The Atlanta Hawks dropped the first game of their three game road trip against Sacramento Kings on Friday night, 108-107. The Kings had three players who scored 22 points: Darren Collison, Ben McLemore and DeMarcus Cousins. For the Hawks, they also had three players who scored 20 or more points in the form of Dennis Schröder (20), Paul Millsap (25) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (28).
Hawks on the other side of a 20 point comeback
The Hawks, twice this season, have recovered from a 20 point deficit and emerge with a victory, but last night they got a taste of their own medicine. The Hawks were seemingly in full control of this game as they stood tall with a 22 point lead (71-49) with 7:02 remaining in the third. The Kings looked defeated and their star man, DeMarcus Cousins, looked a man out of sorts. The Hawks should’ve absolutely closed this game out. So, how did the Kings do it?
The Kings found a lineup that worked and just rolled with it for, pretty much, the rest of the game. It was that 4-man lineup of Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Matt Barnes, Anthony Tolliver that just got things done for the Kings. Together, they scored 43 points on 58% shooting from the field, shot 60% from behind the arc and registered a plus/minus rating of plus-10. They also registered an offensive rating of 135, a defensive rating of 102 and a net rating of +32 in 16 minutes of play.
The fifth man in that lineup was interchangeable between Willie Cauley-Stein and DeMarcus Cousins (who was benched after he picked up his fifth foul). With Cauley-Stein, the offensive rating was 113.9, the defensive rating was 67.6 and the net rating was 46.3 in nine minutes of play. With Cousins, that lineup registered an offensive rating of 165.2, a defensive rating of 144.6 and a net rating of 20.5 in seven minutes of play. The Kings were a little better with Cauley-Stein in the lineup than Cousins.
The Hawks had no answer for this lineup once they got rolling and no lineup Bud rolled out could stop the rolling Kings nor could match their energy. A 10-4 Kings run inside the last three minutes of the third quarter cut the Hawks lead to 10 heading into the fourth quarter. The energy and momentum was now with the Kings.
An 11-4 run to begin the fourth quarter cut the Hawks’ lead down to just three points and the Kings eventually tied the game at 93-93 with just under five minutes remaining. While the Hawks built their lead back up to seven points, the Kings quickly erased that with two three-pointers, one of which DeAndre’ Bembry completely left his man wide open, much to the frustration of Paul Millsap.
The Kings took their first lead of the game with 1:12 remaining in the game and then, arguably, the turning point of this late game occurred. With 44 seconds remaining, Dwight Howard fouled out, picking up his sixth foul and sent Cousins to the line. The Hawks were leading 103-102 at the time and Cousins made both free throws, putting the Kings up 104-103.
Dennis Schröder put the Hawks up by one with his jump shot and the Kings took a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Kings run a play for Cousins. Cousins gets the switch he wants (off of Millsap and onto Dennis) and, without Dwight to guard Cousins or protect the rim, Cousins bullies his way to the rim. He misses the shot but collects the offensive rebound and tucks away the offensive put back.
If Dwight Howard is in the game at this point there’s not a doubt in my mind that he would’ve secured this defensive rebound. With Millsap behind Cousins and out of rebounding position (caused by the switch) he has no chance to secure the rebound himself and, with Cousins surrounded by guards, there was no chance anyone other than Boogie was going to come away with the rebound.
Kings lead 106-105 with 20 seconds left. Better call Paul…
Out of the timeout, Cousins almost knocks the ball away from Millsap, but Paul recovers and drives towards the rim, pulls up and sinks the jumper with seven seconds left.
Cousins wanted an offensive foul here, but I think this was a flop. There’s no way Millsap could’ve thrown Boogie down to the ground like that with just his forearm, Boogie is just too strong. The officials weren’t great in the fourth quarter but give them credit here, this was an excellent no-call.
The Kings had enough time to work with to draw up a play and Darren Collison executed by driving past Schröder and using the high-glass to elude the shot blocker in the form of Millsap and it drops in with 3.5 seconds remaining.
