The Atlanta Hawks (25-26) have now lost four of their last five outings following their 129-125 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers and still have four more games to go on their five-game road trip. They entered the night down starting point guard Trae Young who was the only rotation player to miss the contest as he nursed an ankle injury.
Atlanta still put up a valiant effort against a Blazers team that sits 12th in the Western Conference and had lost four of its previous six.
But, to Dejounte Murray’s point, they have the always dangerous Lillard.
Murray took it upon himself, doing battle with the six-time All-Star and All-NBA selection right up until the (bitter) end. After the game, Murray addressed what sunk the Hawks while giving a tip of the cap to Lillard and the Blazers.
Dejounte Murray sounds off on Damian Lillard after Hawks, Blazers duel
“I think we played a great game,” Murray said via the Bally Sports Hawks Twitter feed. “We competed at a high level. Made some mistakes, which is normal – both teams did. And they was able to capitalize on a lot of things. And, obviously, with Damian Lillard over there – All-NBA guy, head of the snake. Really tough cover each and every night. And we just tried to make it difficult but, one thing about him, he did a good job of getting his teammates involved and making the right reads and they got a good win.”
Murray finished the night with a career-high 40 points while going 5-for-8 from beyond the arc chipping in eight rebounds, seven assists, and two steals.
He also made a bit of history.
He was only bested by Lillard’s 42-point effort that saw the Blazers star hit five of his 12 looks from deep but added eight more points than his Hawks counterpoint at the free-throw line. The two combined for 12 attempts at the charity stripe in the fourth quarter alone.
“When you look at it, we still lost the game by what… four points? And they made 19 threes,” Murray said. “But, at the end of the day like I said, we competed at a high level. We tried to make it tough and it was their night as far as making shots and that’s it.”
The Hawks shot a respectable 43.3% from outside in this game.
They also allowed the Blazers to shoot over 47% on threes and got up 10 fewer deep looks continuing a season-long issue for the Hawks.
“You can’t give guys ‘dare shots’, it’s the NBA. I’ve never been a guy that follow, like, percentages. A lot of people be like, ‘Well, he’s only shooting 20% from 3’. And then you give him ‘dare shots’ and he’s knocking them down all of a sudden. A hooper’s a hooper, we all NBA players. We get paid to work on our game. Obviously, for a whole year, those analytics do work sometimes. But, for me, I just don’t focus on them. So, I don’t like, personally giving anybody dare shots and I think a lot of their threes was – some of them – were dare shots and just praying that they miss and they went in.”
The Hawks have the eighth-most defended field goals attempted, per NBA com. They also have seen a higher percentage of those looks go in than all but one team to face more.
That team is Murray’s former squad, the tanking San Antonio Spurs.
“For sure, all of us,” Murray said pointing the finger first at himself. “Starting with me on down. We got to communicate…If teams is hitting threes like that then you got to adjust with the game. I feel like they was just getting – obviously Dame got a couple, what he does. But the rest of them guys [were] just walking into threes.”
Outside of Lillard, the rest of the Blazers went 14-of-28 from deep led by Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant who combined to go 9-for-17. The non-Murray Hawks went just 8-for-22 with Bogdan Bogdanovic and rookie AJ Griffin knocking down seven of the 14 looks.
John Collins and De’Andre Hunter went 0-for-6 combined with Aaron Holiday knocking down the only other triple on a pair of looks.
The Hawks rank 29th in three-point attempts as it is, they cannot afford to be so inefficient.
Young being in the lineup likely changes a lot but he has not exactly lit it up from three as he normally has either. It’s a team-wide issue that soured a terrific performance from Murray and an entertaining game overall.