute mark, as Haliburton comes off of the screen before rising into the three-pointer. As he does, he’s hit on the arm by Kevin Huerter, and Haliburton hits the three plus the foul (which he would convert for the four-point play:

As I was watching this, I was thinking that Danilo Gallinari should have perhaps come over to help off of the screen but then that thought disappeared quickly as Huerter commits the foul. Four-point plays are never great to give up at any stage, let alone in the final five minutes in a close game — a big play in this game.

Immediately after that play, the Hawks come the other way with Young, who comes off of the screens from John Collins and Clint Capela before firing his pass to the weakside wing out of bounds:

It looked like things were beginning to unravel slightly at this point and the Kings would push their lead to six points as Fox receives the ball before driving to the free throw ling and hitting the tough, one-legged fadeaway jump shot:

The Hawks finally responded to bring the lead back to four points as Haliburton blows the rotation as, off of the pick-and-roll, Young finds Capela down the middle of the paint:

After a missed three from Fox, the Hawks collect the defensive rebound and it looked as though they were about to run when Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan called for a timeout with 3:40 remaining. I understand why he used it, since he was more than likely going to lose it (the Hawks had three timeouts remaining at the 3:40 mark) but it just looked strange as it happened.

Out of the timeout, the Kings decided to intentionally foul Capela and send him to the free throw line, where he splits the pair. Hield then proceeds to miss a three-pointer and, off of the miss, Young drives in transition and attacks the rim, switching to his left-hand as he converts the reverse layup:

Just a beautiful layup, such a smooth change of hands to make this play.

On the defensive end, however, things weren’t as smooth for Young in Sacramento. He had issues most of the night and was largely ineffective on this possession as Haliburton turns and fades in the paint:

It’s a nice shot from the rookie but Young just can’t deal with plays like this with his size and length: advantages that Haliburton boasts in this scenario and uses them to good effect.

Young, however, responds immediately as he gets inside to hit a floater to continue his fourth quarter charge:

After a shooting foul from De’Andre Hunter sends Fox to the free throw line — where he’d make both free throws — the Kings again intentionally foul Capela, who again splits the pair.

With 2:12 left on the clock, it was the Kings’ last chance to do so and I’d say, overall, this ended up working in their favor. Sure, Capela got the Hawks a point on both possessions but in a tight game, it’s possible the Kings saved themselves 2-4 points overall (depending if the Hawks hit their shots/if those shots were threes).

On the pick-and-roll, Haliburton finds Harrison Barnes on the roll but he’s well contested by Collins at the rim and Collins forces the miss. As Barnes shoots, Capela leaves his feet to also challenge the shot. As the shot is missed and the ball comes back into play, Capela is now in a situation where he is, essentially, no where in the play and he’s not able to get into position to prevent Richaun Holmes sticking back the second chance opportunity:

A bit of a wild sequence of ensue as Bogdanovic misses the contested three-pointer, which falls short. Off of the miss, Capela challenges for the rebound, Collins saves the ball but straight to the Kings and Haliburton launches the ball forward to Buddy Hield, who can’t control the ball and possession returns to the Hawks:

A decent outcome for the Hawks because it wasn’t the best shot from Bogdanovic but, in the end, they were able to come away with another possession.

With that possession, Young attempts to get inside but is cut-off, as is his dribble. He then finds Gallinari in the corner, whose snap pass back to the top to the open Bogdanovic leads to a big three-pointer:

Prior to this possession, the Hawks inserted Gallinari back into the game for Capela, and Gallinari is given the go-around by Barnes, attracting the attention of Collins as the help defender. Barnes then adjusts, and finds Holmes on the baseline for the floater to give the Kings a three point lead:

Young responds with a 35 footer, draining his first three of the night to tie the game with 53 seconds remaining:

While Young hit the shot, it would be remiss of me to point how questionable of a shot this actually was to take in this moment, down three with under a minute to go and with Young 0-of-6 on threes up to this point. Certainly not ideal in terms of shot selection... but he made it!

Defensively, again, Young was unable to prevent a foul being committed on Haliburton, Young called for the shooting foul which would send Haliburton to the free throw line:

This ended up being the go-ahead, winning free throws for the Kings as the score would remain the same at 110-108.

Off of the made free throws, the Hawks called for timeout. Out of it, it’s hard to see what the Hawks drew up because Young beats Fox off of the dribble — with Tony Snell, Bogdanovic and Gallinari on the perimeter, with Collins inside — but misses his floater:

To respond, Hield airballs a three and the Hawks use their final timeout with 6.2 left on the clock.

Bogdanovic inbounds the ball to the backcourt to Young, who receives the down screen from Collins. Young drives into the paint and has the beating of Fox after the screen. Critically, Fox manages to get a hand on the ball and strips it out of bounds, forcing the Hawks to reset out of bounds with no timeouts with just 1.3 seconds remaining:

From there, the Hawks get the ball to Gallinari, whose fake to free himself results in time expiring (and his shot is missed anyways):

Not really Gallinari’s fault on that one, not a ton he could really do in that scenario. Would’ve been a very tough shot had he taken it immediately.

Postgame, McMillan believed his team settled offensively in the second half, also stating that the Hawks didn’t establish their defense on the game.

