Ten observations from sitting on my couch and watching Pelicans 106, Hawks 105. . .
1. The Hawks controlled most of the game with the best formula they’ve got: good pace, sharing the ball, forcing turnovers with scrappy defense and making open shots. It was a much better effort than the one at Washington on Saturday. The Hawks fell apart at the end, though. Their demise started when Dennis Schroder got tunnel vision at winning time and kept forcing shots at the basket against Anthony Davis, which predictably didn’t go well. Davis also challenged any other Hawk who ventured inside and snatched away rebounds as part of a 14-4 run.
2. The Hawks answered with made shots by Tyler Cavanaugh (16 points on seven shots) and Marco Belinelli but Darius Miller made a 3 out of a scramble situation to put the Pelicans back up two with 55.8 seconds left. After Kent Bazemore made a free throw to halve the lead, Miller missed a 3 attempt. But then the Hawks had an awful possession: Bazemore lost his dribble against no defensive pressure, Schroder scooped up the loose ball and flubbed a pass to Cavanaugh in the corner. Turnover Hawks and, after Taurean Prince’s steal gave the Hawks another chance, game over.
3. The Hawks were down Mike Muscala and Ersan Ilyasova in the front court, which made for potentially major problems against Pelicans bigs Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. The situation worsened when Dewane Dedmon and John Collins got in early foul trouble. But Cavanaugh delivered some strong minutes in the second quarter to help keep the Hawks afloat.
4. Dedmon picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter with a silly attempt to draw a charging foul against Cousins outside of the 3-point line. It’s the second time in three games that Dedmon got into foul trouble while trying to make unnecessary plays.
5. Cavanuagh went back in for Dedmon came through again. After replacing Dedmon, here was his sequence over the next three possessions: made a corner 3-pointer, forced a turnover against Cousins by smartly sliding in front of him when he tried a spin move, and then jumped up to trial the play and deliver another 3-pointer. Suddenly the Hawks were up 12. Cavanaugh made another 3-pointer later in the period to put the Hawks ahead 70-63, and also the 3 for a 101-97 lead late.
6. Eventually the Pelicans finally started taking advantage of their mismatches when Cousins and Davis went at rookies Cavanaugh and Collins. But Collins (12 points on 10 shots) kept answering with baskets on aggressive screen-rolls.
7. The Hawks gave lots of extra attention to Cousins when he got in the paint. That was a reasonable strategy but Miller (21 points on 11 shots) and E’Twaun Moore (24 points on 18 shots) made them pay a price for it.
8. During the game Fox Sports Southeast reporter Andre Aldridge said coach Mike Budenholzer and Schroder had a spirited discussion following a defensive lapse by the point guard. There were some of those for Schroder, as usual, but Jrue Holiday made some plays against Schroder by just outmuscling him. Holiday is a good player but it’s always seemed as if he should be a better.
9. Luke Babbitt started off guarding Davis and it wasn’t the mismatch you might expect. Davis had just one field-goal attempt in the first quarter, though he played a big part in Atlanta’s foul trouble (five free-throw attempts in the period). Babbitt was working hard to keep Davis out of prime post position and his teammates had good timing with their help D. The Pelicans weren’t working very hard to get Davis the ball for some reason.
10. The Hawks haven’t consistently pushed the pace like Budenholzer wants this season but they were up to ninth in pace before Monday’s games. The Pelicans (eighth in pace) are OK with pushing the pace but they weren’t very good at it tonight, though, while sometimes playing too fast. All the Hawks were jumping passing lanes, both in the half court and in transition. Their 14 steals were spread around four players: Belinelli (four), Prince (three), Bazemore (three) Schroder (two), and Delaney (two). One thing the Hawks do consistently is to play defense with active hands and create deflections.
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