The Atlanta Hawks opened the regular season on Wednesday night in the midst of great fanfare, but unfortunately, the results on the scoreboard didn’t match the excitement level. Atlanta fell by a score of 118-109 to the Dallas Mavericks, and their defensive output left a lot to be desired.
The Hawks allowed Dallas to shoot 57% from the field and 45.8% from 3-point range (11 for 24) in route to 118 points, and it was mostly a consistent barrage, with the Mavs scoring 32 points or more in 3 of the 4 quarters. Shooting guard Monta Ellis led the way for Dallas, shooting 11 for 17 for 32 points, but it was long-time Hawks nemesis Vince Carter that seemed to make every back-breaking shot. Carter entered the game shooting 46% from 3 in his career against the Hawks, and that level continued with 21 points in 25 minutes.
On the brighter side for the Hawks, the offense was very, very good at times. There were 27 assists on 37 baskets, and point guard Jeff Teague showed undeniable flashes of what he could become in this offense. Teague went for 24 points and 9 assists on the night, and while he did commit 6 turnovers, it was a mostly stellar performance. Elsewhere, Paul Millsap went for 20 points (on 9 for 15 shooting) and 5 rebounds in his Hawks debut, while presumptive “15th man” Cartier Martin contributed an unexpected 17 points in 15 minutes.
In a game of runs, the final push from Dallas was simply too much. Atlanta had drawn to within reasonable striking distance of Dallas with an 8-point deficit at the 2:56 mark of the 4th quarter, but following a timeout (by the Hawks), the Mavs got a stop and proceeded to finish off the visiting Hawks with an 11-3 spurt that included two triples from Dirk Nowitzki. The Hawks did manage to, at minimum, contain Nowitzki with 24 points and 4 rebounds, but the overall offensive effort was more than enough for the Mavs.
Other than Teague and Millsap, the Hawks struggled to get even average efforts from their go-to guys. Al Horford played an exceptional defensive game, as evidenced by his 4 blocks and 5 steals, but he couldn’t get anything going offensively and he wasn’t creating shot attempts (just 12 in 31 minutes) for himself. Kyle Korver also struggled on the day, waiting until the 4th quarter to extend his 74-game three-point streak, and shooting just 3 of 9 in route to 8 points in 35 minutes.
It’s important to remember the mantra that this is just one game. There are absolute positives (offensive efficiency, Teague’s shot creation, Martin’s barrage, etc.) to go along with the defensive problems, but you can bet a year’s salary that we’ll see better days ahead from Korver and Horford, and there are easier venues to play in than the American Airlines Center. Stay tuned as the Hawks travel home for their opener at Philips Arena on Friday against the Raptors.