Hawks-Pistons games always seem to be interesting to the final buzzer, and tonight’s was no exception. Despite possibly playing their worst first through third quarters of the year, the Hawks made a panicked comeback in the fourth but came up short 85-84.
Josh had many early attempts at the rim and seemingly no Piston could stop him in transition from throwing one down dunks. However, the Hawks returned the favor for Greg Monroe. Tayshaun Prince, as well, was able to get free multiple times with the smaller Kyle Korver guarding him. Al and Josh combined for first 20 points, exploiting poor lateral speed from Piston bigs. Korver missed all four of his 4 first half shots.
In the first quarter, Horford and Smith shot 9-13, but the rest of the team was a combined 0-7. Free throw woes continued for Horford (0-3 on the night), who came into tonight shooting a poor .586 FT% on the season. His career average is .746 and the lowest it has ever been prior to 2012-13 is .727.
Ivan Johnson had the first points of the game for the Hawks outside of Al and Josh. They were free throws at 9:30 of the second quarter to end a 13-0 Piston run spanning the first and second quarters. However, this did not help to heal the sluggish and dysfunctional Hawk offense. Lou and Jeff Teague looked scared to penetration and Singler’s length made Lou wary to run the offense. The entire offense was out out of tune, had no rhythm, many players missed open shots and hesitated. Likewise, the defense was slow, as if weary from the grind of a tough NBA schedule.
By the end of the second quarter, Al and Josh had combined for 11-21 shooting and everyone else for 3-18. Hawks 2-14 three point shooting in first half and were swamped by Detroit in points in the paint margin 30-18.
The three ball came alive in third as Lou, Teague and Korver all got in the mix. Lou was 3-4 from three in the third quarter. However, on defense they still looked like a collective of players, not a team, repeatedly failing to show on pick and rolls and leaving shooters like Austin Daye open on the wing. Daye burned the Hawks badly and finished with 20 points on 9-11 shooting and 6 rebounds.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, but at 6:35 in the fourth, Andre Drummond received a technical foul for throwing Zaza Pachulia to the floor while fighting for a rebound. From that point, Atlanta went on a mad 16-0 run in only 3 minutes to bring the score from 83-66 to 83-82. The Hawks picked up the tempo notably during that stretch, hit open three pointers and scrambled to the ball on defense to create turnovers.
However, the Hawks only had one bucket in the last 3 minutes, and it was a controversial two points. Horford hit what appeared to be a three with 5.6 seconds left, but the officials saw Al’s foot on the three point arc and overturned it. With 5.6 seconds left, Tayshaun Prince threw away a pass inbounds but on the other end, the Hawks could not capitalize, with a Lou Williams heave as the buzzer sounded knocked away by Andre Drummond.
Despite the Hawks holding the Pistons to only two points in the last 7 minutes of the game, the Pistons were able to take home the game to bring their record to 13-22. The problem for the Hawks rests in it’s paint production. Atlanta was gutted there, getting outrebounded 56-38.
Honestly, there is not much to break down tonight. It was simply a bad game where shots were not falling and the Hawks clearly let it get to their heads for too long. If a pattern emerges during a week’s worth of games telling a similar tale, then beware. However, even the best team succumbs to poor efforts from time to time.
Next game is at home Saturday against the Boston Celtics.