Despite an exceedingly valiant at a comeback, the Atlanta Hawks fell just short of the win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. Kyle Korver’s potential game-tying jump shot fell short (with some help from a Pau Gasol deflection) at the gun, and not even a flying effort from Al Horford (who was conspicuously wide-open on the play) could keep the ball in play long enough to avoid the 105-103 defeat.
The reason for the uphill climb in the second half was an absolute offensive barrage in the first half by the Lakers. LA began the night making 7 of their first 10 threes, and with that, the Hawks trailed by a score of 44-23 early in the 2nd period. From there, it was a slow build for Atlanta, cutting the lead to 9 at the half, and setting the stage for what would become the 4th quarter explosion.
In that 4th quarter, the Hawks outscored LA 27-17, and the final run was a thing of beauty. The lead was cut to 4 with a Kyle Korver three at the 4:39 mark (we’ll hear more from Kyle), and following that, Jeff Teague got a clean run-out to slash the lead to 2 for the first time since early in the 1st period. From there, the teams exchanged mini-runs, but when Korver knocked down another triple (this one from about 30 feet away) with 1:15 remaining and Paul Millsap followed with a mid-range jumper, the game was finally tied.
Unfortunately, the story wasn’t so positive from there. Pau Gasol took the ball hard to the rim with 6 seconds to play, and Millsap was whistled for a blocking foul after he slid underneath the Spanish big man. Gasol knocked down both free throws, and when the aforementioned Korver fallaway went begging, that was that.
On one hand, this was a less-than-encouraging defensive effort from the Hawks at times. The Lakers were getting open and/or easy looks for the great majority of the first half, and the wing defense proved to be an issue once again, as even the virtual pu pu platter of options for the Lakers still lent itself to easy baskets. In addition, the free-throw shooting continues to be an issue for the Hawks, as the team finished just 14 for 26 from the charity stripe, and that inefficiency could easily be attributed for the loss.
The other side, however, was the extremely positive recovery down the stretch. Kyle Korver was out of his mind for the duration of the evening, finishing 8 for 10 from the field and 6 for 6 from three-point distance in route to 22 points. It was (another) reminder that he’s the best in the business when left open, and the 30-footer in the 4th court was almost comical in nature.
Alongside Korver, it wasn’t terribly pretty offensively, but the “gritty” and “gutty” terms were applicable. Al Horford put up another double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds, and he was fantastic for the majority of the night while defending Pau Gasol, who finished just 5 of 18 from the floor. Elsewhere, Paul Millsap (14 points, 7 rebounds), Jeff Teague (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), and Dennis Schröder (10 points, 4 assists) all flashed their upside at times, and there will be better days ahead there. A special shout-out is in order for 2nd-year forward Mike Scott, as well, as his 8-point scoring binge in the 1st quarter helped the Hawks keep things within shouting distance, setting the stage for the late fireworks.
A 2-point road loss in LA isn’t exactly cause for panic, and a quick “look at the boxscore” analysis would probably lend itself to a fairly decent effort from the Hawks. For the final 30+ minutes, the Hawks were the better team on this night, but allowing 46 points in the first 15 minutes of any game is an issue that can’t be hidden. All in all, there were positives, and the rest of the West Coast swing should tell us a lot about the direction of this team moving forward.