The Atlanta Hawks were unable to return to winning form as they fell short in Texas on Sunday evening, falling 103-94 to the Dallas Mavericks.
John Collins led the Hawks with 22 points and 18 rebounds, Trae Young added 17 points and 11 assists. For the Mavericks, Reggie Bullock and Jalen Brunson scored 22 points each while Luka Doncic added 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
The Hawks entered this game with solid factors seemingly swinging in their favor, mostly in the frontcourt as the Mavericks were without Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber, and early on in the game it looked as though the Hawks would be able create opportunities in the paint for the likes of Collins, Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu on a consistent basis.
However, as the game unfolded the theme that developed was Dallas’ foul trouble, with Luka Doncic picking up three fouls in the first half. The Mavericks elected to leave Doncic in the game and he proceeded to pick up his fourth foul before the end of the first half. The Hawks would receive another boost in the third quarter as Doncic picked up his fifth foul within the first minute of the second half and was forced to return to the bench with those five fouls. The Maverick that had been rolling up to that point, Jalen Brunson, also ran into foul trouble, picking up his fifth foul by the mid-point of the third quarter.
By this point, the Hawks were already in bonus (having been so since with over eight minutes remaining) and with both Doncic and Brunson out of the game, the Hawks were presented with an unique opportunity in Dallas — already missing key personnel, minus Tim Hardaway Jr. in addition to their frontcourt absences.
Trey Burke entered the game for Brunson and made a strong impact for the hosts who were searching for scoring options in the absence of their leading scorers and while the Hawks fell behind by eight points they fought back to clear that deficit before the Mavericks took a four point into the fourth quarter after a Reggie Bullock three.
The Hawks missed a lot of shots to begin the fourth quarter, their first basket coming at the 9:16 and with the Mavericks similarly not scoring in the same stretch, it can be considered as one of the missed opportunities for the Hawks.
Doncic and Brunson returned to proceedings for the stretch run where we’ll pick things up at the 4:29 mark in the fourth quarter where a Trae Young floater has cut the Mavericks lead to just two points:
The Mavericks respond immediately as Doncic finds Dwight Powell on the pick-and-roll at the rim:
Confusion in the Hawks’ defense as Collins appears to be trapped in two minds. He glances behind him to see Young behind him and seems to be OK with allowing Powell to pass through after tagging him as he goes through the lane and Collins — originally guarding Dorian Finney-Smith — is conscious of his perimeter man and his disappointment is clear to see after the basket is made, and the Hawks call for timeout.
Arguably the worst outcome for the Hawks out of said-timeout as they turn the ball over, leading to a Mavericks fastbreak and a Bullock basket as Kevin Huerter is called for a goal-tend:
To Bullock’s credit, he telegraphs the De’Andre Hunter pass from the wing to Huerter and both the Hawks broadcast and the ESPN broadcast firmly believed that the layup attempt from Bullock would have rolled off of the rim but with Huerter’s goal-tend the two points are automatic for Dallas, extending their lead to six points.
The Hawks find themselves unable to respond as they get a decent look at a three from Young off of the Collins screen but — as with most shots Young took last night — it’s off-line and missed:
One of the better quality shots Young took last night, despite the time on the clock — it was a decently open look.
Playing just under 10 minutes in the second half, Doncic scores just his fourth point of the second half as he takes Clint Capela off of the dribble and hits the floater to increase the Mavericks’ lead:
Young’s attempts to get the Hawks back on the board end quickly as he drives into Bullock, falls to the floor and the Mavericks quickly swarm to force the jump-ball:
I can understand why Young was less than happy after being, essentially, man-handled off of the floor when the jump-ball was already called. Bullock subsequently won the jump-ball and the turnover is officially credited to Young.
After a missed Doncic three, the Hawks finally get back on the score-sheet as the balls breaks somewhat fortuitously as the unintended give-and-go between Hunter and Collins results in a Hunter basket at the rim:
The Mavericks respond with a three-pointer as they move the ball nicely from the perimeter to the wing to Brunson in the corner at the end of the shotclock:
Defensively, a lack of communication here from the Hawks. As they rotate it becomes clear that Hunter — who ends up guarding no one — and either he or Danilo Gallinari (once Doncic passes the ball) should be the one to drop into paint. Instead, it’s Kevin Huerter who has to leave Brunson to protect the rim from Bullock’s drive and Gallinari’s closeout on Brunson is unable to deter him from making the three.
Collins found success in the paint last night and tries again to score inside but his floater against Powell rolls off the rim:
The Mavericks would go on to hit the dagger as Doncic drives out of the pick-and-roll and is forced to pass as Collins tries to draw an offensive foul on Doncic (which would be his sixth) and finds Bullock in the corner, who fakes Young to shed him and hits the dagger-three:
A 12-2 run to end any Hawks hopes of a victory in Dallas; a victory that was certainly there for the taking long before the stretch run and another game that got away from the Hawks; which was certainly the sentiment postgame. From Hawks head coach Nate McMillan’s perspective, the missed opportunity was there to see when Doncic ran into foul trouble.
