The Atlanta Hawks’ road trip hit a nasty bump as they were absolutely crushed 68-95 by the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. Gordon Hayward scored a game high 24 points while George Hill added another 23 to the Utah cause as the Hawks’ starters combined for just 37 points.
Utah’s outstanding defense
Look, the Hawks’ offense wasn’t great, but a huge reason as to why that was the case was the amazing defensive display that the Utah Jazz produced. You know, sometimes you lose a game not purely because you didn’t play well but because the other team was simply better — this was the case last night. Gobert, Hood, Hill and company played an absolute blinder on the defensive end, holding the Hawks to season lows in scoring (68 points), 11 assists and field goal percentage (32%).
As Mike Conti of 92.9 The Game pointed out on Twitter, these numbers were not only season lows, but all time lows under Coach Mike Budenholzer (2013-present).
Hawks worsts under Mike Budenholzer tonight:
FG % (31.2)
Margin of defeat (27 points, fourth-worst)
— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) November 26, 2016
The Hawks were held to just 11 points in the second quarter and only 14 in the third, before the Jazz ran away from the Hawks in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, quickly turning this game into a blowout. But make no mistake, while the Jazz’s offensive explosion took them home in the fourth quarter, it was their defense that won them this game.
“Guys were focused on it. It’s something that we want to be. We want to be a really good defensive team, and we knew we were playing against the best defensive team in the league. We were focused on being disciplined, and that’s the main thing.” — Coach Quin Snyder
A developing problem
This was the Hawks’ fourth loss in five games, and as Mike Conti noted on Twitter, the Hawks did this on three occasions last season, but none of them included three double digit losses (to Knicks, Pelicans and now the Jazz) in such stretches.
Hawks lost four out of five on three different occasions last season, though none with three double-digit losses in that stretch.
— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) November 26, 2016
Outside of the Pelicans game, the defense hasn’t been the issue: it has been the offense. Over the last five games the Hawks are only averaging 89 points per game.
“The concern has been the same. We’ve got to get better offensively. I think even in the wins our offense hasn’t been that great. We’ve got to get better at that. We have to get better at reading what defenses are doing to us and denying, back-dooring, learning how to get easy baskets. I think we can get better at that.” — Paul Millsap
“All of us, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror to see what we can do to help the team. It starts with player one to 15. Everybody has to realize what is not clicking, listen to the coaches, listen to each other and figure it out.” — Thabo Sefolosha
The Hawks will have to sort their offensive woes out quickly, otherwise this road trip is going to be a disaster, with games against the Lakers and Warriors to come.
“Whether it’s four out of five and we got beat pretty handily a couple nights ago. We need to find a way to get out of this quickly.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
The Rudy Gobert effect/Dwight Howard struggles
Dwight Howard took advantage of the young Myles Turner in Indiana on Wednesday night, but he struggled big time against Rudy Gobert last night: four points on 2-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds while Gobert registered a double-double, 10 points 10 rebounds.
Gobert was definitely in the Hawks’ head last night, his presence in the paint and around really disturbed them. The Hawks shot just 26% at the rim, league average is 55% and shot 14-of-43 in the painted area.
“He (Gobert) had a part to it. That’s probably the worse lay-up display we’ve had for a while. But good shot-blockers do that. You can give him some credit but also give us a little credit for missing them.” — Paul Millsap
Adding Dwight Howard certainly helps the Hawks matchup better against the Cavs but, in this case, the addition doesn’t help the Hawks matchup against the Jazz. I think the Hawks of last season would’ve matched up better with Gobert. Al Horford plays a little further away from the basket and nearer the perimeter, where Gobert doesn’t like to stray. But with Dwight, he plays right where Gobert wants him to: in the paint. Gobert gave Dwight a bit of credit, acknowledging that he can dominate a game if you don’t prepare for him.
“… When you’ve got a guy who’s been an All-Star many times, if you’re not ready to play he can dominate you. You’ve got to be ready every second.” — Rudy Gobert
Dwight, however, didn’t want to give the Jazz much credit, saying that this defeat was more so on the Hawks not playing well more so than the Jazz just playing better and nullifying him.
“No, I think we didn’t shoot that well. We didn’t have the correct energy on both ends of the floor. I don’t think it was anything special they did. They just played harder than us. They made shots. They got stops when they needed to and got a good win for themselves.” — Dwight Howard
The good news is that the Hawks only face the Jazz twice this year, unless the two sides square off in the NBA Finals, which seems unlikely to say the least.
Gobert had a pretty good quote when he was told about the story where Dwight joked with his mother saying that he had signed with the Jazz, to which she cried before obviously learning that it was a joke and that he had signed with the Hawks. From the Salt Lake Tribune and Aaron Falk’s write up of the game:
“I don’t know,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said with a smirk after beating the Hawks 95-68 on Friday night. “Maybe she cried because she was happy.”
The Hawks are quite familiar with George Hill as he was a member of a team the Hawks have had some recent history in the playoffs with: the Indiana Pacers. Hill has never been known as overly massive offensive threat, but heading into this game he has been averaging 20 points per game on 55% shooting from the field and 44% from downtown. He was fantastic again last night, scoring 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 5-of-8 from three-point range.
He was fairly open for most of those shots, however. Either the Hawks left him be by design (hence, not doing their research because he’s having a great season) or they just did a poor job switching on pick-and-rolls (off of which he was very effective) and getting out to him.
Kent Bazemore’s woes continue
It was another rough night for Baze: 1-of-9 from the field last night following on from his 3-of-13 display in Indiana. Over his last five games, Bazemore is averaging 8.6 points per game on 29.6% shooting from the field and 6.7% from behind the arc. It’s been tough to watch, not because Baze has been bad but because Baze is a great guy. His confidence, judging from his body language, is low. The bounce in his step is missing and the smile has been wiped off his face. As often happens in this league, the pressure of playing to a contract gets to players, you try to play to that contract and, when things go wrong, the harder you try the worse things become.
If Baze had gone through this stretch last year, people wouldn’t have cared as much since he wasn’t earning a lot of money, but now that he’s on this contract the expectations are raised. People are now bringing forward the case about that signing Bazemore to that deal was not the smartest thing to do (and I’m phrasing that nicely compared to folks on Twitter) when Taurean Prince (who is averaging 6.6 points, shooting 50% from the field and shooting 46% from three over his last five games) is earning about 68 million dollars less than Bazemore and is currently playing better.
The good news is that Coach Bud isn’t one to stray from his tried and trusted starting five, so Bazemore will have the opportunity to try shoot his way out of this slump. I believe he will.
Quin Snyder’s jab at Dante Exum
The fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Dante Exum, was no where to be seen until garbage time in the fourth quarter, third in the point guard pecking line behind George Hill and Shelvin Mack. The reason?
“We’re going to play the guys that play defense.” — Coach Quin Snyder
The Hawks (10-6) travel to Los Angeles where they will take on the Lakers on Sunday evening, who are without D’Angelo Russell for a few weeks.