The Hawks dropped their first game of the 2014-15 season with a 109-102 loss to the Raptors, and it could have been much uglier that that. Atlanta started out sloppy and played poorly on the defensive end, but a late run sparked the team. Costly mistakes threw away their final chance to come out on top.
Despite the loss, there were a few things we can take away from the game:
The Hawks lacked depth last season — mostly due to injuries — but were coming into this season with a lot of versatile players on a deep bench. By the beginning of the second quarter, Mike Budenholzer had played 11 guys, showing how deep this team really is. Elton Brand was the first sub off the bench, followed by Kent Bazemore shortly after. On more than one occasion, Bud rolled out a Mack-Bazmore-Sefolosha-Scott-Brand lineup, and it proved to be a nice spark. Scott was the best bench player in the game, channeling his fire emojis for 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting. In the end, 10 guys played at least 11 minutes, and no starter played over 33 minutes.
Al Horford made his return on Wednesday night, and many wondered how much playing time he would see. Bud sat him at the 6:40 mark in the first quarter for Brand, and it looked as if he was on pace to play just 20 minutes. He came back in with just about a minute to go in the opening period, and it became clear that he may not have a minute restriction.
Overall Horford played pretty good for his first game back. Al had just four points on 2-for-7 shooting in the first half, but shook off the rust to shoot 4-for-8 in the second half. He finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks in just over 31 minutes of action. Bud would take him out at the same mark in each quarter, but he left him in to finish the game. The biggest thing Horford needs to work on is timing, which is to be expected. He had a hard time finding rhythm, shooting just 6-for-15 from the field, and it took him a while to get his feet working on defense as well. As the game went on he looked more comfortable, and he should get better as he gets more games under his belt. It appeared he had no lingering issues from his pectoral injury, and that sound you hear is a sigh of relief from the organization.
- GUARD ROTATION
Shelvin Mack won the backup point guard spot last season, and his play planted Dennis Schröder on the bench. When Dennis did play, he often appeared lost, and the game seemed too fast for him. Surprisingly, coach Bud went with a Schröder-Mack backcourt to start the second quarter, and Dennis saw just over three minutes of action. Of course, he had three fouls in those three minutes, and didn’t do much to impress the coaching staff.
When Bazemore was in the game, he played shooting guard. With Thabo Sefolosha spending a lot of time at the two for the Thunder, there was some talk about how those guys would line up when they were on the court. Thabo spent all of his 16 minutes backing up DeMarre Carroll at the small forward spot, and Bazemore spent his 11 minutes as the backup shooting guard. Jeff Teague was impressive with 20 points and eight assists on 8-for-12 shooting, and picked up where he left off in last season’s playoffs. Shelvin Mack finished with two points and five assists, Schröder finished with one point and three fouls, while Bazemore finished with two points. Baze played really well defensively, but the reserve guards left much to be desired in the season opener. The team’s other guard, John Jenkins, did not play and was inactive.
This was only one game, but coach Bud and the team showed us flashes of what is to come this season.