The Hawks had a huge problem on Friday night.
No, it wasn’t that they “needed a big man” like many continue to insinuate about the Hawks after the team stood pat at the trade deadline. It wasn’t that the Hawks needed Gary Neal or Ray Allen, either; this 25-point loss would not have been remedied by a roster change.
Quite simply, the Hawks did not play “Hawks basketball” on Friday night.
Sure, it did not help that Kyle Korver’s shooting was off, as the sharpshooter was 3-for-13 from the field and 2-for-11 from behind the arc. It did not help that Mike Scott was missing wide open dunks or that Paul Millsap was airballing free throws. The Hawks lost because they turned the ball over 20 times through the first three quarters.
Credit to the Raptors for playing great defense and anticipating the passing lanes well, but this was mostly on the Hawks. Their passes were often lazy and the ball started sticking a bit as the turnovers started to pile up. Millsap and Teague frequently tried driving in the lane, but when there was nothing there for them, they tried too much to get bailed out by the refs or to force an awkward pass out to the perimeter never reached its mark.
At one point, Kyle Korver just had the ball snatched from him by James Johnson after Korver had attempted to dribble on the Toronto forward in a semi-transition situation. Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams were cooking from the floor, with Williams lashing out at his former team by scoring 26 points in 24 minutes.
Even though the Hawks had kept the score close by halftime, it kept coming off as lucky that they were staying with Toronto. By the end of the third quarter, that feeling was confirmed and any comeback attempt seemed fruitless. The Hawks were not controlling the ball properly and when they were, they were just chucking the ball up at times, putting up a whopping 38 3-point attempts in the game. (they only made eight)
“We just didn’t play well at all,” said Al Horford on the loss. “We were throwing the ball all over the place.”
Was this a sign of things to come? Likely not. Coach Budenholzer had this to say at shootaround before the game.
Without naming names, Bud was pretty candid today, saying that some guys have looked good the past couple of days and some have been rusty.
— K L Chouinard (@AnaheimAmigos) February 21, 2015
In all likelihood, the Hawks were rusty from the All-Star break while the Raptors were hungry to avenge their 21-point loss to the Hawks from January.
Another case in support of the Hawks is what else happened in the NBA on Friday night. The Wizards were blown out by Cavs. The Trail Blazers lost by 16 to Utah. The Suns lost to the Timberwolves. The point is that bad games happen, they happen to every team throughout the year, and this one loss to a great team should not be worrying to Hawks fans.
The 43-12 Hawks will play next on Sunday in Milwaukee against Jason Kidd’s hot Bucks team, who are only two games out of the fourth spot in the East. With how poorly the Hawks handled the ball on Friday night against Toronto, Milwaukee’s lengthy defense will be a good, difficult test for the Hawks to prove that their sloppy ball handling was just a one-game hiccup.