“I thought the game was a missed opportunity,” said McMillan. “Certainly that was a missed opportunity when Luka went out. Those guys — I’ve seen a lot of times when the best player go out — they rise to the occasion and they got even more aggressive defending, offensively running their offense and executing. But yes, it was a missed opportunity.”
“I thought they out-scrapped us the entire game,” added McMillan. “I thought they wanted it more. The urgency for the 48 minutes, they came with more urgency and played with more urgency. It wasn’t just the fourth quarter, they pretty much controlled the game throughout.”
From Young’s point of view, the Hawks’ poor shooting — and his own shots — also lead into the Hawks squandering a chance to win this game. Young himself shot 6-of-19 from the field and 0-of-6 from three.
“I think we had a missed opportunity but we didn’t shoot the ball great tonight,” said Young. “It was one of those nights where you don’t the shoot ball great and it sucks. I didn’t shoot it good tonight at all and thought I had some good looks and some open shots I normally hit. I wish I could get them back and knock them down but I didn’t shoot it good tonight.”
The Hawks shot 5-of-25 from three; their tied worst-outing in terms of three-point makes this season.
“I thought we settled,” said McMillan. “I thought we settled throughout the game, right from the start. I felt it was a team that we could attack and get into the paint but we settled for the perimeter, the long-ball tonight. At the half, I think we had only six free throw attempts. It was that type of game. The urgency to be aggressive, attacking the basket, attacking the paint; we never established that game, and when we did we had success.”
“They went to a zone and when you’re going against a zone you’ve got to knock down some shots and that’s why they go to it,” noted Young of the Mavericks’ defense.
McMillan mentioned the Hawks’ free throws, and this may have been one of the bigger missed items from the game in terms of ‘missed opportunities.’ The Hawks found themselves in a fantastic situation in the second half in that with over eight minutes to go in the third quarter they were in the bonus. With five minutes to go in the fourth quarter they found themselves in that situation once again: over 13 of the 24 second half minutes the Hawks were in the bonus. The Hawks were in the bonus longer than Luka Doncic was on the court in the second half. Despite that, the Hawks only registered nine free throw attempts in the second half, only just edging the Mavericks’ eight attempts from the line in the second half — leaning further into McMillan’s sentiment of settling on offense.
Young took a number of quick shots on offense and McMillan believed the Hawks’ quick trigger at times played into the Mavericks’ hands defensively with how they deploy their defensive scheme, with McMillan wanting his side to be aggressive and take advantage of the Mavericks’ absences.
“Our game-plan was to attack, to be aggressive,” said McMillan. “The way they defend, they play somewhat of a soft defense: they pack it in and they’re OK with you taking contested shots, so the game-plan was to attack and to be aggressive and not bail them out playing defense by taking the quick, contested shots. That was our game-plan and we did not execute that tonight. Those shots weren’t falling and they were able to control the game.”
It must, of course, be noted that Young was not the only Hawk to struggle shooting the ball — most of them struggled.
Bogdanovic shot 2-of-10 from the field, Huerter’s hot start quickly fizzled as he shot 4-of-13 and Hunter was only 4-of-11 from the field.
“I wish I could tell you in terms of shooting,” said Collins postgame. “I always feel confident in us shooting. Always feel confident if three guys aren’t hitting then the other three are. Today wasn’t the case with that but that’s how shooting is in this league: not easy to do, a lot of pressure situations.”
A lot is obviously being said of the Hawks missing the chance to win a very winnable game — which is fair — but the Dallas Mavericks do deserve credit because they were very active defensively and made affairs difficult for the Hawks on offense. Dwight Powell in that zone defense I thought played very well and knew where to be and how to be effective. Sure, John Collins scored a lot of points but his rotations at times on Young drives to prevent penetration was really solid.
Unlike the Hawks, the Mavericks’ other personnel stepped up in the absence of Doncic for much of the second half. Jalen Brunson shot 64% from the field, which was far too high for the Hawks to allow and Bullock’s six three-pointers were both enormous (given that the Hawks only hit five threes for the entire game) and timely.
From three-point range, the Mavericks outscored the Hawks 48-15: a large disparity indeed — the Hawks shooting just 1-of-10 from three in the second half — and the Hawks’ 56-32 advantage in the paint was not enough to offset the difference from three.
Collins — as could have been predicted — excelled in his matchup, scoring 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field to go with a season-high 18 rebounds. Collins was one of only a few Hawks who played well last night with another solid outing for Capela in 20 minutes of action and Gallinari made a solid impact in the third quarter. But across the board the Hawks just weren’t good enough offensively to deserve victory.
“We know we’ve got to be better,” said McMillan. “It’s too late in the season to let these games slip away. We have to be better, we have to be hungrier and come out and take these games and play with the execution in order to do so.”
Not a great loss by any means but the sentiment floating after the game that this was the ‘worst’ loss of the season I think is perhaps a little extreme. It was a bad loss, absolutely, but in a season with more losses than wins there have been worse losses.
The Hawks (25-28) are back in action on Tuesday when they’ll take on the Indiana Pacers (19-36) at State Farm Arena in an, on paper, winnable spot — we shall see.
Until next time...