The Atlanta Hawks began their Western Conference road trip on Monday night with a tough loss against the Golden State Warriors in double overtime, 143-141, stretching their losing streak to four games.
Four Hawks scored 20 or more points, Trae Young leading the way with 30 points and 14 assists. For the Warriors — without Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins — Klay Thompson poured out a season-high 54 points.
You would have been forgiven turning this one off at halftime, as the Hawks trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half and while the Warriors had played well in the first half (their ball movement was generated great opportunities) the Hawks didn’t exactly show up defensively, conceding 70 first half points.
A quick run to begin the third quarter helped the Hawks get a foot in this game and behind a 42 point third quarter in which their three-balls finally began to fall (5-of-5 in the third after a 2-of-16 showing in the first half). It was quite a remarkable comeback that ended up in the Hawks not only taking the lead (and stretching it as far as nine points) but holding it for most of the fourth quarter with a chance to, somehow, win the game in regulation.
Let’s go through it, and how the Hawks let this game slip out of their grasp.
Let’s jump to the 2:45 mark of the fourth where the Warriors had just missed a flurry of shots and when the Hawks finally regained possession of the ball they held a four point lead — a fantastic opportunity to give the Warriors a real problem with time winding down.
Young isn’t able to add to the Hawks’ lead as he gets to the rim on the drive and Kevon Looney does enough to contest Young’s layup:
The Hawks would get another opportunity as Onyeka Okongwu is fouled on the rebound, this time it’s Dejounte Murray who attacks the rim as he attempts to evade both Draymond Green and Looney but his layup rolls off:
The Warriors would get multiple chances to score on the following possession with three offensive rebounds and the Thompson three is missed, giving the Hawks a break and a chance, now with 1:50 remaining to add to their two possession lead. However, the Hawks are unable to open anything for themselves offensively and the screens that come Young’s way lead to nothing, and Young hoists a deep three with the clock winding down which is missed:
Okongwu would grab another offensive rebound to give the Hawks another opportunity to add to their lead, this time through Bogdan Bogdanovic who gets a good screen from Okongwu but can’t make the shot over the contest of Looney:
The Hawks were finally punished for not taking their chances to push their lead and Jordan Poole drives by Okongwu on the switch, and with no Collins on the floor the help defense in Bogdanovic doesn’t threaten to thwart Poole at the rim:
Two free throws from Young after a foul from Green pushed the Hawks’ lead back to four but this was quickly sliced as Thompson hits another three-pointer as he loses De’Andre Hunter and the screen from Green on Murray prevents the switch onto Thompson and he connects:
The legality of the screen from Green could be questioned — he certainly seemed to move as Murray tries to go around — but alas.
On the switch after the screen from Bogdanovic, Young chucks a shot up believing he was fouled by Poole on the sideline but no call is made and the hoist from Young is missed:
The NBA’s Two-Minute Report should be an interesting read when it’s published, Young certainly believed he was fouled. It was a shame the Hawks couldn’t get the ball weak-side, with Okongwu perfectly positioned to set a screen on Thompson and give Murray a wide open shot.
Now, the Warriors have the chance to win the game with the shotclock off and come with Poole, who knocks the ball off himself as he drives and commits the turnover:
The Hawks now have ball back with the lead and now a good chance to see this one out so long as Young is hits his free throws after being fouled intentionally, which he does.
On the all-important final possession for the Warriors, the Hawks defend the corner three from Thompson well with the contest from Hunter, and while the Warriors get the offensive rebound, Poole’s three is blocked by Murray but Poole is able to direct the loose ball to Donte DiVincenzo, who drains the three with 0.6 remaining:
In one sense the Hawks are unlucky. They survived the Thompson and Poole attempts, and in this situation given who is/isn’t playing that should basically be enough. For what reason Young is just standing in the paint and not covering the perimeter when the Hawks are up three I do not know — that is inexcusable in this situation, a complete lapse in awareness of the game-situation.
As always in a situation like this, the argument of ‘should the Hawks have fouled up three’ comes up. Always a difficult one to debate, even more so when the opposing team ends up hitting the three to tie the game.
