The Atlanta Hawks dropped their second game in a row since the All-Star break ended, losing 105-86 against the Orlando Magic on Saturday evening. Terrence Ross led the Magic with 24 points while Nikola Vučević added 16 points and 14 rebounds. For the Hawks, THJ led the way with 15 points while Dwight Howard, Dennis Schröder, Paul Millsap and Taurean Prince (who was probably the only bright spark from last night) all scored 11 points each.
Bad Q3 leads to another blowout
The Hawks found themselves in an 11 point hole early in this game but did very well in the second quarter to not only to fight back but to take nine point lead for themselves. The defense was rolling, it looked like the Hawks had figured out their issues. But then Dwight Howard picked up his third personal foul with 4:23 left in the half and the Magic proceeded with a 16-5 run to take a three point lead into the half with Dwight picking up a fourth foul before the half ended.
“I thought the loose ball foul just under the five minute mark was tough. We were up nine. He gets the rebound and goes back up and we are up 11. Then they just beat us to a couple rebounds and another foul and they drive it and he gets his fourth. Them getting to the free-throw line was a big part of that 16-5 run.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
But the Hawks were still very much in this game despite that nine point lead disappearing. And then…it all went wrong in the third quarter. The Magic outscored the Hawks 31-19 in the third as the Hawks shot 6-of-20 (30%) from the field while the Magic shot 48% from the field. The defense wasn’t that bad, it was the Hawks’ offense that really broke down more than anything else (though, 31 points allowed in a quarter isn’t ideal).
The Hawks set their offensive tone for the third quarter right from the beginning, running a play out of the locker room which ended up in a post up for Dwight. To the amazement of none, it missed.
Good defense from Vooch here. I really hate those Dwight possessions where he’s just matched with a bigger guy and he tries to back him down somewhat. Not an ideal shot. The Hawks seemed to make a concerted effort to get Dwight going early in the quarter, for better or for worse, though we did get a huge lob out of it.
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) February 26, 2017
Not long after that first Dwight shot we had this lovely possession from THJ, where he tried to back down Evan Fournier in the post before the ball is knocked loose off the Dwight pass back to THJ and ends with THJ launching a three that misses.
Maybe THJ has been taking post lessons from Dwight Howard, that’s why he didn’t get anywhere (HI-OH!! Funny joke…). Not an ideal shot.
Not long after this, THJ and Millsap run a screen and roll but, instead of passing to Millsap as he should’ve, THJ drives into a very congested lane and loses the ball, resulting in a turnover.
That ball has to go Millsap in that situation, that’s just not the right play; driving into a congested lane like that.
One thing that killed the Hawks in the third quarter was their turnovers. They only committed three turnovers for the period but the Magic scored 11 points off of those turnovers. And this was just in the third quarter. Plays like this were a huge reason why the Hawks ended up in a 19 point third quarter hole:
But the Hawks didn’t find themselves in a hole purely because of their offense. Orlando did a lot of things well and came up with some good defensive plays in the third quarter. This nifty sequence where they came up with a block followed by a steal is an example:
With how the Hawks were struggling on offense, they didn’t do enough defensively to make up for this bad offense. The Hawks posted a third quarter offensive rating of 71 and a defensive rating of 121. I’ll let you do the maths to figure out the net rating for the third quarter… Not good, if you’re too lazy to do that. Not good at all.
“…we have to get together with the team. “We are not there. Everybody has to be together. We have to play together as a team…”
— Dennis Schröder
And, from there on out, the Hawks were facing an uphill battle and — on the second night of a back-to-back — couldn’t overcome that deficit. Another blowout loss to a team not in the playoffs.
“We have to get it together. It ain’t on the coaches. It’s on us. The coaches are not out there playing. There not making decisions for us. So, it’s on us.”
— Dwight Howard
Horrible, horrible loss but it was that third quarter that was key to this game. Overall, the Hawks shot 38% from the field and posted an offensive rating 88.8 and a defensive rating of 101.5. Again, that’s not a bad defensive rating but a truly awful offensive rating…
The Hawks have now lost three straight games by a combined margin of 52 points. These last two defeats against two teams with a combined record of 46-70. This is a baaad time to hit a wall, the Chicago Bulls, yes the Chicago Bulls, are only 2.5 games behind the Hawks now. That’s all. The Hawks are 10-10 over their last 20 games…
“We don’t want to be a .500 team. You have to go out on the court and execute on both ends of the court. At the end of the day if it’s 20 games and we are .500 we have to be honest with ourselves and find ways to improve whether it be small things or big things.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
“We don’t want to be a .500 team…”. The Hawks will have to really step it up a notch, otherwise it’s definitely in play.
Bud: "All of us collectively need to find a way to be better. It’s important that it starts quickly."
— Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) February 26, 2017
More Dennis drama
After serving his one game, team imposed suspension for not turning up on time after the All-Star break, Dennis Schröder was, surprisingly, not included in the starting lineup. A late scratch. Malcolm Delaney started again the the Hawks really struggled out of the gate and trailed by 11 early. It was when Dennis entered the lineup that things did improve for the Hawks.
Postgame, Coach Bud was asked why Schröder didn’t start on Saturday. Dennis was late for the bus to the arena.
— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) February 26, 2017
“We continue to hold our entire roster, all of our players, accountable. Our culture is important to us. Respect for your teammates is important to us. That’s our job and that’s our organization’s job is to continue to build on our culture.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
We didn’t know this until after the game and it seemed very strange, at the time that if Dennis was going to be play at all, that he didn’t start from the off. But Coach Bud made the right decision here and I wonder if, the Hawks weren’t struggling as they were, he would’ve played at all. If Jeff Teague were still on this team or the Hawks had a third point guard, I’d be willing to bet Dennis wouldn’t have played at all.
This is not a good look for Dennis. Showing up late just after serving a one game, team imposed suspension…it makes you wonder if there are other things going on behind the scenes with Dennis. In another ‘not-a-good-look-for Dennis’, he declined to to comment about his benching.
Dennis didn’t have a great game either. 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting, though he did register eight assists. Time will tell if there’s more going on behind the scenes.
Turnovers and fastbreak scoring
We touched on it when talking about the Hawks’ third quarter but turnovers were an issue here. The Hawks turned the ball over 17 times and the Magic made them pay, scoring 26 points off of those turnovers. This helped the Magic outscore the Hawks 27-13 in fastbreak scoring, something Magic players acknowledged postgame.
“It’s fun. I think it’s playing to our strengths. We was able to get out and run. We have a lot of athleticism on the wings now.”
— Elfrid Payton
“Anytime somebody gets deflections, it’s going to lead to any type of points. When we convert that to easy transition buckets, it helps.”
— Terrence Ross
“We had a lot of speed, a lot of fast break points. For the first time in a while, I feel like we had fun.”
— Evan Fournier
When you’re letting the Orlando Magic, one of the worst teams in the entire league, have fun you know you’ve gone wrong somewhere. But hey, credit to them. They played well and the Hawks did not.
More missed free throws
Just as it was on Friday night against the Heat, the Hawks missed a whole bunch of free throws on Saturday, shooting 14-of-26 from the line. Dwight Howard accounted for most of those misses and he looked awful from the line, 5-of-13 for Dwight last night. Over the last two games the Hawks have shot 38-of-62 from the line. 61%.
The Magic, meanwhile, did a great job from the line nailing 23-of-24 from the line.
The Hawks (32-26) now head to Boston for their first game in the TD Garden this season against Al Horford and the Boston Celtics.