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Hawks let down by fine margins in narrow defeat to Grizzlies

A close game throughout but the hosts fell short.

Memphis Grizzlies v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks welcomed the Memphis Grizzlies to State Farm Arena on Sunday night but couldn’t return above .500 as the hosts fell 123-119.

Trae Young scored 28 points and dished out 10 assists, while Clint Capela scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. For the Grizzlies, Ja Morant led the way with 27 points, with Desmond Bane adding 25 points.

The Grizzlies led this affair for the majority of this one but it was a close game throughout, an entertaining game throughout. Finally in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies looked like they were finally about to blow this one open when they took a nine point lead in the fourth quarter, however, the Hawks managed to prevent the double-digit lead being established and fought back to a one possession game.

Coming out of a timeout, the Hawks get the stop they need as Bane finally misses a shot and have the chance to either bring the lead down to one point or tie the game with a three. Evidently Young saw the latter as the option to go as he settles for a deep three when the screen comes:

This just wasn’t the shot the Hawks needed at this time, especially coming out of a timeout — I can’t imagine this was the shot Quin Snyder drew up at this moment. It’s poor shot selection from Young.

The Hawks, again, look as though they’re going to get the stop they need after Capela does a fantastic job to block Jaren Jackson Jr. at the rim and when the ball gets to Morant in the corner with the shotclock winding down he’s faced by Young, and on the three-point attempt from Morant he is contested and fouled by Young, giving Morant three free throws:

This was a really poor foul from Young to commit at the end of the clock in this situation, and encapsulated the Hawks wasting Clint Capela’s fantastic game as a whole — his fantastic block counted for nought when Young fouled Morant.

Morant makes all three free throws, and the Hawks would in turn go to the free throw line as Dillon Brooks fouls Young, with Young splitting the free throws. The Hawks get themselves another stop as Morant misses a good opportunity but the Hawks would have a similar trip themselves as Dejounte Murray sheds Morant and gets a great look at an open jumpshot but just cannot convert:

A shot Murray can easily make but like many of late, they just won’t fall for Murray.

Next, the Grizzlies extend their lead as Bane beats Capela on the drive after the switch and Bane scores at the rim:

Capela not having help behind him to contest this shot I’m sure wasn’t ideal.

The Hawks again split a pair of free throws, this time through John Collins, and the Grizzlies now have time on their side and a six point lead. Capela again comes through defensively as he hunkers down and pokes the ball away for the steal and fuels a fastbreak opportunity. Hunter finds Collins, who is unable to finish at the rim:

Hunter would have perhaps been better finding Young to his left who was in a little more space. I get why the Hawks went as quick as they did — time was not on their side.

Neither was the scoreline, and that only got worse as the Grizzlies get an easy dunk on the other end in transition as Morant finds Tillman to put the Grizzlies up by eight points with under a minute remaining:

Really poor from Young here to allow Tillman to waltz past him, even after glancing at him on his way through.

The Hawks had now left themselves too much to do, and while they cut the lead to three points, the Grizzlies iced the game at the free throw line and the Hawks’ final attempts fell short, and they end on the narrow side of a loss, a loss that could have easily been a victory.

“I think one or two more shots go it’s a different story,” said Trae Young postgame.

Hawks head coach Quin Snyder continues to search for defensive consistency but was pleased with the Hawks’ improved communication in the second half.

“We’re just looking for consistency defensively and keep chipping away at it,” said Snyder postgame. “Our offense, if we don’t take care of the ball — that’s one thing we talked about, the live-ball turnovers — but when we have people driving to the hole and going to the basket it’s really tough to defend when our floor balance changes like that. It’s not that you don’t want to drive but I thought we passed up some shots — we had one stretch where we had three straight threes we didn’t make but we’ll rebound a few of those, they’re actually easier to defend against and we draw them out if we can get to the rim.

“The second half I thought defensively we started talking more and that cleans up a lot of things, regardless of a coverage or a scheme or a plan. Guys are out there competing, and if you talk you can defend together and that’s the key. I’d like to watch the film and see the details of that but those are my initial impressions.”

