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Toronto punishes Hawks’ sloppiness in ugly loss

The Hawks were throttled in fastbreak situations.

Atlanta Hawks v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks continued their five-game road trip but came up short in Toronto, falling to the Raptors 139-109 at Scotiabank Arena on Monday night.

Pascal Siakam led all scorers with 31 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, while both Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. added 21 points apiece for the Raptors, who were without starting point guard Fred VanVleet.

For the Hawks, Dejounte Murray scored 20 points to go with nine assists, Trae Young added 14 points and 10 assists.

The Hawks have not fared well in this fixture heading north having lost their last six visits to Toronto and last night proved no exception as they lost their seventh consecutive game in Toronto. The Hawks had to climb out of a double digit deficit and even with just under half of the third quarter remaining the Hawks only trailed by four points. The rest of the third quarter, however, the Raptors eased away from the Hawks with a 13-0 run to put the distance they needed heading into the fourth quarter.

The Raptors did most of their damage at the free throw line during that last 5:39, shooting 10-of-10 from the line to offset their 2-of-12 shooting from the field in that period. Unfortunately for the Hawks they shot a similarly poor rate to end the third, 2-of-10, as the Raptors outscored the Hawks 15-4 during that 5:39.

It didn’t take the Raptors long to stretch that lead to 20 points in the fourth quarter, with the Hawks clearing out their bench with over half of the fourth quarter remaining before eventually losing by 30 points.

What stood out of course was the Raptors’ transition scoring: 43 fastbreak points to go along with 24 points off of turnovers as Toronto came up with 13 steals from 18 Atlanta turnovers.

The Raptors lead the league in fastbreak points — this is what they do. But what may have been more of a surprise was the Raptors’ pace from last night. Prior to last night’s game, the Raptors were 29th in the league in pace at 95.42.

Last night, the Raptors had a pace of 103 and a big reason for this was the Raptors — especially in the first half — were very quick to spring into their offense and got so many opportunities in the first seven or so seconds of the shotclock, be it in turnover situations or just walking into opportunities.

Let’s look at these from the first half, the Raptors scoring 26 fastbreak points in the first half which was mentioned multiple times from the Hawks in their postgame comments.

Heading down the floor, Young tries to go for the steal, fails, and leaves behind a chasm defensively, the Hawks swarm to the oncoming Gary Trent Jr., De’Andre Hunter covers the corner and Scottie Barnes walks into a three-pointer early in the clock:

Poor transition defense from Atlanta there.

Barnes had hit two threes before this next possession and he’s allowed enough space from Hunter on the switch to rise into another one as the Raptors again find themselves with a quick shot:

The Raptors generate their own fast offense on this possession as OG Anunoby creates the turnover, takes it down the floor and is fouled from behind by Murray and would convert both free throws:

Another steal from the Raptors on this next possession as Trent Jr., gets a hand on the pass from Onyeka Okongwu and finishes another fastbreak opportunity for the Raptors:

Immediately following a Young basket, Siakam drives crosses Young over and drives by Collins to get to the rim and finish seven seconds into the clock:

“You’ve got to get up and guard to get pressure on the ball, keep the ball in front of us” said Nate McMillan postgame via Bally Sports. “They got pretty much whatever they wanted; penetration to the basket, to the free throw line, they were knocking down their threes, transition. They pretty much got what they wanted.”

Toronto playing five-out as they often do takes the shot-blocker (Okongwu in this case) away from the rim, so when Siakam beats Collins on the drive there’s no help defense to contest the shot at the rim.

Immediately following that Siakam drive, the Hawks turn the ball over through Young (one of his 10 turnovers last night) and Barnes finds Precious Achiuwa in transition for another fastbreak basket:

Not long after that possession (and a Hawks timeout), the Raptors find themselves another quick shot as Malachi Flynn finds Chris Boucher for a three-pointer:

Such a simple action from the Raptors and between Jalen Johnson, Justin Holiday and AJ Griffin the Hawks make a hash of communicating defensively and where they should be.

After a Hawks basket, they’re undone defensively with one screen from Siakam on Young, allowing Flynn to rise into a jumper with little time having come off the clock:

Another Young turnover leads to another Raptors transition basket as Boucher towers for the steal and takes it all the way to the rim for the dunk:

Off of one of the Raptors’ nine blocks, they come again in transition as Siakam finds Anunoby for the basket at the rim:

Poor from Collins on this occasion as he gets caught ball-watching and loses Anunoby.

More quick offense from the Raptors after a Hawks miss but this time it’s Trent Jr., hitting a tough, contested three-pointer:

An example of a shot the Hawks can live with to an extent; it was a tough shot.

Next, a great defensive play from Anunoby as he pries the ball away from Hunter, bodies him as he takes it to the rim for another basket off of a steal:

The Raptors go 2-for-1 as Barnes brings the ball up and rises into a three-pointer:

It’s a contested shot but the Raptors had more than a few shots they just walked into similar to this; it’s overall just poor from the Hawks defensively to have allowed as many quick — and in some cases easy — baskets from the Raptors and not just in live-turnover situations.

