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Hawks finish trip with loss to Pelicans

The Hawks’ longest road-trip of the season is over.

Atlanta Hawks v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks wrapped up their five-game road trip with a 116-107 defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the visitors with 22 points behind five made threes, Trae Young adding 16 points and 16 assists. For the Pelicans, Brandon Ingram scored a game-high 30 points while C.J. McCollum added 21 points.

With it being the last game of the road-trip, it would have been easy for the Hawks to mail this one in when it got difficult, especially after falling behind by double-digits early on as they did. To their credit, the Hawks rallied early and found success at the rim in the first quarter to claw their way back into the game and took the lead before the end of the first quarter.

Their lead never stretched beyond four points before the Pelicans retook the lead in the second quarter but where this one got away was in the latter stages of the third quarter. The Hawks trailed by just four points with 4:02 remaining in the third and it’s here where the Pelicans blew the game open with a 9-0 run, so let’s take a quick look at that run.

De’Andre Hunter picks up his fourth foul guarding Brandon Ingram, sending Ingram to the free throw line where he dispatches both:

The Hawks are unable to respond as AJ Griffin’s three-pointer is well contested by Jose Alvarado and is short:

After a missed three from the Pelicans, the Hawks squander their next offensive possession as Young gets caught in the air, in a crowd, and his pass to John Collins out on the perimeter doesn’t reach him, and Trey Murphy streaks out in front to finish with the dunk:

Young had struggled in this game shooting the ball and this continued as he gets inside the paint but his shot is well short of the rim:

Brandon Ingram tore the Hawks apart last night and on a few occasions got matched up with Young. Here, Ingram zips by him, forcing the step-up from Onyeka Okongwu, and finds the cutting Larry Nance Jr. for the dunk:

Again, the Hawks’ efforts to reply come up short as Young’s attempted lob inside to Okongwu is broken up by Nance and the Pelicans break away in transition, ending in an Alvarado three:

All of a sudden the Pelicans are leading by 13 points, and this would increase to 15 to begin the fourth and while the Hawks cut the lead late in the game to six, they never got any closer than that and in the end the Pelicans had enough in reserve to secure victory, their third straight.

For the Hawks, their season-long five game road-trip comes to an end in defeat in New Orleans. They played well in many facets but the attention of Hawks head coach Nate McMillan was drawn to the Pelicans success in transition and in the paint, attributing some of the Hawks’ struggles last night to heavy legs at the end of a trip

“They established their pace from the start of the game,” said McMillan. “We didn’t win a quarter. They were averaging 30-plus each quarter. They got to their tempo, they played their game tonight. We weren’t able to keep them out of the paint. They had 38 in the first half and 60 for the game. There’s just not controlling the basketball and keeping it in front of us — 29 fastbreak points and we only had nine turnovers. They are scoring off of misses and made baskets. Seemed like we had heavy legs — those three days off — seemed like we had heavy legs all night long and was not able to control the basketball and keep it out of the paint.”

(The 29 points McMillan is pulling are the 12 points off of turnovers and 17 fastbreak points.)

Brandon Ingram in particular excelled in the paint and was a thorn in the side of the Hawks, scoring 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting and eight assists.

Coming down the floor, the Pelicans are quick to get into their offense with Ingram as he spins on De’Andre Hunter and escapes before finishing at the rim:

Again, the Pelicans come quickly off of a Hawks miss — this time a point-blank miss from Bogdanovic — and Ingram attacks the paint in transition, absorbing the bump from John Collins and scores in the paint:

No matter who was guarding Ingram, the result was largely the same:

Whether it was in the half-court:

Or in transition:

De’Andre Hunter had his issues guarding Ingram, picking up three fouls in the third quarter guarded by Ingram. There were some good defensive possessions from Hunter on Ingram, absolutely, but this did little to ultimately slow down Ingram scoring, and Ingram did well to set up his teammates when the time called for it.

Hunter really struggled on the offensive end too, scoring three points on 0-of-9 shooting. On a night where Young struggled to score himself, Hunter’s tough night always looks that little bit worse. It just wasn’t a good night for him and there’s not a lot of point making more of it than it is. He’s played well on this trip, this was just a difficult way to end it.

Speaking of Young, while he struggled for efficiency — shooting 4-of-14 from the field — he did register 16 assists with just four turnovers and I thought his passing was great last night overall and he did well to find his teammates for most of the night. In his absence scoring-wise, Bogdan Bogdanovic had it going; 22 points on 7-of-13 from the field and 5-of-7 from three. Bogdanovic was part of a bench unit that came in and played well along with John Collins and Dejounte Murray, with Nate McMillan in particular mentioning Jalen Johnson by name.

“I thought they came in and they weren’t bad in the second half,” said McMillan of his second unit. “I thought Jalen came in and gave us some pretty decent play, Bogi and John and that combination of DJ got the game within ten. We were kind of making a run. The first half, because of the foul trouble, we had a few different combinations play and they couldn’t make shots. I thought we had some good looks in that first half and we didn’t knock down those shots. I thought Jalen in that second unit in the fourth quarter wasn’t bad, was able to get the game around ten and we just wasn’t able to finish it.”

Johnson was aggressive going to the rim, and it was this quality that McMillan enjoyed not just from Jalen Johnson but John Collins, too.

“John, we want him to shoot the ball,” said McMillan. “I thought tonight he didn’t hesitate, he was looking for his shot. I thought he was really aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. He had to play a lot more five tonight which we got him involved in the offense by setting screens and finding him in those pick-and-roll sets.”

Collins finished with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 1-of-2 from three. It’d be nice to see Collins feature a little more on offense, mostly because he’s shooting 51% from the field, he is efficient inside the arc and last night was no exception.

Dejounte Murray played a strong game, too, scoring 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 from three. In his last five games, Murray is shooting 43.2% from three on seven attempts — it’s been a very good road-trip for him, obviously a new career-high coming in Portland to start the trip.

There’ll be some who are a bit disappointed at a 2-3 road-trip but I really think the Hawks have done well on this trip.

The Portland game could have ended better but other than that the Hawks grabbed one game in Phoenix — a game where the Hawks have had very little success — and grabbed one in Utah, which is always a good victory. These were good teams on this trip, all with playoff aspirations and more in some cases. Added to that, Trae Young missed two games. I think they’ve played well on this trip. In retrospect they should have sacked off the Denver game and rested some players, especially given the gap between the Denver and New Orleans games, as well as having grabbed a victory on the first night of that back-to-back in Utah.

And now their longest trip of the season is over, and they’ve stayed above water. It could have easily been conceivable to lose all five games — these are all good teams. 2-3 I think is just fine.

Last night, the Hawks gave it a good go to end the trip — just that third quarter got away from them and left them too much to do in the fourth but that didn’t stop them from fighting to trim the lead late on to below single digits when it did threaten to balloon over 20. They could have easily packed it in towards the end of this game but stuck with it. They played well. Brandon Ingram was just on another level last night, there wasn’t a player that even came close to his level last night and there’s no shame in that.

Now, the Hawks begin a stretch of seven home games in their next eight. They’ve stayed above water on this road-trip, but now they have to cash in at home — these next three weeks are be pivotal to their season. If they make a good run here, they’ve a chance to finally put some distance between themselves and .500 and propel themselves into the fight for the top-6 seeds. If not, they’re signing themselves up for another run through the play-in.

The Hawks (27-28) are back in action on Thursday as they return home to take on the Phoenix Suns (30-26), winners of three straight since their loss to Atlanta.

Should be an interesting affair.

Until next time...