The Atlanta Hawks suffered their third defeat succession, falling to the New Orleans Pelicans at Philips Arena in spectacular fashion last night, 112-94. The Hawks were absolutely blown out of the water by the Pels, who were ready to ball from the off. They shot the ball well, they played some good defense and did most of their good work without Anthony Davis. The Hawks looked unprepared, didn’t play with effort didn’t play great defense and deserved to lose by at least 25 points. At the end of the game, Hawks color commentator Dominique Wilkins put it very well when he said “You’d like to say it was a valiant effort, but the effort wasn’t there all night long”.
Decisive first quarter
The Pelicans took control of this game very early on and they never looked back, outscoring the Hawks 34-14 in the opening frame while shooting 63% from the field and 57% from behind the arc as they powered to their best victory of the season.
Sure, they hit some tough shots and caught fire in that first quarter, but the Hawks could’ve done a much better job with their own offense. They shot 26% from the field and 9% from three in the first quarter, and I think a lot of this has to fall on the floor general, the point guard: Dennis Schröder. The point guard is supposed to facilitate/run the offense. With the system the Hawks run, there’s a little less emphasis on Schröder to do this the whole time, but he still has to run the system and he didn’t do that in the first quarter, and beyond.
The Hawks were trailing early and needed to get into their offense, get into some sort of flow. What’s a good way to do that? Oh yea, just jack up a three with 19 seconds of shot clock left.
Unless you’re Kyle Korver, or any other effective three-point shooter, this a terrible shot. With 19 seconds left on the shot clock, run the damn system. You’re not a good three-point shooter, Dennis, you’re open for a reason. You’re supposed to be the point guard on a pass happy team, run a play, run the system.
The Pelicans are now in the midst of an 11-0 run, the Hawks need good trips on the offensive end at this stage of the game. Instead, Dennis gets into the paint and tries to get past Terrence Jones to get to the cup. Jones sticks up with Dennis the entire way, raises his hands vertically and is in the prime defensive position. It’s clear that the best offensive option at this point is not Dennis attempting a layup — because Jones has the rim well protected — but perhaps hitting the open Bazemore in the corner, and the window to do so was there, a frame before Dante Cunningham gets back in the play. But no, Dennis goes for the layup and it misses, because Jones is right there.
Poor offense, that layup was always the wrong option once it was clear that Jones wasn’t going to be shrugged by Dennis. A great defensive sequence from T. Jones, who had an amazing first half and was a huge reason for the Pelicans’ decisive first quarter.
Still in the first quarter out of an out-of-bounds play, Dennis catches the ball and shoots a contested jump shot with 13 seconds left on the shot clock.
Coach Bud is known for drawing carefully constructed and clever out of bounds plays. I don’t think this was one of them… Run something.
And Dennis wasn’t done once the first quarter ended.
After getting switched onto Omer Asik, Dennis (with 16 seconds left on the shot clock) steps into a contested jump shot and misses.
Possessions where only player touches the ball are usually bad unless you’re Steph Curry or LeBron James etc. The elite of the elite. They are especially bad in a system that encourages constant ball and man movement. Stop looking for your own shot, Dennis, and facilitate the offense, run the system.
And, finally, the best for last. Just… Just watch and enjoy.
But all of this is fine, because he can defend, right?
Great focus, great contest… To be fair, the Hawks were already down 32 points at this stage but even still…
When the offense isn’t clicking, as it wasn’t in the first quarter last night, Dennis has to do a better job trying to create for others rather than look for his own offense. Other players, of course, have to play better too but, offensively, it starts with the point guard.
As this game was happening, my thoughts went back to last year’s home game against the Pelicans. The Pels (without Anthony Davis) started the first half super hot but the Hawks eventually turned up their defense and their offense to rally and win. But this never happened this time around. The Hawks couldn’t get the stops they needed to make a run and the Pelicans had answer for everything the Hawks conjured, and some. The perimeter defense was fairly poor and the Pelicans punished the Hawks for it.
“They were too comfortable. They were too free. They had a lot of open looks.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
Perhaps that was the most surprising thing from last night. The Hawks have been one of the elite defensive teams over the last few seasons and to have a game like this — where the Hawks showed little effort and fight defensively — was odd to see. And we’ve known the Hawks to be this excellent defensive team for a while now. This would appear to be just a blip. A dead end, not a trend.
You have to give the Pelicans a lot of credit. Their great ball movement created a lot of good looks, and the built on their lead in the second and third quarters, extending their lead to as many as 35 points. They were well worth their win, but it all began in the first quarter.
Bazemore’s rough night
It’s been a tough opening to the season for Kent Bazemore. Performances have been up and down, but last night might have been his toughest of the season so far — 1 point on 0-for-6 shooting and 1-of-2 from the free throw line.
His latest performance has left some fans very frustrated, questioning the Hawks’ decision to sign him to that four years, $70 million deal. You have to remember this: everyone has bad nights and everyone has bad stretches in this league. That does not mean they are bad players. As much as I rag on Dennis Schröder, he is not a bad player. Yes, Bazemore is struggling offensively, but there’s so much he adds to this team. He adds energy, defense, effort, edge and personality to this team.
Sure, it’s frustrating he doesn’t always hit his shots, but it’s never been about the offense with Baze. Hopefully he’ll have a strong bounce-back game tonight because last night he looked in pain and, on the bench, he looked miserable and a little like Udonis Haslem too with that black eye.
This isn’t the Baze we want to see: miserable. Keep at it, Baze. We need to see that smile return.
No AD? No problem
What was so impressive about this blowout for the Pels was they did a lot of it without Anthony Davis. Davis injured himself hustling for a loose ball in the first quarter while the Pelicans were up 16.
Davis left the game and was declared “questionable” to return. In his absence, the Pelicans not only kept their lead but built upon it. Injuries have been a concern with Davis so far in his career, but he would put any new fears to rest by eventually returning to the game in the fourth quarter.
Just one more thing about AD, how insane is he? His arms are sooooo long. Check this out, this is a screenshot from the exact moment he caught a lob from Jrue Holliday.
He catches this ball so far away from the rim and he still dunked this. Amazing.
The Jrue Holiday effect
The Pelicans were 2-0 since Jrue Holiday returned to the team heading into last night’s game. They extended that run to 3-0 with last night’s victory. But how cool does he look with the goggles he’s been rocking of late?
It’s great to have you back, Jrue.
Gucci Mane grabbed the headlines at Philips last night. I’m glad someone did because Lord knows the Hawks weren’t going to.
He performed at half time, I didn’t see it myself nor have I listened to any Gucci songs. Was he any good? He seemed like a very nice man when new Hawks sideline reporter Rebecca Kaple was interviewing him. He gave away his Rolex watch to a fan and then he proposed to his girlfriend court side in the fourth quarter.
Congratulations “to the future Mr. and Mrs. Mane” as Bob Rathbun put it. No better way to put it.
The Hawks (9-5) now head to Indiana, where they’ll meet former point guard Jeff Teague and the Indiana Pacers as they kick off a five game road trip. Kyle Korver is OUT tonight for rest (which would explain why he played garbage time fourth quarter minutes) and Paul George is officially listed as questionable, but will probably play.