The Warriors defend the Hawks’ ATO action well, forcing a catch from Bogdanovic going away from the rim and with 0.6 remaining he doesn’t get the shot off in regulation and to overtime we go.
The Hawks strike first in overtime, taking a five point lead after a Bogdanovic steal and basket with 3:39 in overtime and the Warriors miss on their following offensive trip. Similar to how things got away in regulation, the Hawks had chances to stretch their lead to more comfortable territory, as Okongwu’s attempt inside on Green is missed:
A rare force there from Okongwu — probably not the greatest shot over the contest of Green near the rim with enough time on the clock for another option.
The Warriors cut the lead to three as Thompson gets through on Bogdanovic to score at the rim:
I’m not 100% sure what Okongwu is fearing will happen if he leaves Green to help on Thompson, especially when Green shows a reluctance to shoot. I don’t think Thompson could squeeze a pass to Green if Okongwu rotates to help protect the rim, but maybe I’m wrong — it just looks odd when you look at Okongwu on this possession.
The Hawks would see two bites of the cherry on their next possession, first through Bogdanovic at the end of the clock — which was always a long shot at that distance — but the second attempt from Young on the offensive rebound was poor, contested and missed:
Thompson would hit a contested three in the corner to tie the game before Young would commit a turnover on the other end, fuelling a transition opportunity for the Warriors and Poole to give them a three point lead, capping off an 8-0 run:
Young would make up for this somewhat by sinking six free throws over the final minute to bring the Hawks back on even terms to take the game to double overtime.
In second OT, the Warriors this time took a five point lead with a Draymond Green three, before the Hawks respond out of the timeout with a Murray three:
An extremely difficult, basically ‘make it or go home’ kind of three from Murray there — the game was truly on the line there.
Then, after a Warriors miss, Young ties the game with a floater after getting downhill on the hand-off by John Collins:
The Warriors, with no timeouts, charge down the floor and Thompson’s three is well contested by Collins but the Hawks can’t control the rebound (with no Okongwu on the floor) and Looney gets not one but two attempts to stick it through and on the second attempt does so at the buzzer, winning the game for Golden State:
Perhaps a fitting end for a game where the Warriors totalled 23 offensive rebounds, 10 of them coming from Looney. A mess from the Hawks defensively though. The Hawks went small on the lineup for the basket, got it, and then John Collins has to contest Thompson’s shot, taking the only rebounder out of the equation for the Hawks when Looney grabs another two rebounds for his 20th of the game to win it.
The Hawks had more than their fare share of chances to win this game. They really should have done so in regulation — chance after chance went a-begging down the stretch and the final play with DiVincenzo was also a shambles when it came down to it. In OT, the Hawks again were in the driving seat and let that slip too. 2OT would have been more of a salvage job to send it to 3OT — but the Hawks should have had this wrapped up before such an instance.
It was just a very weird game all around — from a players perspective and some shot selection to the rotation and coaching decisions.
I should preface the ‘player’ side of things with this: many of the Hawks played very well. The likes of Onyeka Okongwu (16 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals), John Collins (25 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks) were in particular very good, and there were good games from De’Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Dejounte Murray was solid too (even if some of the shots from Murray weren’t great).
Many on social media are unhappy with Young’s performance, and while he did score 30 points, he did so on 8-of-22 shooting, and some of these shots were particularly poor at key moments in the game. Defensively, it’s the usual for Young but the blunder at the end with DiVincenzo was particularly hard to watch on replay.
Hawks head coach Nate McMillan deployed an odd rotation, mostly with his bench. AJ Griffin played six minutes in the entire second half (15 minutes overall, and none in either overtime periods either), Jalen Johnson only featured at the end of the first half to protect Collins from a third foul, and then De’Andre Hunter didn’t feature at all in the first overtime period (after sustaining a knock at the end of regulation) and then returned to play just under two minutes in 2OT, Trae Young was left in on a defense-only possession... Just some strange occurrences all around. Some matchup related, others were a little more confusing to deduce.
A particularly rough way to start a West Coast road trip: double overtime and a brutal loss. Hawks head coach credited the Warriors for making plays, which McMillan elaborated on.