All of that took place in the first half; 14 points off of turnovers and 26 fastbreak points and it paved the way for the Raptors to take victory. That, and Trae Young’s struggles offensively.

Young scored just 14 points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field, 1-of-5 from three and while his 10 free throws and 10 assists helped, 10 turnovers certainly did not. The Raptors love to switch and double and they’ve been a tough out for Young at times and last night was another example of that.

Young, of course, wasn’t the only Hawk who struggled offensively — Hunter shot 4-of-10 and struggled with foul trouble and Collins scored just 12 points — but as the Hawks’ leading scorer it’s going to be more difficult for the Hawks when he struggles.

There were some positives however.

Johnson had some solid moments in the first half, such as this aggressive move that led to free throws:

Johnson also had this play in the first half as he receives the ball in the corner and fakes his way into an open shot near the baseline and connects:

Okongwu also produced a few highlight plays for the visitors, including this block on Christian Koloko as the help defender:

And then on the help on the Siakam drive:

Outside of that, not a lot of positives for the Hawks — one of those nights in Toronto.

Postgame, McMillan bemoaned his team’s lack of urgency compared to the Raptors, as well as conceding another 40+ point quarter and, of course, the Hawks’ turnovers which led to 43 transition points for the Raptors.

“Sloppy play throughout the night with our turnovers,” said McMillan. “I thought they play with more urgency, more scrap than we did tonight. It was that way pretty much for 48 minutes. When you’re supposed to be getting stronger we give up a 44 point fourth quarter, 43 points in fastbreak points. Not taking care of the ball, playing loose with the basketball and a team like this will pound you, as they did.”

We looked at a bunch of defensive clips where the Hawks failed to show that urgency and McMillan elaborated on that lack of urgency when he was asked about turnovers.

“Not executing, not connected out there on both ends of the floor,” said McMillan. “Defensively, help defense needed to come over a little quicker, do a better of job of guarding the ball, do a better job of rebounding the basketball. Offensively, that team is switching and we were just sloppy with the basketball.”

“From the beginning our aggressivity wasn’t there enough, especially turnover-wise,” added Clint Capela when asked about the Hawks’ turnovers, via Bally Sports. “When you play on the road and teams get turnovers like that they feed off of it. They did that, they did it again and again and again which was not allowing us to get back in this game.”

McMillan also referenced urgency when it came to the Raptors’ free throw disparity — shooting 33-of-40 from the line to the Hawks’ 20-of-25.

“I thought it was more urgency coming from them,” said McMillan on the Raptors’ free throw advantage. “They played harder, they out-scrapped us. When you’re playing with that pace as they did you’re going to get the benefit of the whistle. They were the aggressors as far as going to the basket, getting to the paint, getting to the free throw line.”

Something McMillan often references in his postgame interviews is tempo, but last night Capela was the one to make reference to tempo and talked about how the Hawks were not able to establish theirs defensively.

“Whenever a team is able to score 23 fastbreak points in the half and feed off of it, feed off turnovers and we were never able to establish our tempo and they were always coming back,” said Capela. “It’s really hard on the road when you’re not able to establish your tempo, to be out there and bring the intensity.”

The Raptors deserve a lot of credit for how they played, especially in the absence of Fred VanVleet. Their length up and down the roster is made to create problems defensively, switch, swarm, deflect passes, create steals and block shots.

“This is something that, tonight, we were not able to adjust to enough to win the game,” said Capela when asked about the Raptors’ length. “They use that to their advantage. Some nights we’re able to take advantage, tonight we weren’t able to and I think that’s why we weren’t never really able to come back in this game. We’re definitely going to have to be better and be able to — when we play them again — be able to take advantage of what we have with our speed. This is how we’re going to win games.”

Ultimately, it leads back to how the Raptors scored those 23 fastbreak points in the first half but leaving themselves with a double-digit hole to begin the second half didn’t help the Hawks, who struggled for stops as the Raptors shooting 50% from the floor.

“We started well,” said Capela of the second half. “We had a couple of buckets but like I said we were never really able to establish our tempo defensively, we never were able to make stops. When you’re already down 10, 11 at half and then you can’t make a stop coming back from the locker-room in the second half you don’t give yourself a lot of chances to win the game, especially on the road like that whenever in the first half they create a lot of turnovers, 23 points on the fastbreak, it’s just hard. If you don’t do it you don’t win, that’s why we didn’t win tonight.”

As we’ve looked at, a combination of the Hawks’ lack of defensive urgency to stop the ball early in the clock and make the Raptors work harder for their offense combined with the Hawks’ sloppiness with their turnovers and Toronto’s ability to create them culminated in this heavy defeat — it’s been a tough fixture of late for the Hawks, especially four games into their five-game trip.

The Hawks (4-3) are back in action on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks as they wrap up their five-game road trip.

Should be a hoot as always at the Garden.

Until next time...