The Atlanta Hawks wrapped up their six game road trip in Los Angeles with a loss against the Los Angeles Clippers at crypto.com Arena on Sunday afternoon, 106-93.
Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks — without Clint Capela — in scoring with 19 points apiece, while Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot added 14 points.
For the Clippers — without Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Luke Kennard, Justise Winslow and Isaiah Hartenstein — Amir Coffey tied his career-high with 21 points while Serge Ibaka scored 16 points as seven Clippers players scored in double-digits.
The Hawks entered this contest as favorites, despite the absence of Capela (ruled out with an ankle sprain) at the end of a long road trip but fell behind at the end of the first quarter before the Clippers took a double-digit lead early in the second quarter. The Hawks fought to reduce that lead to six points at the half and brought the gap down to two points in the third quarter but that was as close as the Hawks got in the second half as the Clippers once again extended their lead into double-digits.
Defense has been the major talking point for the Hawks this season but it was their offense that let them down in the third quarter where the Hawks shot 2-of-9 for just six points in the final six minutes of the third quarter and it was here that the Clippers ran their lead back to double-digits.
Let’s take a look at some of those misses in the final six minutes of the third.
To start off, Bogdanovic gets a good look at a three in the corner but is unable to convert:
Onyeka Okongwu sets a good albeit slightly moving screen to open Bogdanovic up for that attempt in the corner.
Next, John Collins — who was scoreless in the first half — attempts a hook inside after the drive but is defended well by Coffey and the shot rolls off the rim:
Operating the pick-and-roll with Okongwu, Bogdanovic comes off the screen to get inside the paint but his attempted floater is well contested by Ivica Zubac and Bogdanovic’s floater falls short:
The Hawks had cut the lead to single-digits but couldn’t cut into further on this possession as Young’s deep three also falls short of the rim and goes out of bounds:
The Clippers ran their lead back to double-digits and the Hawks couldn’t reduce it on this offensive trip to end the third as Collins’ attempt inside is met with a swarm of Clipper defenders:
The Hawks missed some good shots in the third quarter (including a couple of shots earlier in the third that rolled out which would have tied the game) but down the stretch in the third quarter they took some tough/well defended shots. The Clippers defended well to end the quarter and were able to run their lead back to double-digits, which they basically held the entirety of the fourth quarter as the two sides traded baskets.
In the end, the Hawks were unable to combine offensive makes and defensive stops and couldn’t launch a comeback, with the Hawks eventually waving the white flag with about two and a half minutes to go as they ended their road trip with a disappointing defeat.
Despite the defeat to the shorthanded Clippers, the Hawks did play much better defensively. Now, some of that probably can be put down to the fact the Clippers didn’t really have a lot of offensive talent on display (and even then the Hawks allowed Coffey to ignite and seven players to score in double-figures) but the effort on defense at the end of a long road trip looked better and there was a lot of switching from the Hawks.
With Hawks head coach Nate McMillan still not with the team, acting head coach Chris Jent was satisfied that the Hawks’ efforts had improved.
“I thought overall our attention to detail and our effort was better,” said Jent postgame.
There was a general consensus from the Hawks that their defense was better but their offense was what let them down last night.
“Before the game we talked about how this game is important to go .500 on this road trip, obviously we didn’t make it” said Bogdanovic postgame. “Nothing to say. Another loss. I think we played better defensively but we didn’t execute offensively tonight, or maybe we were not aggressive enough, a couple of turnovers and some momentum on the game and when they took that momentum and when they got a lead somehow we couldn’t come back. Whenever we got close we made a bad play or something.”
Young posted a 92.9 offensive rating on the game as his streak of scoring 25 or more points in a game came to an end yesterday as he shot 8-of-21 from the field.
“Honestly, a lot,” said Young when asked what needs to change. “We got stops today. They scored 106 points, we didn’t score, we scored 93 points. Today was a different problem. It’s hard to say that because we were talking about getting stops last game and today we got stops today, I just didn’t score,” Young continued. “I think it’s just finding the median and doing it. I don’t like talking about it, I like leading by example anyways, I just want to do it; I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
Jent was pleased that the Hawks were able to limit the Clippers in transition, particularly in the first half where the Clippers were unable to score any fastbreak points (before scoring 10 in the second half).