One aspect where the Hawks certainly competed was on the boards: Clint Capela, John Collins and Onyeka Okongwu were extremely busy on the glass, with Capela grabbing 16 rebounds, Collins collecting 10 and Okongwu pulling seven off the bench.

Snyder was asked about Okongwu postgame, and wasn’t short of praise for Okongwu’s work on the boards.

“He’s been really good, particularly on the offensive glass,” said Snyder of Okongwu. “You don’t see a lot of post-ups in today’s NBA but when he gets a mismatch guys trust him to throw the ball over the top. He’s got excellent hands and he’s a great finisher but he has impacted the game so much on the offensive glass ... he’s been tenacious rebounding. As much as anything, I’ve liked the way he’s competed, he’s hungry to learn and if he continues to bring that he’ll keep getting better.”

Another player who Snyder should have also been asked about postgame was Clint Capela, who was just fantastic in this game: 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, 16 rebounds, six offensive rebounds and four blocks. It felt as though Capela was everywhere defensively and it is a shame a game like this for him didn’t result in victory because his efforts certainly deserved it.

That is not to say of course that Okongwu didn’t play well, he absolutely did and was key in the Hawks’ second chance scoring, scoring eight of the Hawks’ 31 second chance points — a hugely important aspect of the game because of how the Hawks struggled inside against a fantastic Grizzlies defense at times last night, led by Jaren Jackson Jr.

Jackson Jr., like Capela, was an ever-present defensively: five blocks and three steals on the game — he was just a menace defensively and consistently thwarted the Hawks.

Here, Dejounte Murray drives and Jackson Jr. rotates to deflect the attempted pass and rescue the possession for the Grizzlies:

On the pick-and-roll with Young and Capela, Jackson Jr. breaks up the lob attempt:

Again as the help defender, Jackson is so quick to rotate and on this possession he blocks the hook from Collins and recovers the loose ball to give possession to the Grizzlies:

On the drive from Hunter, Jackson Jr. is again there to block the shot at the rim:

To begin the second half, Jackson Jr. moves his feet so well to stick with Capela and contests his shot at the rim:

I’d be remiss not to mention this block from Jackson Jr. on Collins, which was initially called a foul but after two Memphis technicals and a coach’s challenge was ruled a clean block:

This play was an interesting one where the Hawks were able to turn an instance of Jackson Jr. disrupting them into something. When Collins is blocked by Jackson Jr., the Hawks end up with the ball in the corner with Bogdan Bogdanovic who makes the three-pointer:

This was only one of seven threes the Hawks would make for the entire game, the hosts shooting 7-of-31 from behind the arc while the visitors hit 13 threes to outscore the Hawks 39-21.

“Obviously they hit six more threes than us and won by four, that’s a big difference in points,” said Trae Young postgame. “We’ve got to shoot more of those threes we get because I think we’re getting some good looks, quick threes that we can really shoot. Quin really likes us getting up more threes so it’s going to help us in the long run if we continue to get better at it.”

Young was responsible for three of the Hawks’ seven threes, and his play in the stretch of the fourth quarter aside he played a good game, scoring 28 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field, 3-of-5 from three and 11-of-12 from the free throw line.

De’Andre Hunter struggled from the field, shooting 8-of-20 from the field and 1-of-8 from three but still managed to score 17 points. Dejounte Murray also struggled, shooting 3-of-11 shooting but did chip in with nine assists.

Outside of Okongwu and Bogdanovic, there wasn’t much from the Hawks’ bench unfortunately, with Saddiq Bey, AJ Griffin and Aaron Holiday combining for just 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

All-in-all — despite the struggles of Hunter, Murray and some of the bench — the Hawks played well in this spot and ran the Grizzlies close here. Young played well offensively, Capela and Okongwu were fantastic (Capela especially) and despite how often the Hawks were affected inside the paint by Jackson Jr., and Xavier Tillman at times they scored well, their only real fault was from three-point range.

The sequence where Young missed the 36 footer then followed that immediately by fouling Morant’s three was really costly — that’s not to throw Young directly under the bus, that’s just reflective of how close this game was and what it really came down to.

The Hawks (37-38) are back in action on Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers (48-28).

Should be intersting.

Until next time...