Another heartbreaking loss concluded the Hawks’ road trip on Thursday night, as the Denver Nuggets went home with their first win of the season. The road trip proved to be a great test for this new Hawks team and while the team earned a 1-2 record on the road, there are many good signs emerging from the 3 games in addition to a few problems the team will hopefully look to fix going forward. Let’s take a look at each game individually to make out just how the team looked overall.
The road trip began in Los Angeles on Sunday, as the Hawks took on the Los Angeles Lakers. This game marked the first time the two teams had faced each other since the infamous Dahntay Jones-Kobe fiasco that many fans remember well from last season. However, neither of the two players were on the court Sunday, and the Hawks went up against a team many believe to lack the talent to win many games this year. The Lakers took home the W as the Hawks seemed out of sync defensively from the get go and gave up 33 points in the first quarter. The Defense has been a worry by the team and fans alike since the season began, but the blame for the loss can also be placed on the Hawks free throw shooting that night. The Hawks shot 54% from the line, a bit of a drop as the team came into that game shooting 71%. Still, the Hawks almost made a full comeback in the 4th quarter, holding the Lakers to 17 points. The team fell short as Kyle Korver failed to convert on the final play of the game. Still, Korver led the team with 22 points and was a perfect 6-6 from beyond the arc.
After an off night on Monday, the Hawks suited up to face the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night. The Hawks seemed to come out much better in comparison to the previous game. They found themselves trailing after the first quarter, but an impressive 2nd quarter, where the Hawks held the Kings to only 13 points, gave the Hawks as 9 point lead at the Half. The Hawks came back out and continued to dominate in the second half, however the Kings, with the help of Isaiah Thomas, managed a late comeback attempt in the fourth and the Hawks almost gave it up in the end, but held onto the lead and won 105-100. The trio of Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague helped lead the team to victory on Tuesday. All three players earned double-double performances, Horford and Millsap combined for 52 points and 21 rebound while Jeff managed to gather 18 points and 10 assists.
Finally, the Hawks finished the road trip against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night. The game seemed like another winnable game for Atlanta, however the Nuggets kept pace with the Hawks the entire night, and it was apparent early on that the game would come down to the final possession. Paul Millsap seemed to be the star of the show for the Hawks as he put up 29 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. The one problem that has plagued the team all season was the perimeter defense, and the Nuggets exploited the issue, shooting an impressive 56% from three point territory. The defensive play may still just be a growing pain for the Hawks chemistry and the absence of Dennis Schröder, who was serving his one game suspension, didn’t help the cause against Denver. Once the perimeter defenders get on the same page, an improvement overall should follow suit. The Hawks found themselves once again in a last play for the win situation and the team fell short to the Nuggets, 109-107.
Going forward, the offense should continue to prosper in the new system. The offense play can only get better at this point with Lou Williams still to make his return from injury as well as Gustavo Ayon. The Hawks still have some work to do on defense though, and the team will likely focus on building the chemistry between the perimeter players in hopes of better communication on defense and the interior defense should improve as well when Ayon returns. The Hawks are likely looking forward to returning home as they face the Orlando Magic on Saturday night in Atlanta.