“Obviously, we didn’t play well.”
Those were the words of Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer during his post-game press conference following Atlanta’s 109-92 loss to the Orlando Magic, and that paints the picture of what took place in a concise, but accurate way. After leading by 4 points at the half, the wheels came flying off of the wagon for Atlanta, as the Magic outscored the Hawks 36-20 in the 3rd quarter and 60-39 overall in the final 48 minutes to push the final margin to 17 points.
The decisive period of the game took place between the end of the 3rd quarter and the beginning of the 4th quarter, as the Magic embarked on a 45-16 run from the 9:37 mark of the 3rd until the 7:11 mark of the 4th period. During the march, the Atlanta offense utterly floundered, shooting just 4 for 25 (16%) while allowing a crazy pace to the Magic offense, including a 62.5% shooting mark in the 3rd quarter and 58.1% overall in the second half. Unfortunately, the Hawks couldn’t return the favor, as even when the onslaught ceased, the Hawks missed 8 consecutive shots (and 12 of 13) during a 6-minute stretch.
Attempting to diagnose what happened during the collapse is rather maddening, as it seemingly included every facet of the game. Coach Budenholzer did his best to characterize the issues by saying, “Ultimately, we didn’t respond in the way we need to respond”, and while that doesn’t cover anything specifically, it’s extremely telling. Orlando seemingly raised their game after halftime, knocking down tough shots and flying around on defense, while the Hawks looked to wilt a bit.
For Orlando, Arron Afflalo was the biggest thorn in the side of the Hawks, as the veteran shooting guard from UCLA went for 26 points in 36 minutes. While 26 points isn’t totally out of the realm for Afflalo, he had 23 points by the midway point of the 3rd quarter, and his shotmaking consistently baffled the Atlanta defense. Assisting Afflalo on the offensive end was Andrew Nicholson, who used his fully unique arsenal in order to post 19 points and 8 rebounds off the bench.
There were few bright spots in the win, but the play of Lou Williams was chief among them. Lou played a season-high 24 minutes off the bench for Atlanta, and he took full advantage of the playing time, scoring 11 points and dishing out 8 assists. In addition, he was thrust into some point guard duty in the second half after Shelvin Mack left with an ankle sprain (that will keep him out of Wednesday’s game, according to Budenholzer), and Williams looked comfortable throughout his time on the court.
As a continuation of his assault on the record books, Kyle Korver knocked down a 3-pointer for the 88th consecutive game to provide the most positive thing for the Hawks in this one. His triple at the 4:05 mark of the 2nd quarter (on his 3rd attempt of the night) brought him within 1 of the all-time NBA record of 89 straight (held by Dana Barros), and he’ll be looking to match it when the Hawks travel to Houston.
Jeff Teague and Al Horford tied for the team lead in scoring with 15 points a piece, but it wasn’t a banner day for either player. Horford was mostly above the fray in terms of the collapse, but he was outpaced by Nikola Vucevic on the stat sheet, as the Magic big man went for 12 points and 15 rebounds to just 15 points and 5 boards for Al. Teague’s play seemed to deteriorate along with the rest of the team, as his quality effort in the first half (13 points, 3 assists) gave way to an ugly 4-for-11 shooting night overall, and a team-worst -19 while he was on the floor.
Wednesday’s game in Houston will provide a quick and challenging opportunity for the Hawks to right the ship, as a back-to-back turnaround against a quality, Western Conference opponent is rarely the recipe for fixing what ails a struggling team. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a highly motivated Hawks team in this spot, and they’ll be looking to eliminate any negativity that leaves with them from Philips Arena after the loss.