“When we can keep people out of transition, we give ourselves a chance and tonight we did that,” said Jent. “We hold them to zero fastbreak points in the first half. They were hot from the three-point line but yet we give ourselves a chance. I think that has been a determining factor a lot of the times between those ups and downs.”
Nine of the Clippers 12 made three-pointers came in the first half, as Jent alluded to.
The Hawks got drawn towards the ball/the paint for some of these three-pointers but the Clippers hit a few contested threes as well.
With Zubac on the ball inside, Bogdanovic get drawn inside to the ball and when it’s thrown back out to Coffey on the perimeter, he has an good look at a three:
In this defensive possession, Danilo Gallinari gets drawn to the rim and when the ball swing to the corner to Coffey, the rotation from Cam Reddish isn’t enough to deter Coffey from hitting the three:
On the drive from Coffey this time, Reddish gets drawn to the drive and when the ball is kicked out to Nicolas Batum, Reddish is left to scramble on a contest that doesn’t prove effective as Batum hits the three:
As the Clippers move the ball on the perimeter, Collins and Bogdanovic are not quite on a string with their rotations as Bogdanovic hesitates on his rotation to Coffey as Collins rotates to the corner and Coffey hits the three:
The Hawks fared better in the second half on defending the three-point line but by then offense was their main concern.
Defensively, Capela was missed but Okongwu was largely fine yesterday in a starting capacity, playing 37 minutes. It remains to be seen if Capela will miss any additional time but Okongwu acquitted himself decently in his absence. I thought perhaps we might see more of Collins at center than we did but the Zubac matchup probably lent itself to seeing more of Okongwu with Jent saying they matched Zubac’s minutes with Okongwu.
There were a number of Hawks who struggled yesterday but they can be encouraged with the play of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was arguably the Hawks’ best player yesterday and came out with the aggression he alluded to postgame.
The Hawks were already down in their rotation after Lou Williams was made inactive prior to the game.
“It was coming out of respect,” said Jent on Williams being inactive. “Lou was not in the rotation today and rather have him in uniform and not play we had him inactive.”
The Hawks were not helped in their rotation as Cam Reddish sustained an ankle injury during the game, limiting him to just three minutes of action on Sunday. Jent revealed after the game that it was the same ankle that Reddish had injured previously but did not offer any further information than that and Reddish’s status ahead of Wednesday’s game is currently unclear.
Until then, the Hawks are left to ponder on this loss and how they can get their season on track but maintain the belief is still there.
“I really do, I really do think we believe but at the same time you have to have some kind of ‘feel-good’,” said Jent. “Something has to give you momentum. I think there is that belief, I know we have confidence in one another, we just have to break through. That takes everyone together, working towards a goal.”
It’s been a tough road trip for the Hawks, a trip that has seen a lot of different faces come and go and Jent reflected postgame on how the separation has impacted the Hawks.
“It’s been tough because we haven’t been together,” said Jent. “I think that separation has really hurt us with having nine, ten, eight, seven, five guys out. What helped us last year was continuity. We had a group together who really didn’t feel the effects of Covid, pretty much stayed intact and we’ve seen a totally different animal this year. I think it’s hard to do everything collectively as a group when you’re apart a lot. We just have to find a way.”
Bogdanovic was a little more blunt in his comments postgame.
“We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and accept that we’re playing bad right now,” said Bogdanovic. “We cannot say we are a good team right now because we are not.”
The Hawks can be happy that they’re finally finished with this road trip and a 2-4 record could honestly have been worse. Arguably they probably should have finished with a 4-2 record (the Portland and Clippers games were certainly winnable) but with their absences, it could have easily been worse. Similar to the Hawks’ road trip earlier in the season where they went winless, all that matters is that it’s finished and with 10 of their next 12 games at home they can look to get their season on track.
The Hawks (17-22) are back in action on Wednesday for the first game of a ‘home-and-home’ with the Miami Heat (25-15).
Until next time...