The Atlanta Hawks’ fourth quarter comeback fell short against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night as they split the season series with one win apiece, each taking care of business on their home floor. In this long regular season, every game is but a chapter of a long novel that is the NBA season. You have the same main characters who appear in every chapter, but the content of each chapter differs. When we look back upon the chapter of the Atlanta Hawks’ visit to Sleep Train Arena, what are thing main points to take away?
Hawks hosed by bad call late in fourth quarter
Let’s set the scene — There’s 1:11 remaining in the fourth quarter and the score is 86-85 in favor of the Kings. The Hawks have just secured a rebound following a DeMarcus Cousins miss. This next possession is obviously very important, as the game is tightly contested. Dennis Schröder dribbles the ball past half court and waits for his teammates to take their positions. Al Horford heads towards the paint and Kyle Korver and Kent Bazemore head to their positions on the wings. Schröder gives the ball to Paul Millsap near the elbow. Millsap drives toward the rim and has the ball slapped out of his hands and out of bounds. The call on the floor is Hawks ball with 12 seconds on the shot clock.
However, the officials decided to review, and rightly so. I say “rightly so” because there were less than two minutes remaining, meaning the officials can review the play and consult with the Replay Center in Secaucus, N.J. over any plays they’re unsure about. Replay showed the ball was clearly touched last by Rondo. Millsap doesn’t touch the ball after it is slapped out of his hands. Even the Kings broadcast team, who initially believed it hit Millsap on the knee, conclusively agreed, “that’s going to be Atlanta ball.”
The officials reconvened after extensively examining the play and concluded that it went off of Millsap, returning possession to the Kings. The real humdinger is that the original call on the floor was Atlanta ball. There has to be conclusive evidence to overturn the call. The officials believed that the ball, very clearly, was last touched by Millsap. The conclusive evidence they used to overturn the call was evident neither to the Sacramento broadcast team nor many of the game’s viewers.
Very strange call, but the end result was a scramble under the rim with a foul called and Willie Cauley-Stein sinking two free throws. There’s daylight between the two sides with under a minute remaining. Any Hawks score on the previous possession and it’s a potentially different game. Instead of taking about a one- or two-point Atlanta lead with less than a minute to go, we’re talking about the Hawks trailing by three with less than a minute remaining. Huge call to get wrong from Tony Brothers and his crew.
Second chance points and rebounding woes
It shouldn’t come as any real surprise (especially if you’ve watched multiple Hawks games this season) that the Hawks are not a good rebounding team. They secure the second least rebounds in the entire league (only 40.7 per game). Only the Washington Wizards (40.1) total less.
For the most part, the woeful rebounding has rarely proved the difference between the Hawks winning and losing a game. However, against the Kings it played a large role in the eventual defeat. The Kings destroyed the Hawks in the rebounding battle, 56-42. Among those 56 Sacramento rebounds nestled 17 offensive rebounds, resulting in 17 second chance points for the Kings. All things considered, the Hawks were fortunate that the number of second chance points wasn’t higher. But it certainly came back to haunt them even though the Hawks did a solid job in limiting second chance points.
Cousins is a nightmare for any team to handle, but he’s even more of a handful for the undersized Hawks front line. Horford did a pretty good job defending Cousins all things considered, but Cousins definitely won the match-up, as he finished the night with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Add to the size equation the extremely athletic, seven-foot Cauley-Stein, who grabbed five offensive rebounds and scored four second-chance points, and you have a real problem.
You could definitely argue that this was a bad match-up for the Hawks. Not every team has the incredibly talented Cousins and an athletic center in Cauley-Stein. Together they combined for 36 points and 26 rebounds, eclipsing Millsap and Horford’s combined effort of 25 points and 22 rebounds.
Point guard problem
Atlanta’s inconsistent point guard duo struck again last night. You know, it’s pretty sad when you think to yourself, “man, if Teague had doubled his points total from four to eight, the Hawks would’ve won this game.” No, that’s not a misprint. Teague finished the night with four points on 2-of-8 shooting and didn’t play any part in the fourth quarter. He was invisible throughout the game, and offered the Hawks very little on both ends of the floor. Maybe he was just anxious to get back on the plane to play some Uno.
Schröder got the nod to play in crunch time in the fourth quarter in place of Teague, but didn’t exactly repay Coach Bud for his faith in him. While Schröder did hit a huge 3-pointer to tie the game at 88 apiece after the blown out of bounds call, it was his only 3-point make in six attempts. Overall, he shot 5-of-14 from the field and turned the ball over six times. Schröder’s case for future crunch time minutes was not aided by air-balling an open 3-pointer with only 2:19 remaining with the Hawks trailing by two points. There’s never a good time to air-ball an open 3-pointer, but especially then.
Oh, did you think that was it? No, there is more. Forget the blown call, forget the second chance points, and forget Teague’s “contribution.” I’m afraid there was another defensive error on Dennis’ behalf coming out of a timeout in a late game situation. Hawks fans still remember his late defensive lapse against the Knicks, allowing Jose Calderon a free layup to basically kill the game.
The game was somehow tied at 88 and the Kings had possession coming out of a timeout with 28 seconds remaining. If the Hawks got a defensive stop, they had time to go for the win. Omri Casspi drained just under ten seconds of clock before he passing it to Rondo, who was fronted by Schröder. As soon as Rondo touched the ball he fed it over the top to Cousins. Dennis jumped in attempt to divert the ball and Rondo took full advantage, instantly darting behind Schröder. Cousins handed the ball back to the cutting Rondo and set a smashing screen on Dennis, who was flattened. Bazemore helped on defense, but Rondo cleverly opted for a reverse layup and converted with 12.9 seconds remaining. Millsap turned it over out of the resulting timeout, and that was about all she wrote.
Not the greatest performance by Dennis, especially given the fact he was given a great opportunity to play valuable minutes in a close game. But he will likely be given additional chances in the future, especially if Teague continues to play as he has been of late.
Streamable highlights by Jake Martinsek. Please follow @Graham_Chapple and @IAmMartinsek on Twitter.