The NBA’s season opener brought the Hawks to Toronto, where they faced off against the Raptors in Al Horford’s return to regular season basketball.
The Raptors used a 9-2 run at the end of the second quarter to take an eight-point (60-52) lead into halftime. They would not relinquish this lead and instead built upon it in the third quarter. 11 different Raptors scored in the third quarter, allowing Toronto to build a double-digit lead that left the Hawks scrambling for ideas.
Toronto continued their run at the start of the fourth quarter, with their lead ballooning to as many as 19 mid-way through the period. However, Mike Scott and the Hawks re-found the 3-ball late in the game and quickly chipped away at Toronto’s big lead. A DeMarre Carroll layup that was goaltended with 35 seconds left made it a 105-101 game in favor of Toronto and the Hawks quickly fouled DeMar DeRozan to send him to the line. DeRozan missed both free throws, but jumped to just the right spot off the miss to grab the long rebound. DeRozan was then fouled again, making both attempts on the second trip to the line and essentially dashing the Hawks’ comeback hopes.
Horford looked good in first regular season game since December 29, but he was still rusty and tentative with his jumpshot. The result was 6-for-15 from the field for 12 points. Despite that, Horford still played well in the other facets of the game, grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds, dishing out three assists, and block three shots. After the game, Horford said he started to get into a rhythm in the fourth quarter, and it showed when he sank back-to-back jumpers that helped the Hawks cut into the large Raptor lead.
Paul Millsap had a disappointing game that somewhat mirrored his preseason play. He was rebounding and passing well, but his drives to the basket seemed really forced at times and his isolations where ineffective in an offense that is usually dependent on passing. To make matters worse, when Millsap was successful at driving and drawing contact, he was only able to convert 5-for-9 at the line. This was not just a Millsap problem either; the team went 9-for-17 (52.9%) in the game at the charity stripe.
Kyle Korver and Mike Scott both had tremendous games, with each player scoring 20 points thanks in large part to a barrage of 3-pointers. Korver was 6-for-7 and Scott was 4-for-6 from behind the arc, with Scott doing his work in just 20 minutes of play. Korver also let his sneaky defensive play shine once again, as the sharpshooter racked up three blocked shots to the delight of Hawks fans everywhere.
One of the biggest problems for the Hawks that led to the loss was turnovers. The Hawks had 19 of them (compared to only 10 for Toronto) and the Raptors took advantage, scoring 23 points off of the ATL mistakes. DeMar DeRozan, who’s offensive game was shut down by an extremely active DeMarre Carroll, was a pest to the Hawks offense, grabbing six of the Raptors’ 13 steals. The turnover problem seemed to be a reflection of Atlanta’s overall point guard play, which was pretty poor outside of Jeff Teague’s scoring. Teague had six turnovers on the night and simply was not paying attention multiple times throughout the game. His backup, Shelvin Mack, was likely Atlanta’s worst player on the floor for the game. Mack did have a five to one assist to turnover ratio, but he was generally miserable at running the offense during his time on the floor, and he was awful with his shot-selection, leading to a 1-for-6 night from the field for the former Butler Bulldog.
To end the recap on a positive, I really liked what I saw from Kent Bazemore. He only played 11 minutes, but Bazemore (who was Budenholzer’s second sub of the game) injected energy into the game with his play. At worst, Bazemore will always bring that on defense and that is a positive. At best, he learns how to properly translate that energy into an efficient offense that opens up the floor for everyone else.
Atlanta’s next game will be in the friendly confines of Philips Arena, where they will take on the Indiana Pacers at 7:30 PM on Saturday. The game is already sold out, but the team is opening up standing room only tickets on Thursday.