Coming into Wednesday’s game with the Knicks, the last thing that the Atlanta Hawks likely feared was an offensive letdown, but that is exactly what transpired during Atlanta’s 95-91 defeat at the hands of New York.
The Hawks did manage to shoot 45.5% from the field on the night, but just 5 of the 24 threes that Atlanta attempted went down, and most of that damage was done after the game was fully out of reach. In fact, the Hawks began the night shooting just 1 of 15 from downtown, and that is not exactly the recipe for success in a Mike Budenholzer offense.
It was a back and forth night for both teams, as the Hawks trailed by as many as 17 in the first half before settling with a 10-point halftime deficit. However, the 3rd quarter was extremely kind to Atlanta, as the Hawks outscored New York by a 23-10 margin.
In that period, the Atlanta defense very much responded, holding New York to 5-for-25 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point distance. Post-game, head coach Mike Budenholzer praised the defense by saying that it was a “really good effort” on that end of the court, and the 3rd quarter was the main reference in that. With the help of the defense and Al Horford (who scored 10 of the first 14 points for the Hawks in the period), Atlanta mounted a 21-4 run to claim a 5-point lead before the margin settled at 3 heading into the 4th quarter.
From that point, the offensive wheels fell off, just as New York heated back up. The final, 23-point tally for the Hawks in the final quarter is misleading, simply because the team scored 7 points in the final 27 seconds of action. Coach Budenholzer referenced the 4th quarter offense by saying that the team “got disjointed offensively” after claiming the 3rd quarter lead, and I couldn’t agree more with that assessment. Carmelo Anthony (who was flatly bad in shooting 9 of 25 on the night) keyed an 11-0 run that put the Knicks ahead for good in the 4th, and not even a last-second binge could even the score.
On the whole, there were several positives, and just as many negatives during Wednesday’s action. For the positive side, Al Horford was (again) tremendous on both sides. His 10-point binge early in the second half is what many fans will reference, but he finished with 23 points on 14 field goal attempts, and his only defense was a lack of offensive involvement at times. The other stand-out effort from Atlanta came from Jeff Teague, who was also praised by Coach Bud in post-game for his level of aggressiveness.
Teague finished with 25 points and 8 assists, and he routinely lived in the painted area. His 7 for 17 shooting effort could use some improvement, but the point guard got to the line 14 (!) times, and toyed with the New York defense at times during the night. Unfortunately, his perimeter excellence wasn’t matched by any other player on the roster, as only Cartier Martin cracked double-digits in scoring, and he needed 13 shot attempts to generate 13 points.
It should be noted that Paul Millsap, who looked to be a prime suspect for a big offensive night on paper, struggled to find a rhythm offensively in scoring just 4 points on 7 shots. To his credit, Millsap did grab 9 rebounds and, for the most part, locked down Carmelo Anthony on the defensive end, but it seemed at times as if the majority of his energy was spent on “Melo duty”.
Kyle Korver made headlines (once again) by extending his streak to a staggering 81 games with a made 3-point field goal. His 3 at the 10:22 mark of the 4th quarter (his 4th attempt of the night) brought him within 8 games of the all-time record (held by Dana Barros), and Korver also added 8 rebounds in support duty on Wednesday night.
There were a few telling statistical numbers that painted a negative picture for the Hawks. First, New York was only forced into 3 turnovers on the night (6 team turnovers), and while the Hawks only committed a respectable 15 on their end, the difference in New York’s field goal attempts (88 to 77) was enough for them to overcome a relatively poor shooting effort.
On the New York end, the Hawks were able to hold Carmelo Anthony to the previously referenced 9 for 25 shooting, but they did allow some unexpected performances. The oft-ridiculed Andrea Bargnani exploded for 20 points and 11 rebounds, including what was the “dagger” of the night with a “didn’t mean to” bank shot late in the 4th quarter, while rookie Tim Hardaway, Jr. went on two small tears to finish with 14 points (on 8 shots) in 15 minutes.
In addition, the aforementioned 3-point shooting woes were evident from the start, and it was, by far, the worst shooting night of the season for Atlanta. For the most part, the shot attempts weren’t the issue, and there are simply nights in this league where the shots won’t fall, but I also doubt very seriously that Mike Budenholzer and company are thrilled with Cartier Martin (for example) bombing 10 3-point attempts in 26 minutes of game action.
This wasn’t a wholly negative performance for the Hawks, but it also wasn’t quite the showing that many (including myself) expected. If you had told the average spectator that Atlanta would hold the Knicks to 42% shooting and out-rebound New York by a 47-37 margin, a victory would have been in order, but New York’s ability to take care of the ball and knock down 3’s was the difference.
Stay tuned for all of your Hawks coverage, and we’ll be back with you when the Hawks take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.