The Atlanta Hawks slid to their seventh straight defeat at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets at Philips Arena, 107-92. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 23 points while Jeremy Lin added 19 points. For the Hawks, they were led by Dennis Schröder’s 24 points while Dwight Howard added another double-double, 19 points and 16 rebounds.
With this loss, the Hawks briefly slid to the sixth seed before the Chicago Bulls defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, handing the fifth seed back to Atlanta. The Pacers can match the Hawks’ and Bucks’ record of 37-36 should they secure victory against the Philadelphia 76ers at home.
Well…this has to be rock bottom, right? A seven game losing streak and a home defeat to the (prior to this game) 15-57 Nets who had only won 5 road games this season? Sliding from eight games above .500 to just one game above .500? Seems about right, though it’s obviously important to mention that the Hawks are carrying significant injuries: Paul Millsap (without whom the Hawks are 0-8), Kent Bazemore and now Thabo Sefolosha, who was a late scratch in this game with a right groin strain (a left groin strain kept him out of action before the All-Star break).
It’s been difficult to watch the Hawks in this stretch, but you have to remember this team is (obviously) SO much different without Paul Millsap. You also can’t understate Kent Bazemore’s importance either. As much as he has struggled this season, he is capable of playing both sides of the ball and he allows THJ to come off the bench, which greatly helps the bench production which is an area the Hawks have desperately struggled since Paul’s absence brought Ersan Ilyasova off the bench and Bazemore’s absence brought THJ off the bench.
Things are bad in Atlanta there’s no doubt about it, but there is decent reason for why this has been the case. Injuries have, obviously, absolutely crippled the Hawks at the wrong time. That’s not to say the Hawks haven’t played poorly, because they have. Yes, they played two good games against the Wizards and the Bucks (games where the Hawks just didn’t have to get over the hump) but (in this seven game losing streak) they played badly against the Grizzlies and awfully against the Trail Blazers and Nets. But the team the fans are seeing now is better than this, better than what they showed against the Nets. Will their fortunes dramatically improve when the starters get back? Probably not dramatically but things will certainly be a lot better and the Hawks will play much better. When will that be? No one knows, but what we do know is that the regular season is winding down, just nine games remaining.
This, hands down, was the Hawks’ worst night on the offensive end of the season: 34% shooting from the field on 34-of-98 field goal attempts, 15% from three on 5-of-27 shooting and 59% from the free throw on 19-of-32 attempts (Howard shooting 3-of-12). The offense was horrible and the ball movement was poor (the Hawks registered just 16 assists), THJ and Dennis tried to force things too much and took poor shots.
There are two interesting tracking stats, one is called time of possession and average seconds per touch. As you can imagine, time of possession is the total/average amount of time a player had possession of the ball in a game, and average seconds per touch is how long a player is holding the ball each time he touches the ball.
For the season, the average time of possession per game for Dennis Schröder is 6.6 minutes (which leads the team by a country mile) and his average seconds per touch is 4.93 seconds. Against the Nets on Sunday, Dennis’ time of possession was 8.3 minutes and his average seconds per touch was 5.9 seconds. Now, this is to be expected to a degree since Dennis is, without Millsap, undoubtedly one of the best offensive players on the team but too often on Sunday did Dennis try to force the issue rather than play to the system. As the point guard, it’s up to Dennis to facilitate the offense the coach desires and the Hawks were not moving the ball well at all. Though Schröder did clock up eight assists but that’s not a true reflection of his facilitation of the offense.
THJ, meanwhile, really struggled to make a significant impact in this game and chucked some bad shots when there wasn’t really a clean look on for him. He scored 16 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field and 1-of-6 from behind the arc.
Dwight Howard, to be fair, had a decent game: 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. I’m not a fan of Dwight post-ups (and those were bad against Brook Lopez) but he did a solid job establishing position against Lopez which helped him score a few baskets. Dwight’s energy and activity helped the Hawks mount a second quarter comeback that saw the Hawks cut a 22 point lead to eight points. If the Hawks had won this game, it would’ve been a turning point.
Ersan Ilyasova had another rough game — nine points on 3-of-14 shooting and 0-of-5 from three-point land. Ersan just couldn’t get in a rhythm and never had much space to take the high percentage shots he likes. In his last three games, Ilyasova is averaging 7.7 points per game on 25% shooting. On the positive side of things, Ersan did collect a season-high 18 total rebounds and seven offensive rebounds.
More bench struggles
As is to be expected, the Hawks has struggled to make any difference in a game in this five game stretch where Millsap and Baze have been sidelined but Sunday took it to a new extreme. The Nets’ bench outscored the Hawks’ bench 46-7. No, that’s not a typo. 46-7. Oh, and two of those seven came in garbage time…
Only Jose Calderon registered a positive plus/minus rating, plus-10 in 21 minutes of play. That lineup where Calderon, Schröder, Prince (at power forward) and Ersan (at center) was something that, sort of, worked. The rest of the bench, however, registered a combined plus/minus rating of minus+76. The Nets’ bench? Plus-83.
K.J. McDaniels and Isaiah Whitehead were two players who really impressed me off the bench (though I’ve been on the McDaniels hype train since his Philly days). They just made things happen for that Nets second unit.
Obviously the Hawks’ bench struggles are to be expected, especially since they’re now missing three starters but guys like Mike Dunleavy, Mike Muscala (who is having a rough time of things right now) and Jose Calderon (who got the majority of backup point guard minutes and shot 0-for-5) are guys who have been trusted to make a few shots no matter who’s healthy or not and they, (bar Jose, who was O.K.) basically, added nothing to the game.
Starting in place of the injured Thabo Sefolosha, Taurean Prince provided the lone bright spark for the Hawks in this game. TP scored 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting but he added great energy to this game and came up with some good defensive plays and was one of only three Hawk players (Ilyasova and Calderon being the other two) who registered a positive plus/minus rating — plus-11 in 37 minutes.
“There were a lot good things that Taurean did. It’s tough. He played 38:27. There were a few plays I just wish, him individually and us collectively, I wish he would get a couple more rebounds, a couple more things here and there. But generally, Taurean was great for his first start. He’s coming in the right direction.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
If this was a glimpse of the future, things mightn’t be awful in Atlanta. They might be bad, but with TP around they could always be worse. Good night for TP, who continues to show solid development.
Another day, another game where the Hawks’ points off of turnovers goes against them. The Nets scored a whopping 31 points off of the Hawks’ 20 turnovers. 31. It’s just as well the Hawks scored 30 second chance points, otherwise this would’ve been a disgusting blowout. 20 TO’s for 31 points just isn’t acceptable.
The Hawks (37-36) will remain in Atlanta ahead of Tuesday night’s matchup against the Phoenix Suns.