“I thought we really settled on the perimeter in that second half,” said McMillan postgame. “We didn’t continue to keep the pressure on their defense. We took some quick, long threes. Defensively we never established our defense where we were getting stops. Fox, pretty much, had his way I thought most of the night. When we did get a switch where they had a matchup, they pretty much won that matchup tonight. Attacking us, isolation basketball, playing in the paint, making big shots. We never established that defense. We were able to get back into the game and tie the ball-game but we needed to get a big stop, we sent them to the free throw (line). I thought it really started with us in the third quarter, only 17 points in that third quarter. I thought we were settling. We had matchups and we didn’t attack the basket enough.”

“We had matchups that we were posting some guys,” McMillan elaborated. “It gave John a couple of attempts down there, Gallo we started to post-up in the second half, Trae has some opportunities. I thought we settled as a group. We didn’t continue to try to keep the pressure on their defense and attack those guys.”

I’d assume that McMillan is referring to Young, at least somewhat, here in terms of settling from the perimeter but all in all it just wasn’t a good night for the Hawks from distance — settled shots or not.

The Hawks shot 7-of-25 from distance — Young shot 1-of-7, Snell only had one three-point attempt on the game (which came in the first quarter) and missed, Collins also missed his sole attempt from the outside, Gallinari went 0-of-3 and Hunter was 0-for-2.

Huerter — who handled backup point guard responsibilities, with Rajon Rondo unable to play last night due to right adductor soreness — shot 2-of-4 while Bogdanovic shot 4-of-6 from distance and that was, essentially, all of the Hawks’ three-pointers from last night.

When the Hawks hit less than 10 three-pointers in a game, they’re 2-7. While they did score a lot of paint points (58 of them) and got to the free throw line 23 times, scoring 19 second chance points (15 coming from Capela) their lack of success from outside the arc really let them down on the game as a whole.

Even though the Hawks scored 34 fourth quarter points, they still missed crucial shots down the stretch and couldn’t get the stops they needed to either.

“...us collectively, just being connected on the defensive end of the floor, working to keep the ball in front of us, weak-side, rotating and rotating early and boxing out. They made plays when they had to and we needed to get stops, we needed to make buckets and we didn’t do that,” said McMillan.

Fox absolutely ripped through the Hawks, scoring 37 points on 13-of-20 from the field, including 24 in the first half.

Fox did make some very difficult shots, to his credit, but in general, life was a little too easy for Fox offensively.

“He’s tough, he’s been tough and he’s working hard on his game. I always tell him he doesn’t understand how good he is,” said Bogdanovic of Fox. “Whenever he wants, he can go drive by anybody and usually he gets fouled. He’s tough to guard. He’s been working on his game.”

It was another disappointing end to a game for the Hawks against an opponent they were certainly favored heading. While the Kings were winners of three of the last four games (now four in their last five), the Hawks missed a big opportunity to pick up a win on their Western Conference road trip.

“Against these teams, they’re tough ... they’re a tough team,” said Bogdanovic. “Maybe the record doesn’t show it but I know they’re a tough team. They compete. At the beginning when you don’t put the pressure up and when you don’t play hard from the beginning you can’t catch up with them later because they play with the fast pace, they’re running a lot, moving a lot. In the end it was a one possession game: we could go to overtime and maybe win in overtime but in the end it’s one shot. I feel like we shouldn’t let ourselves get in that position.”

Bogdanovic eludes to an interesting point... I really thought — given how the Hawks lost Monday’s game and the feeling in the locker room to that — that the Hawks would come out pissed off in what should have been a revenge game. Coming off of that loss to Clippers, to come against a Kings side which is historically bad defensively, it was disappointing to see the Hawks come out as they did in this game. If we (collectively) are to begin talking about the Atlanta Hawks as a playoff team, they have to be held to a higher standard — their response to Monday’s defeat wasn’t great: this was a pretty bad loss for them in one of the most winnable spots for them on this road trip.

Bogdanovic was a huge positive from this game overall in what was his return to Golden 1 Center for the first time since he left in the ‘summer’ for the Hawks in restricted free agency, scoring 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from three. Capela also had a very strong game, especially on offense, and he was everywhere in the first half. He and Collins proved an effective duo but less so in the second half. In fact, Collins — who scored 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting — only attempted one field goal in the entire second half.

Hunter struggled last night — shooting 1-of-7 from the field — as he continues to ramp up his activity, playing just under 26 minutes last night. Hunter showed some great defensive moments but did struggle — as did everyone — while guarding Fox at times.

All in all, a disappointing loss for the Hawks, who fall to 1-2 on their road trip. They didn’t really play that poorly (aside from their three-point shooting numbers and their defense of Fox at times) and Kings weren’t stellar themselves. It was a very even basketball game but therein lies the problem... it probably shouldn’t have been. On 30 occasions this season, the Kings have conceded 115 points or more — the Hawks will be very disappointed not to make this the 31st instance.


The Hawks (22-22) are back in action on Friday against the Golden State Warriors, who are set to be without Stephen Curry. With Curry unavailable for the home team, it would immediately swing further into another very winnable spot for the Hawks on the road.

Until next time...