The Hawks dropped their third game this season against the Toronto Raptors after succumbing to a 105-97 defeat at the ACC last night. Thankfully for the Hawks, they didn’t lose much ground in Eastern Conference home court advantage race as the Miami Heat — somehow — managed to lose to the turmoil infested Los Angeles Lakers.
The Raptors were led by DeMar DeRozan’s 26 points, while Kyle Lowry also added a double-double — 17 points and 11 assists. For the Hawks, Jeff Teague poured out 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
A quick congratulations…
Well done to the Toronto Raptors for winning their 50th game last night — their first 50 win campaign in franchise history. Well earned.
Hawks just outplayed
Having struggled in their last few games, the Toronto Raptors came out to play last night. A whole bunch of Hawks players struggled on the offensive end — Paul Millsap shot 3-of-8, Al Horford shot 3-of-9, and Kyle Korver shot just 1-of-6. Korver noted that the Hawks left a lot of points out there in the early exchanges.
“…We definitely left a lot of points out there early. We had some good looks. A bunch of guys had some good looks. We just didn’t have a good shooting night.” — Kyle Korver
The Raptors were just better than the Hawks from the get-go. This was something that Hawks players were quick to admit.
“I thought they played really well. They came out with a lot of fire. They played better than us and they played harder than us. That’s a bad combination. Give them credit. They are a tough team and they are very good here. They got us tonight.” — Kyle Korver
“…Overall, they played great. They had a lot of guys come in and hit shots…” — Kent Bazemore
“Honestly, they played much better than us. They were the more aggressive team from the get-go. We struggled catching up. There is a lot of room for improvement the next time we get to play them.” — Al Horford
Mike Budenholzer was also quick to praise the Raptors.
“A lot of credit to Toronto for how well they played. Their effort and activity defensively probably set the tone. Offensively, they executed, made some shots. We have to be better against a team like this. I think, hopefully, it’s a lesson for us…” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
Even watching the game early on and watching Jonas Valenciunas score 10 first quarter points — putting the Raptors up by five in the first quarter without Lowry or DeRozan having really done anything — you just had a suspicion that this game would be a tough ask.
The Hawks stuck around in the third quarter, reducing a 13 point deficit to just five points. But the Raptors turned a five point lead into a third quarter blowout, behind a 31-14 run, and led 67-89 heading into the fourth quarter
Despite a mild scare in the fourth quarter, the Raptors got the job done, earning their 50th win of the season. They just played better.
Resilient fourth quarter fight
Mike Budenholzer, essentially, threw in the towel to begin the fourth quarter, sending in Kirk Hinrich and Mike Muscala to the floor along with Dennis Schröder, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Mike Scott. What was expected at this point was that the two teams would just play out the remaining 12 minutes with their benches, maybe the Raptors would win by 20, maybe the wouldn’t — the result was already set in stone. Well, it was, until the Hawks second unit made a run — behind a 13-0 run the Hawks second unit cut the lead to just nine points with 6:12 remaining in the game. Game on.
Coach Bud did not send his starters back in when the bench cut the lead to nine points, and I think he was right to do this. The second unit had earned the right to see if they could finish the job. They put themselves in the position to fight for the game after it was lost, not the starters. Why should the starters come back in just because the bench cut the lead to nine? The starters hadn’t played well at all (bar Jeff Teague) and were mostly responsible for putting the Hawks in the situation they found themselves in at the start of the fourth quarter — down by 22 points.
In the end, they fell short but Coach Bud was encouraged by the fight in the second unit.
“…The way the group in the competed in that fourth quarter, they came in, that’s encouraging to see the fight. One or two shots, we could have cut it to six…” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
I thought Kirk and Muscala looked pretty good last night in the fourth — Kirk took it to Lowry on the defensive end and Muscala had three blocks in the 12 minutes he got to play. Pretty decent.
Poor job defending the three-point line
The Raptors shot 11-23 (47.8%) from the three-point line last night. While this is an impressive percentage, they certainly had help from the Hawks, who did not covet themselves in glory defending the three-point line. Sure, it’s unexpected that DeMar DeRozan would shoot 3-of-4 from behind the arc (more on that soon) but you have to do better.
Example number one (we have quite a few too). Patrick Patterson is one of Toronto’s better bench players and a solid stretch four in this league — shooting 36% from behind the arc. It would be unwise to leave him open behind the three-point line, I think that’s fair to say. Let’s roll the tape…
The pick set by Biyombo brings Humphries away from the rim, and I think Mike Scott is trying to cut off a driving lane from DeRozan by sitting near the elbow? I think? Regardless if he was or wasn’t, it means he’s way too far away from Patterson, and Scott’s close out is way too late. Money in the bank from Patterson.
