CHARLOTTE–Ten observations from Hornets 109, Hawks 91. . .
1. The Hawks led by as many as 20 points in the second quarter before getting blown out by the Hornets, who had a 24-0 run in the second half. The Hornets got it down to 56-49 at the half as Frank Kaminsky lit them up for 15 in the second, including five free throws and two three-pointers. Then the Hornets erupted for 35 points in the third period: Dwight Howard got touches under the basket, Dwayne Bacon hit a couple big threes and the Hornets turned up the defensive intensity. The Hawks scored just 17 points in the third.
“It’s just growing pains, man,” Kent Bazemore said. “Learning how to continue to do the things that get us those kind of leads. It’s encouraging to see we can play a great style of basketball and build a lead against a very seasoned team. It’s something we’ve got to learn from. We’ve three more games on this road trip. These nights are going to happen. Now it’s just how are we going to bounce back. Are we going to go into a lull or come out and figure it out right away.”
2. As expected, things were tougher for the Hawks in the paint against the Hornets than against the Mavericks. Basically they found easy passage to the rim when Howard was out of the game and didn’t go inside much when he was in there. Howard picked up his second foul with 3:39 left in the first quarter and Frank Kaminsky checked in. The Hawks went on a 19-6 run with Howard on the bench as Taurean Prince and John Collins took advantage.
3. The Hawks pretty much played Howard straight up with late help digging down once he committed to making a move to the basket. In the first half the strategy was effective with throwing off Howard’s timing and footwork. The Hawks also made it tough for Howard’s teammates to create good angles to feed him in the post. But then Howard started getting deep position in the third period and the Hawks had to hack him.
Budenholzer: “I think most of his damage was either on the offensive boards or off of penetration and dump-offs. One-on-one and that type of stuff I don’t think was our problem.”
4. Ersan Ilyasova was the primary defender against Howard for much of the first half. When Dewayne Dedmon got in early foul trouble, Mike Budenholzer sent in John Collins for the assignment. Then Ilysasova got in foul trouble and Collins fouled out trying to deal with Howard. Tough assignment for the rookie.
Bazemore on Collins: “This is the NBA. I’ve been in that situation. First year I played small forward where you’ve got Carmelo, Paul George, LeBron. Those guys are good. They are great. Some nights it’s not going to be your night, some nights you are going to hang with them and some nights you even outplay them. You’ve just got to roll with the punches. It’s an 82-game season. He did the best he could and that’s all we can ask.”
5. The Hawks couldn’t survive an off night from three four best shooters. Luke Babbitt was 1-for-6 on 3-pointers, Muscala 1-for-4 and Ilyasova 0-for-3. Marco Belinelli was 1-for-10 from the floor overall. Sometimes losing teams lean on the “make or miss” line too much after losses but I thought this was a game where it applied to the Hawks.
“We had open shots,” Dennis Schroder said. “Open floaters, open shots, pull-up jumpers but we didn’t make them. It’s a part of basketball. Sometimes you make them and sometimes you miss them. Tonight we missed them in the second half.”
6. Those missed outside shots were a big reason why the Hornets could pack the paint without penalty and avoid fouling. The Hawks didn’t attempt a free throw in the second half after they were 12-for-14 on FTs in the first half. Budenholzer: “Five guys collapse the paint and take away the paint. They make you shoot a lot of (jump) shots. I thought we had a lot of open threes, a lot of open looks. You’ve got to make those against a team that really is going to crowd the paint.”
7. Like he did at Dallas, Collins provided a spark soon after entering the game for the first time with some high-flying plays.
8. Before the game Budenholzer was noncommittal about how the wing rotation would shake out with DeAndre’ Bembry out: “We will just kind of figure it out tonight as we move forward.” He kept it tight tonight Belinelli (22 minutes) and Babbitt (14) as the top two wing options off the bench and Tyler Dorsey and Nicolas Brussino getting mostly garbage time.
9. The Hornets were willing to let Dedmon shoot outside jumpers and he obliged. He made his first three JS—a long two with his foot on the line, a 3-pointer, and another long 2. Dedmon looks confident and balanced when he shoots them.
10. The Hawks didn’t run nearly as much as they did against Dallas. Some of that was because the Hornets were focused on getting back defensively. But I thought the Hawks missed some chances to push and get some early offense. Dedmon sprinted back ahead of Howard a few times and was looking for the ball but the Hawks were slow to bring it up.
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