Hawks vs. Clippers — Things of Note

Graham Chapple —  January 24, 2017

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks dropped the final home game of their three game homestand, a 115-105 loss at the hands of the L.A. Clippers, who were without stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Austin Rivers stepped up in Paul’s absence, pouring out a game-high 27 points while Jamal Crawford added 19 points.

I don’t normally do this, but I’ll stick Rivers’ highlights here. He deserves credit, he played well. It’s nice to see that he’s a competent NBA player now, which was certainly not the case when he was in New Orleans.

The return of Jamal Crawford

It has been a rough month of January for Jamal Crawford. Before last night’s game, Crawford — for the month of January — had been averaging 8.6 points per game on 27.7% shooting from the field and 14.8% from three-point land. As you can see, a really rough month for Crawford, especially from three, Jamal had made just four of his 27 three-point shots. Per Chris Vivlamore of the AJC, coach Doc Rivers was asked about Jamal’s struggles. When Jamal walked into the room, Doc joked that he was sick of answering questions about Crawford, who put his arms around a few reporters, saying “Let’s change that narrative tonight.”

And change it he sure did.

Crawford scored 19 points on 9-of-20 shooting, eight of those coming in the fourth quarter.

Had Crawford not stepped up as he did in the fourth, the Hawks could have won this game. His baskets came at crucial moments, sucking the life out of the Hawks who had worked hard to get back into this game only for Crawford to break their hearts.

“This feels more normal. At a certain point, it becomes kind of mental. You stop yourself because you’re thinking too much. … You go through those slumps. And you know every scorer goes through them.” — Jamal Crawford

Per Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, Crawford spoke with Dominique Wilkins pregame, who told Jamal that he had gone through similar slumps too.

“That really hit home.” — Jamal Crawford

So…we can blame ‘Nique for this loss, right??

First half of doom

As good as he was in the fourth quarter, Jamal Crawford was not the reason why the Hawks lost this game. The Hawks’ awful first half was the reason they lost this game. A lack of effort, pace, defense and respect for a team without their stars cost the Hawks dear.

“When a team is without their stars, they are going to move the basketball and play the right way. They did that. We may have taken it a bit for granted.” — Paul Millsap

Offense

Let’s start with the offense first. The Hawks scored just 40 points in the first half on 13-of-40 (32.5%) shooting, an offensive rating of just 81.2. There a few reasons for this. Firstly, you have to give the Clippers credit, their defense was good.

“I think they played good defense. Anytime you shoot 32 percent from the field your opponent usually has something to do with it…”— Coach Mike Budenholzer

DeAndre Jordan’s presence affected Dennis Schröder and he shot 5-of-10 in the restricted area.

“Having DeAndre Jordan down there obviously change the dynamic of our offense a little bit with Dennis getting to the rim. Other than that, we had some shots that we normally hit that just didn’t fall.” — Kent Bazemore

Secondly, a lot of the Hawks’ shots just fell short. Perhaps this was a sign of fatigue, this was the Hawks’ third game in four nights and the night after the Atlanta Falcons made the Super Bowl, maybe they enjoyed their Sunday night. The Hawks shot just 26% in the second quarter.

“…it felt like one of those nights where we couldn’t get a shot to go down. When we got a good look … it seemed like a lot of them were short. Like any night, when you get good looks you have to hit a decent percentage of them. In the first half, it just wasn’t happening.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

35 third quarter points helped the Hawks crack 105 in the end and their increased pace and urgency (obviously helped by the fact the Hawks were down 20+ points) definitely helped in a better offensive second half. The Hawks’ offensive rating in the second half was 129.6.

“We got some good looks but it’s tough to get in a rhythm when you are not doing things with pace. The pace could have been pushed a little more. We could have moved the basketball a little more. We could have screened for each other a little more. We could have played with more pace. Then we would have found a good rhythm. We waited too late to do it.” — Paul Millsap

 Defense

This was the big reason why the Hawks lost this game. The Hawks conceded 58 first half points as the Clippers shot 43% from the field and 57% from behind the arc. The intensity — and, at times, effort — just wasn’t there for the Hawks last night. Having entered the second quarter trailing by just nine points, the Hawks soon found themselves down by 22 points, largely due to their poor defense.