Mike Scott did not learn his lesson, and in this play makes the same mistake.
Scott does not need to roll to the rim to protect Dennis from Biyombo (as Al Horford is switched onto Joseph because of a pick set by Biyombo). But he does, and in doing so leaves Patrick Patterson wide open at the top of the key. Again, that’s money in the bank for Patterson.
This next defensive sequence from the Hawks is a mess. Look how the defense completely collapses on the DeRozan drive, and what it leads to.
Lowry does well to create a switch with his “pick”, and Teague gets switched onto DeRozan. Teague quickly leaves DeRozan, as Sefolosha trys to recover. But there’s another problem. Sefolosha isn’t actually in front of DeRozan to cut him off, so Paul Millsap has to leave Patterson to protect the rim from DeRozan. Now Teague finds himself on Patterson and he can’t just leave Patterson, as he has already knocked down two three-pointers. This means Kyle Lowry — a 38% three-point shooter — is wide open. DeRozan kicks it out to Lowry, and he knocks it down. You can see, just before Lowry takes the shot, that Teague looks around to see where Patterson is. He knew he couldn’t lose him.
What probably should’ve happened is Teague should’ve continued his run and stuck with DeRozan, rather than leave him, and Sefolosha should’ve switched onto Lowry. You’re also seeing the value of Patrick Patterson in the play. If that was Luis Scola (who didn’t play last night) in Patterson’s position, Teague could’ve just left Scola and found Lowry. If Scola knocks down that shot… fine. You can live with that. But you can’t let Patterson have another open shot, so you have to respect that and as a result someone is left open, this time it was Lowry.
This next sequence marks the begins the “We don’t want to guard Norman Powell” quarter, also known as the third quarter.
Kyle Korver really didn’t want to guard Powell, and allowed him a wide open three-point shot where he’s shooting 36% on the season. You may think to yourself “Ah, but he’s only a rookie. He has to prove he can make it”, but the problem is DeMar DeRozan (who is shooting 2-of-3 from behind the arc at this point) was also wide open behind the three-point line. Powell could’ve easily fizzed the ball toward him.
Episode two of the “We don’t want to guard Norman Powell” series.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (for no good reason) leaves Powell in the corner to “help” Paul Millsap stop the penetrating Kyle Lowry. Having just knocked down a three-pointer, Powell is feeling good and knocks down another one — wide open. Hardaway has been better on the defensive end this season, but that wasn’t great.
Not the best exhibit in three-point defending last night.
Toronto’s All-Star backcourt
Every team knows Toronto’s strongest asset — its backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. However, saying “let’s slow down Lowry and DeRozan” is easier said than done. They combined for 43 points, 11 rebounds, 17 assists, and five steals last night.
While Lowry struggled shooting the ball with a 4-of-19 shooting night — due to a recent elbow injury — he still found a way to be effective as he dished out 11 assists.
“One thing about Kyle, he’s going to figure out a way, no matter what” — DeMar DeRozan
Lowry also got to the free throw line eight times and on two occasions was fouled on a three-point shot attempt. DeRozan managed to get himself to the line six times and, between the two of them, they knocked down 12-of-14 from the stripe. So Lowry and DeRozan had 12 free throw makes between them — the Hawks as a team made nine free throw makes. The Raptors attempted 28 free throws compared to Atlanta’s 13.
“Them (Lowry and DeRozan) getting 15 free throws between the two of them, that’s tough. We have to do a better job of being more disciplined. They are very smart in how they create contact, how they get to the free-throw line. So you have to be even smarter, even more disciplined…” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
What was most surprising about DeRozan’s 26 point display was the three-point shooting. DeRozan is not a high volume three-point shooter. While he shoots the three at 34%, he only takes 1.8 of them per game. Last night he went 3-for-4 from behind the arc. DeRozan is a dangerous player without three-point shooting, with it is an entirely different story. In fact, his three three-point makes tied second for his most amount of three-pointers converted in a game this season — he really doesn’t shoot it that often.
“DeRozan hit a lot of shots tonight. Lowry is a super crafty player. He got himself to the free-throw line. He just makes plays. Overall, they played great. They had a lot of guys come in and hit shots. Just a rough night for us. A super frustrating night for us.” — Kent Bazemore