The Atlanta Hawks returned to winning ways with a comfortable victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night at State Farm Arena, 129-107.
Trae Young scored 30 points and notched 12 assists, while Bogdan Bogdanovic — starting in place of the absent Dejounte Murray — scored 18 points as seven Hawks scored in double-figures. For the Pistons — without Bojan Bogdanovic, Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart, Hamidou Diallo, Alec Burks, Jalen Duren and Isaiah Livers — Marvin Bagley III scored 31 points, Killian Hayes added 21 points.
The Hawks would have been favored at the best of times in this spot — even with Murray absent — but throw in all of those Detroit injuries and it was likely going to take a collapse on the San Antonio level from the Hawks for the Pistons to have a chance. To their credit, the visitors hung around in the first half, thanks to the efforts of Bagley and Hayes, who scored 17 points apiece in the first half alone and helped the Pistons hang around, trailing by just seven points at halftime.
It was in the third quarter where the game was blown open with an 11-2 run to begin the second half where the Hawks finally got their separation. We’ll have a quick look at how the lead finally grew beyond double-digits.
It starts with John Collins, who drives inside off the pass from Bogdanovic and finishes evades the defense to score at the rim:
The Hawks’ defense turned up in the third quarter, and Young does well defensively on Rodney McGruder, and when the Pistons gather the offensive rebound the follow at the rim is blocked by Clint Capela:
It was a flurry of threes to begin the third that helped the Hawks stretch away offensively, the first of which coming from Young as he comes off the Capela screen:
Again, the Hawks’ defense comes through for them and this time they use it to fuel their offense, the block from Collins on Jaden Ivey sets up the transition offense as Young finds Bogdanovic for three:
Off of a missed three from Young, Collins collects the offensive rebound and returns the ball to Young, who finds Bogdanovic for his third three of the game to give the Hawks a 16 point lead:
The lead would only grow from this point, stretching as large as 29 points in the fourth quarter, allowing the Hawks to clear their bench and give their bench some extra run, or even more of an extra run with the likes of Garrison Mathews and Aaron Holiday seeing rotation minutes in the absence of Murray and Jalen Johnson.
The fourth quarter turned out to be a formality but the third quarter was key: a 33-19 advantage in favor of the hosts gave them the separation they needed to turn this game into what they needed it to.
Speaking postgame, Hawks head coach Quin Snyder highlighted the Hawks’ increased level of defense in the third quarter, praising his side’s focus during that time.
“Better defensive efforts, particularly in the third quarter and how you can break a game open on that end of the floor as much as anything,” opened Snyder postgame. “You don’t have to outscore or trade (baskets) and I thought our focus during that stretch was really good. Usually it happens where you’re rewarded on the other end of the floor and that was the case. Pleased with the way we protected the paint. It’s not anything we need to be too congratulatory about, we just got to keep working at it and keep doing it.”
“I think it was a great defensive effort tonight,” added Trae Young of the third quarter. “Obviously the first two quarters they got going more than the second half but I think we did a really good job in that second half establishing what we needed to do to win the game and stretch the lead out. We did what we needed to do.”
When asked specifically of the third quarter defensively, Snyder identified the Hawks’ increased physicality — particularly from De’Andre Hunter — as a positive, as well as getting back in transition in the second half, the Pistons scoring just five fastbreak points in the second half compared to the 17 in the first half.
“I thought we were playing better defense, even in the first quarter when they made some shots,” said Snyder of the Hawks’ third quarter defense. “We talked a lot about guarding pick-and-roll and being more aggressive on the ball and letting them feel us a little bit. I thought everybody, Trae, Bogi, all those guys— Hunt(er) especially from the very beginning of the game, I thought he really used his physicality and size to impact the ball where people could feel us defensively. We started to get back better, we were getting hurt the first half, there was some transition opportunities we need to take away. When our offense is efficient, meaning we’ve got our eyes out and we’re finding each other, that’s where you have the big night with offensive rebounding which we had and that has a way of stopping transition as well.”
