Atlanta Hawks

Hawks again squander late lead in falling to Nets

For the third time in six games, the Atlanta Hawks squandered a late lead, falling 110-105 to the Nets on Friday night. After completing a 1-4 Western conference road trip with a win in Denver Wednesday night, the Hawks kicked off their season’s longest home stand with the disappointing loss after they led by a point with possession of the ball with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game.

Kent Bazemore commented on the frustration of letting another late lead get away. “It hurts,” the veteran swingman said. “As a competitor, you go out there and give it your all for 48 minutes and come up short. This is reminiscent of the Clippers game, which is still fresh,” of course referring the Hawks’ loss in Los Angeles on Monday after leading by five with 90 seconds to play in the game.

This time, the Hawks lead by as much as four points inside two minutes. But it was a one-point lead very late game that set the stage for another disappointing loss. Bazemore hit two free throws to give the Hawks a 105-104 lead with 52 seconds remaining.

After the Bazemore free throws, the Nets turned the ball over when Bazemore deflected the dribble of Nets’ forward Quincy Acy and Malcolm Delaney came up with the loose ball. After running some time off the clock, Dennis Schroder missed a contested layup. Nets’ point guard Spencer Dinwiddie grabbed the rebound and went the length of the court to convert a layup with 11 seconds remaining while getting fouled by Malcolm Delaney.

The door was still open for a victory when Dinwiddie missed the ensuing free throw but the Hawks were unable to collect the rebound. Instead the ball again landed in the hands of Dinwiddie who was fouled and made both free throws to give the Nets a three point lead with nine seconds to go.

The Hawks called a timeout to advance the ball and inbound it near mid-court. Though trailing by three 108-105, Schroder drove the lane and attempted a layup which did not hit the rim. He was called for traveling when he caught the errant shot attempt. The Nets added one more basket to close out the 110-105 victory over the Hawks.

Hawks’ Coach Mike Budenholzer explained the decision to go for a two point shot while trailing by three inside of ten seconds, “We thought we had enough time to go for two, and then foul again,” he said. “If we were (still) down three, then have enough time with a second timeout to get a three. I think there was (9.1) seconds left, so we had an either or (situation) where Dennis tried to score or we had a corner three-point shooter.”

Though Bazemore referenced the Clippers loss, the game was possibly more reminiscent of last Tuesday’s loss in Phoenix when Schroder made a layup in the final seconds when the Hawks were trailing by three. The difference in that game was the Hawks were in-bounding the ball with six seconds (compared to nine versus the Nets) and the Hawks did not have a timeout left in the Phoenix game but did have a timeout remaining, which would allow them to again advance the ball, in Friday night’s loss to the Nets.

Hawks’ rookie John Collins tried to keep things in perspective after the game, “It’s been that way the whole year,” the big man said. “We’ve play hard, played well and fought with teams and then somehow manage to let the game slip away… Another tough night, but like we’ve done before, we have to learn from it, go back and watch film and try to get a W next time out.”

The Hawks looked sluggish as teams often can in the first home game after an extended road trip. The Nets ran out to a 13-4 lead including a quick five points from former Hawk DeMarre Carroll. But the Hawks came to life with a 9-2 run with a Schroder mid-range jumper pulling the Hawks within three points at 16-13.

The Nets then rebuilt the lead to seven when two Allen Crabbe free throws gave his team a 22-15 lead with 3:47 remaining in the opening quarter. But the Hawks’ bench finished the opening quarter strongly on a 10-3 run to tie the game at 25-25 to end the period

Jahlil Okafor was a force early in the second quarter scoring the Nets first six points of the period helping them to a 31-26 lead early in the period. They extended the lead to 43-34 on a Joe Harris three pointer with 7:20 reaming before the half. But the Hawks buckled down on defense, holding the Nets to 3/11 shooting for the rest of the period.

The Hawks tied the game at 50-50 on Schroder three with 1:21 left. But a three-pointer from Acy sent the Nets to the locker room with a 53-50 half-time lead.

As they did in the first two quarters, the Hawks fell behind early in the third quarter. The Nets opened the period on a 13-6 run to reach their largest lead of the game at 66-56 with 6:57 to go in the period. But the Hawks again locked down the defense, this time holding the Net to 4/15 shooting for the balance of the period.

The Hawks took their first lead of the night at 67-66 on a Tyler Dorsey three-pointer with 3:09 left in the quarter. But the teams exchanged baskets in the final minutes of the period. The period ended with the game tied at 74-74.

Early in the fourth quarter, Okafor made his presence known as he again scored the Nets first six points of the period and then scored again giving the Nets an 85-80 lead. The Hawks battled back to retake the lead 87-86 on a Bazemore three with 7:14 to play. The teams traded baskets and stops as neither team could pull away from one another for the next several minutes of actions in a stretch that saw multiple ties and lead changes.

The Hawks managed to find some momentum and built a five point lead at 99-94 on a Dedmon three pointer with 2:37 to play. But the Nets used a 10-4 run to take a 104-103 with 1:12 remaining on a three point play by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson drawing a sixth foul on Dedmon and eliminating him from the game.

Bazemore then gave the Hawks their last lead at 105-104 with 52 seconds remaining, before the disappointing events that resulted in the 110-105 loss for the Hawks.

The Nets were led Dinwiddie who just missed a triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds and ten assists. Okafor scored 17 points in just 12 minutes of action.

Schroder scored a career high 34 points on 14/26 shooting from the field including 3/5 from the three point line. It was just his third game of the season with at least three makes from behind the arc. He also added seven assists and three steals.

His production from the three point line is encouraging given that he has struggled to make threes of late. Coming into this game, Schroder had shot 5 of 29 (17 percent) over his past eight games.

Bigs’ Battle for Minutes

The Hawks played for weeks with a shortage of available bigs due to injuries. With everyone back from those injuries, available minutes for those bigs has narrowed.

In his third game back from injury, Dedmon again looked comfortable. In 22 minutes, he scored 11 points, collected nine rebounds and delivered a +18 +/- for the game.

Before his injury, Dedmon started every game. It will be interesting to see whether Budneholzer soon reinserts Dedmon into the starting lineup in place of Miles Plumlee who barely played before Dedmon’s injury.

Collins was active providing five points and ten rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action. Collins’ minutes have been more limited lately. After consistently playing 20+ minutes per game for weeks, Collins has played an average of 13 minutes over his last three games.

Mike Muscala is also commanding minutes with his contributions of late including a key role in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s win in Denver.

Another Rookie Contributing

Dorsey scored nine points, all coming on three point shots. In 14 minutes of action, Dorsey played with energy on the defensive end and aggressively on the offensive end.

An injury to Marco Belinelli opened the door for some rotational minutes for the rookie. After playing in just 11 of the Hawks 36 games, and very sporadic minutes at that, Dorsey has played in five consecutive games.

Looking Ahead

The Hawks get two days off at home before hosting the Spurs on Monday afternoon (MLK Day) at 3:00 pm ET. Stay tuned.

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