“Most of these games are going to come down to making plays,” said McMillan postgame via Bally Sports. “‘Making the plays’ are getting stops, getting rebounds, making shots. They made the plays down the stretch and in overtime. Big plays. We had an opportunity to rebound the basketball — gain possession of that — we didn’t do that, they hit a three which goes into overtime. A couple of loose balls and the last possession of the game Looney gets a tip-in. You’ve got to get that rebound. It comes down to making plays, they made more than we did.”
It was a bizarre game in many respects. The Hawks were clearly second best in the first half, by some margin. Klay Thompson was obviously hot in the first quarter but it just looked as though there was going to be little hope for the Hawks trailing by 21 points. And then to come away from this game saying the Hawks should have won is a testament to the second half they played — 57.4% shooting from the field, 7-of-12 from three, 17 assists, five steals, five blocks and just five turnovers.
“I thought we played a hell of a second half,” said McMillan. “Our third quarter was great. I thought we did a good job of getting stops defensively. Thought we settled down a little more in that third quarter, had a big third quarter and was able to fight our way back into the game. The fourth quarter, kind of went back-and-forth and it comes down to making plays on both ends of the floor. The last play, they made it with the tip-in.”
Despite that second half and the fact the Hawks led by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, Trae Young believed that the Hawks had left themselves with too much to do to create a better lead to protect themselves against a team with a now 17-2 home record.
“They got too far ahead in the first half for us to fight back and take a big enough lead that you need to beat this type of team at home,” said Young via Bally Sports. “I think we did a really good job in the second half fighting our way back and making it a game but that first half really hurt us.”
The Hawks knew not to expect Stephen Curry in the lineup and likely knew that Klay Thompson would be their biggest issue but perhaps couldn’t have foreseen a 54 point outing from Thompson, shooting 21-of-39 behind 10 made three-pointers.
“Klay did what he’s done his whole career and got hot,” said Young postgame.
Not too often does a 54 point performance go under the radar in the NBA but when another player goes for 71 points on the same night that can happen. But that shouldn’t take anything away from Thompson — he was on it, a statement game from Thompson who has struggled for his standards at times this season (shooting 37.8% from three prior to last night’s game).
And in a double overtime victory, the Warriors needed every single one of those points. Kevon Looney was obviously instrumental too, not only tipping in the buzzer-beating shot but his 20 rebounds helping the Warriors win the boards 69-53 and highlights the absence of Clint Capela.
Capela is missed in many facets and it doesn’t take long to realize just how valuable he is for the Hawks. I remember writing after a game, I believe it was the Pelicans at State Farm Arena during the 2020-21 season and though Trae Young was sidelined with injury for a little stretch at the part of the season the Hawks were able to find ways and enough offense to win games (Bogdan Bogdanovic was a huge reason why), and I remember thinking and saying at the time that the injury the Hawks should possibly be most worried about was any injury that might sideline Clint Capela and I still think this is the case, and it was plain to see last season too when he wasn’t healthy/missing — he is sorely missed.
Capela is not just missed because he’s second in the league in rebounds per game but because — and this was seen last night — if Okongwu or Collins has to contest or switch on the perimeter, the Hawks are vulnerable at the rim. If both are out on the floor and one has to switch up top, they’re still vulnerable given how their defense can break down out front. Or, the other is pulled away from the rim in a matchup where the opposing player can stretch the floor (whether it’s the 5 or a small-ball 4/5) and take a big away from the rim and can’t rotate in time to contest.
A healthy Clint Capela is missed in all fixtures he’s unable to play but last night was a painful reminder of just how much the Hawks miss him, and that was before Looney’s double rebound to end the game.
All-in-all, a brutal loss for the Hawks. This game I genuinely think became theirs to lose, and while they deserve credit for that in one sense (trailing by as many as 21 points) I think criticism of them is equally fair for their regulation and overtime fumbles (more so OT than 2OT) as their offense really let them down — certainly can’t say they didn’t have chances to extend four, five point leads.
Atlanta should have emerged as a team to give the Warriors only their third home loss all season so far but will have to look elsewhere now to get off the mark on this road trip.
The Hawks (17-21) are back in action on Wednesday when they’ll take on the Sacramento Kings (19-16) as their road trip continues.
Should be a fun contest.
Until next time...