The offensive rebounding Snyder refers are the season-high 21 offensive rebounds the Hawks snatched, helping them win the rebounding battle 61-35, and scoring 23 second chance points.
“Our bigs did a great job,” said Young of the rebounding. “O, even guards getting in there, Dre, AJ had a hell of a game tonight again, everybody is playing hard and attacking the rebounds and guys know that other guys are going to shoot so we’re just attacking the rebounds and the glass on the offensive end too. It’s really good for our team.”
Snyder was full of praise for Onyeka Okongwu’s efforts on the board, and highlighted Okongwu’s unselfishness on one play in particular.
“As much as anything, the result reflects the effort,” said Snyder when asked of the rebounding battle. “O and Clint on both ends— O was great. There was a play in the first half where he got an offensive rebound and he kicked it right out, those are shots you make at a high percentage when your teammates take care of you. It’s a selfless play particularly for your bigs too, because often times they can be in situations putting pressure on the rim, doing a lot and they might not get as many touches so when they get an offensive rebound, to have the presence of mind to pass the ball out when somebody’s open is great. If they can finish we want them to finish too but I thought that play really stood out in my mind.”
This could be the play Snyder referenced, with Okongwu grabbing the offensive rebound before kicking it out to Saddiq Bey for a three:
Okongwu scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds, seven of them offensive rebounds as well as adding three blocks, Capela adding 12 points and 16 rebounds to the Hawks’ rebounding cause.
While it was a matchup where the Hawks’ bigs were always likely to succeed (given Detroit’s absences), Capela and Okongwu played well, Okongwu in particular has been very good lately, last night only adding to his recent level of play.
Okongwu was part of a larger bench effort that outscored Detroit’s shortened bench 42-25, a 14-11 double-double coming from Saddiq Bey against his former side as he shot 5-of-13 from the field to recapture some of his form that’s been missing of late.
There were solid games all around in this spot: John Collins scored a quiet 15 points, De’Andre Hunter may have shot 4-of-11 but was a key defensive piece as Snyder referenced. Bogdanovic came into the starting lineup and hit four threes and Clint Capela had a good game in a matchup that he dominated.
Trae Young had a better game here, scoring 30 points on 7-of-19 shooting, 3-of-9 from three and 13-of-15 from the free throw line — part of a tied season-high 36 attempted free throws for the Hawks.
The ending of this game was a little odd. Jaden Ivey decided to grab two extra points at the end after the Hawks had eaten a shotclock turnover the possession prior, and whatever was said led to a bit of a heated argument near mid-court with Collins seemingly leading the way, with Young not far behind him.
This incident, if you can call it that, wasn’t put to Young (strangely, since he was right there with Collins) or Snyder postgame. Clint Capela was asked, however, and said that he had felt the Pistons had “disrespected our team a little bit” after the Hawks had just taken a 24 second shot clock violation.
Marvin Bagley of the Pistons added, “I don’t worry about that. We’re not going to stop playing until the end of the game.”
At the end of the day it’s a bunch of nothing really. Did Ivey need to do it? No, it wasn’t really necessary. Did the Hawks need to get as upset as they did? Not really, the game was won and the Pistons are 16-57.
A routine victory for the Hawks. Things couldn’t have been much worse after the Spurs loss so if they had found some way to lose this one it would have been spectacular, but they took care of business in Murray’s absence.
The only real takeaways I’d take from this game — a game against the 16-57 Pistons where they’re missing a lot of players — was that it was good to see Young’s perimeter shot fall, similar to Bogdanovic. Oneyeka Okongwu has been awesome lately, that continued last night. Finally, we did see some 5-out action from the Hawks when Okongwu was on the floor — Okongwu has experimented a few times this season with that perimeter shot but it was interesting to see the Hawks in that set briefly last night.
The Hawks (36-36) are back in action tonight as they head on the road for a rematch against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center.
Should be fun.
Until next time...