Let’s look at a couple plays illustrating their poor defense.

Here, a screen from DeAndre Jordan creates a switch that puts Dwight Howard on Austin Rivers and Thabo Sefolosha on Jordan. As Rivers is probing — and handing the ball off to Mbah a Moute — Dwight decides to switch back onto Jordan and communicates to Thabo (who is under the rim) to switch back onto Rivers. However, the ball is quickly returned to Rivers and Sefolosha has so much ground to make up in order to reach Rivers. Because Dwight has now dropped back into the lane, and Thabo making his way back to Rivers, Rivers now has a wide open three-pointer.

For me, this is on Dwight. If Sefolosha was right there beside Dwight when he indicated to switch back onto Rivers, there wouldn’t be a problem, but Thabo is miles away. Dwight should’ve just stuck with Rivers, not allow him a wide open shot. If he drives past you in isolation, so be it. Just don’t let him take an open shot.

In transition, no one picks up Jamal Crawford in transition and he wisely heads to the three-point line. He is found by Rivers and Crawford knocks down the transition three.

These were a but a few defensive lapses in the first quarter that led to the Clippers enjoying the lead they did. One of many wide open shots the Clippers enjoyed, as they shot 14-of-24 from behind the arc.

When you’re not making shots and not getting stops…usually a bad recipe. Kent Bazemore believed the first half was the difference in this game.

“That was the tell-all difference in the game. They came out and threw the first punch.” — Kent Bazemore

Playing at home against a shorthanded team whose stars are not playing…the Hawks should’ve taken care of business here. Instead they lay a complete egg in the first half and concede 115 total points against said team. This has to be one of the worst losses of the season.

Contrasting benches

The bench battle ultimately proved to be a huge factor in this game. The Hawks’ second unit couldn’t get anything going on both sides of the floor. In the end, the Clippers’ bench outscored the Hawks’ bench 38-13, the lowest scoring output from the Atlanta bench this season. Jamal Crawford himself outscored the Hawks’ bench 19-13…

The first half in particular was a struggle for the bench. They combined for just six points on 2-of-10 shooting and combined for a plus/minus rating of mins+59. In the first half. 

The bench has definitely suffered in these last four games in the absence of Mike Muscala. The two bigs that came off the bench in this game (Kris Humphries and Mike Scott) combined for just over 11 minutes of play and zero points… Get healthy soon, Moose!

Positives

Amidst a bad loss, there were a few positives for the Hawks.

All of the starters scored double digits, with both Baze and Dennis scoring 20+ points. The Hawks dished out 28 assists, committed just eight turnovers (just the third time the Hawks committed single digit turnovers this season).

You know, when I started typing this segment I thought there were more positives but there really weren’t many, as it turned out…

Baze’s bizarre three

This was definitely the strangest three-pointer Kent Bazemore has hit this season.

Great call by Bob Rathbun too, always hilarious when an announcer calls the shot a miss only for it to go in.

A nice moment before tip

A long time ago, coach Doc Rivers played — as a point guard — alongside Dominique in Atlanta. It seems their bond remains strong to this day as Doc came to say hello while Bob and ‘Nique previewed the game.

30 years later their bond is still strong. You love to see this. But if Doc hadn’t passed ‘Nique the ball though…

Up next

The Hawks (26-19) finished their three game homestand 2-1, and now head to Chicago ahead of Wednesday’s fixture against the Bulls in the Windy City. The Hawks recently topped the Bulls 102-93 on Friday night.

Game stats: NBA.com
Hawks quotes: The AJC via Chris Vivlamore
Clipper quotes: The Orange County Register via Dan Woike

Graham Chapple

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