While you would’ve liked to have seen Dennis do a better job staying in front of Collison, Collison did a great job lifting this shot over Millsap, who would’ve blocked it had Collison decided to go low.
The Hawks still had time to work with and their play out of the timeout play saw THJ drive toward the rim where he was met by three Kings defenders and Matt Barnes is credited with the block. There was an awful lot of contact, should this have been a foul?
The Hawks bench was furious with the no-call at the time and, postgame, the Hawks made their feelings about the last play clear.
“It’s clearly a foul. They go right through his body. They go right through his lower left leg. It’s a foul. It was a no-call. We’ll get the report in the morning. They will say it was a no-call. It doesn’t do anything to help us now.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
The Last 2 Minute Report concluded that Hardaway was actually not fouled.
At the time that the foul happened, Bud didn’t really freak out at the no-call but it’s clear he had a chance to see it postgame. Bud normally isn’t that straightforward when it comes to these kind of plays. THJ, meanwhile, carried a similar sentiment.
“It’s clear. There is nothing else to be said. It shouldn’t have gotten to that point. Everyone knows the call should have been made. They didn’t make it. Move on. It’s just hard to go out like that man… I think I got fouled by all three. They didn’t call it. We go out there and bust our tails night in and night out. They’ve been calling that foul all game. For them not to call it … but it is what it is.” — Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Hawks were left frustrated that they let the Denver Nuggets come back from 20 points down and almost took the lead on Wednesday and they were left to feel that frustration once again after Friday.
“It happened so fast. It’s the same stuff we’ve been talking about. Trying to hold on to a 20-point lead, on the road, against a team we should have put away. Give them credit. They played their butts off. They hit some tough shots. But I think we could have done a better job of holding the lead.” — Paul Millsap
Not the way Paul Millsap would’ve wanted to have ended his 32nd birthday…
This Kings team was dead and buried in the third quarter. Even at halftime the odds were stacked against the Kings. Trailing by 16, the Kings’ broadcast rolled out their projected chances to win at the beginning the third quarter:
This was a bad loss for the Hawks. If they can’t close out games like these, against teams with below .500 records, they’re in serious trouble. Awful way to start the road trip.
Contrast of benches
You can’t blame officials, calls or no-calls for games lost. There are always other factors of play that you should’ve been better at (such as turnovers etc.) and, for the Hawks, you could argue it was the lack of bench help. The Hawks bench scored just 16 points and were outscored by the Kings bench 32-16. Anthony Tolliver himself (15 points) was just one point off of the Hawks’ bench total.
During that third quarter comeback, the Kings were able to plug in Barnes, Cauley-Stein and Tolliver off the bench and they helped changed the game dramatically. No one off the Hawks’ bench could make even part of the difference one of those players made. Mike Dunleavy led the bench with eight points, Kris Humphries scored five points and Malcolm Delaney scored three points. The other subs the Hawks went to, Mike Muscala and DeAndre’ Bembry, did not score at all in almost half an hour of play combined.
Again, bench scoring is an area the Hawks have suffered since Thabo Sefolosha’s injury forced THJ to come off the bench and it has rung true again.
Another poor night defending the three-point
The Hawks’ three-point defense hasn’t been great without Thabo Sefolosha, who missed his seventh consecutive game on Friday, and the Kings took advantage, hitting 18 three-pointers. Ben McLemore hit a career high six three-pointers while Anthony Tolliver hit another five. In fact, McLemore and Tolliver themselves matched the total number of three-pointers the entire Hawks team made last night — 11. The Kings outscored the Hawks 54-33. Not good…18 threes is way too many to give up.
The worst shot of the season
Well, this is one end-of-season-award that I don’t have to worry about. Dwight Howard has taken the honors for “worst shot of the season” with this:
I didn’t even know it was possible to brick a post move, but there you go.
Dwight did not have the greatest night scoring six points on 3-of-5 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds, picked up a technical foul in the fourth quarter that ultimately cost the Hawks (since they lost by one point) and fouled out at a crucial stage of the game. He also refused to talk to reporters postgame…not a good look.
The (31-23) Hawks’ road trip continues on Monday night, they’ll take on the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland.