The Atlanta Hawks fell to 1-2 in the 2021 NBA Summer League with a Thursday night defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. Atlanta was led by the usual suspects on the Summer roster, which has quickly but not surprisingly evolved to being Sharife Cooper, Jalen Johnson and Skylar Mays.
This game was one the Hawks let slip out of their fingers a bit. They led almost the entire game, with the Sixers not leading for nearly 38 straight minutes of play after holding a 4-2 lead in the first. They hung close, however and regained the lead with 1:35 to go after a bucket from Tyrese Maxey. Maxey, to little surprise, was the star of this one for Philadelphia, posting 31 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. He also had two blocked shots and a steal.
Maxey scored seven straight points late in the fourth to keep the Sixers alive, and then helped nail down the win in the two-minute overtime period. Atlanta played a fairly solid game offensively but struggled to shoot from distance, as did Philadelphia. The two teams combined to go 14-of-65 (21.5%) from three in the game.
The Hawks were again paced by their 2021 second-round selection, Cooper, who controlled the tempo and pace of Atlanta’s offense across his team-high 33 minutes. Mays provided a nice scoring punch beside Cooper in the backcourt, but the 41 combined points between them was not enough to take home the win.
Cooper led the Hawks with 21 points and 12 assists (nine in the second half), controlling the show for Atlanta from the point guard position.
He started dishing right out of the gates with this alley-oop feed to Johnson:
First possession of the game?— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) August 13, 2021
“I feel like we started off well, floor game was pretty good in the beginning,” said Cooper of the team’s hot start. “We had some good looks, feel like we missed a couple shots but overall in the first half I thought we had a good half. Second half we kinda got away from our scheme,” Cooper added. “A little too much iso plays, a little careless on the offensive end from me.”
Cooper was also active and aggressive getting his own shot in the paint this game, converting several tough finishes near the rim.
Cooper’s passing, which is easily his best skill, was again mesmerizing, as he darted accurate bullets across the court on his way to the game-high 12 assists.
Sharife Cooper live dribble bullet skip pass, Lawson just can't convert the open 3. pic.twitter.com/kEU4p6ui0l— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) August 13, 2021
Another Sharife Cooper skip to the corner, this time for an assist... pic.twitter.com/wAEkEXv7si— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) August 13, 2021
“He’s a special player when the ball is in his hands in pick-and-roll,” said Hawks Summer League head coach Matt Hill of Cooper “...(He’s) continuing to grow in situational basketball, knowing what we need and when.”
Cooper was 9-of-18 from the floor (0-for-4 from 3PT) and 3-of-4 from the free throw line in the loss. He committed five turnovers, but mostly did a nice job running the offense for the Hawks and effectively setting guys up. Atlanta shot 46% from the floor despite shooting 23% from 3PT range.
The McEachern product also had the clutch, game-tying bucket that helped keep the Hawks alive late in regulation. He got to the rim and converted a layup with the left hand with just 7.9 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
Mays had 20 points for Atlanta in this one, with 14 of those coming before halftime. Mays shoot 8-of-15 from the floor and 2-of-8 from 3PT range.
14 first half points (and counting) pic.twitter.com/xawOkTivmH— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) August 13, 2021
Mays showed a nice touch inside the arc, as he was 6-of-7 from 2PT in the game.
The second-year guard was also part of this rather absurd alley-oop, which may have been a shot attempt by Mays, but nonetheless ended up as a dunk by South Carolina product A.J. Lawson.
Mays, a Two-Way player last season for Atlanta, is probably looking for an NBA contract and is technically currently a restricted free agent. He may have an inside track on one of the Hawks’ final open roster spots.
“His mentality was shifted a little bit the last two games, and that’s good to see,” said Hill of Mays. “We’re pushing Skylar to do even more, we want him to hold his teammates accountable, he’s been around with our team for a year now, so he knows what we’re about and what is going to be expected once September hits.”
“I think we have a lot to be excited about, the rooks are playing really well, played well all week,” said Mays after the loss. “We just gotta keep playing together, keep building chemisty and go from there, but we’re competing at a very high level I feel like.”
The third leading score in this game for Atlanta, Johnson, wasn’t as dominant on the offensive end as he looked at times in the first two Summer League games, but still had flashes of jaw-dropping athleticism.
Johnson also flashed his court vision on a few occasions in this one as well. He had just two assists, but overall made quality reads with the basketball more often than not. He seems to be a solid passer, especially when he has the ball in the interior, very aware of shooters.
Johnson finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, though to be honest he was outplayed by Paul Reed of the 76ers in the second half. Reed appeared to be the aggressor in that matchup, as he finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 2 steals. 14 of those points by Reed came in the second half.
DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell had 12 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes for the Hawks, including some nice hustle plays and a pair of offensive boards. Jordan Bell scored twice (4 points), with both made baskets being shots at the rim assisted by Cooper.
The Hawks will now play their final seeding game vs. Miami Heat on Saturday at 4 pm ET on ESPN 2. With two losses now, it seems very unlikely that Atlanta would be able to play themselves into the Summer League Championship game as their fifth game. They will play someone either Aug. 16 or Aug. 17, but it doesn’t appear it’ll be for the trophy.