The shorthanded Atlanta Hawks dropped their fourth game in a row, falling to the Charlotte Hornets 105-90 at the Spectrum Center. The Hornets were led by Nic Batum’s and Kemba Walker’s 16 points while Frank Kaminsky added 14 points off the bench. For the Hawks, they were led by Dennis Schröder’s 20 points.
Goodbye, home court advantage! The Hawks are now four games behind the Toronto Raptors for the fourth seed and now need to look over their shoulders rather than looking ahead of them. They are just one game ahead of the Indiana Pacers for the fifth seed.
There’s a little bit of panic amongst Hawks fans. It’s all going wrong at the wrong time of the season and there’s concern in the locker room too about the Hawks’ recent play.
“There is a concern with how we are playing. It’s always been about what we are doing day-to-day. If you are doing things well day-to-day, you’ll move up in the standings and win games. If you are not doing things well day-to-day, the reverse will happen. We just have to be better.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
Let’s get this out of the way: this wasn’t an awful loss. It was a bad loss because it’s Atlanta’s fourth in a row but it wasn’t awful like the Portland loss on Saturday was awful. The Hawks played a very solid first quarter and they played an O.K. game, although things obviously got away from them in the third and fourth quarters. The effort was pretty decent, players were competing (channeling my inner coach Bud here), Dwight Howard was active early (and played well in general), the ball was moving pretty well and they did all of this without Paul Millsap and Kent Bazemore.
Because Baze and Millsap were missing the Hawks had to dip into their bench to, obviously, fill those voids left by Baze and Paul. And, unfortunately for the Hawks, the two players they had to insert into the starting lineup happened to be the team’s best bench scorers in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Ersan Ilyasova. And, as a result, the bench’s production really suffered: 22 total points (11 coming from Taurean Prince) on a combined 9-of-29 shooting. Well, to be fair, even these bench stats are inflated with the extended garbage time in the fourth quarter. Through the first three quarters, the Hawks’ bench only scored four points which all came from Taurean Prince on 1-of-7 shooting. Not ideal… In fact, Bud basically dropped all subs for the third quarter (when the game was still in range), only TP played third quarter minutes off the bench before dipping further into the bench in the fourth quarter as this game got away from the Hawks.
The Hornets’ bench, in comparison, was excellent last night. They scored 44 points on 16-of-32 from the field. Frank Kaminsky scored 14 points, Jeremy Lamb scored 12 points and Briante Weber (who Marvin Williams called an “energiser bunny”) scored eight points. Between the Hornets’ main bench rotation players (Kaminsky, Marco Belinelli, Briante Weber and Jeremy Lamb), they registered a plus/minus rating of plus-86. The Hawks’ main bench rotation players (Prince, Kris Humphries, Ryan Kelly and Malcolm Delaney), meanwhile registered a plus/minus rating of minus+56.
(Side note, not sure what the thinking process was for Bud not playing Mike Muscala until garbage time in the fourth quarter. He should be playing ahead of Ryan Kelly and Kris Humphries at all times…)
That was probably the difference between the two teams in this game — the bench (and, obviously, not having Millsap and Baze). It’s unfortunate but this was always a realistic possibility when it was reported that Ersan and THJ were going to be inserted into the starting lineup.
Two key Charlotte runs
There were two key runs that ultimately decided this game. The Hawks led 17-11 in the first quarter but a 20-4 run from the Hornets beginning in the latter stages of the first quarter and extending into the second quarter put them on the high-side, a lead they would never relinquish.
The other key run happened in the third quarter. The Hawks, to their credit, had done well to cut the Hornets lead to single digits at the half and even cut the lead to five points (55-61) with 8 minutes remaining in the third. Within four minutes the score was 74-57, a 13-3 Hornets run and it’s a completely different game.
“They made their run and we couldn’t respond. Not just offensively but defensively. They got way too many easy baskets. We were struggling with the pick-and-roll defenses. They have a stretch-5 and it’s a tough situation with our rotations. Everybody shoots 3’s. We have to figure it out and stick together.”
— Ersan Ilyasova
“That run was pretty big. The second half we were looking for a combination of guys to get back in it. We came out with a pretty good effort and spirit. Then they went on another run coming out of that timeout. Just searching for groups in the second half.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
You have to give Charlotte credit, they picked up their intensity in the second half and they found groups that worked and the Hawks didn’t.
“We started the game kind of slow. They took advantage of us, they came out aggressive. But with the second unit, we really picked up the energy.”
— Marvin Williams
Issues getting to the line
The Hawks are actually one of the better teams in the league getting to the free throw line ranking sixth with 25 free throw attempts per game. Last night was one of the Hawks’ worst night at the line this season, their 10 attempts ties a season-worst and their four makes also ties a season-worst.
Dwight Howard is not to blame for this. Dwight only got to the line twice and made one of those two. Without Paul Millsap, who gets to the line nearly six times a game, no one else really got to the line. Dennis Schröder only got to the line once and THJ didn’t get the free throw line at all.
Not that any of this really mattered in the end (since the Hawks lost by 15 in the end) but if this was a tight game this would’ve been a hot topic of discussion.
The Hornets are actually tied for first in the entire league when it comes to turnovers per game only committing 11.8 TO’s per game. And this was another good game for the Hornets in this department, the Hornets only committed seven turnovers and only one turnover through the first three quarters. As such, the Hawks only scored six points off of turnovers while the Hornets scored 17 points off of Atlanta’s 15 turnovers.
Again, not that this was a huge part of this game but all these things do add up.
Things don’t get any easier for the Hawks (37-33), who jet off to Washington ahead of Wednesday’s match against the Washington Wizards.