Five observations from the Hawks’ 105-90 loss to the Hornets Monday.
1. Tim Hardaway Jr. said it best. The time for trying is over. The time for doing is now.
The Hawks have lost four straight games. Their lead for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference is down to a mere one game over the Pacers with 12 games remaining in the regular season. Their lead for just a playoff spot is down to just three games.
“We are trying to fix it,” Hardaway said. “We definitely want to finish strong. We are down a couple guys but it’s not an excuse. We have to go out there and compete. We can try any more. We have to. We have to make plays. We have to play better defense. We need to knock down open shots. We need to pass the ball if someone is open.”
2. It is easy to say the Hawks miss Paul Millsap. And they certainly do. They are 0-5 in games without their All-Star power forward, including two straight losses.
However, there have been 65 games with Millsap as well. They Hawks are 37-28 in those games, nine games over .500. The Hawks have never been more than nine game over .500 all season. Since a 9-2 start of the season, the Hawks are 28-31.
“There is a concern with how we are playing,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s always been about what we are doing day-to-day. If you are doing things well day-to-day, you’ll move up in the standings and win games. If you are not doing things well day-to-day, the reverse will happen. We just have to be better.”
3. The Hawks scrambled to find a rotation that worked without starters Kent Bazemore and Millsap. The Hawks led by as many as eight points in the first quarter.
And then they started to sub.
The Hawks tried Taurean Prince, Kris Humphries, Ryan Kelly and Malcolm Delaney in different stints in the first half. The Hornets went on a 27-6 run to take a commanding lead they never relinquished.
The Hawks abandoned the substitutions in the second half. The only substitute in the third quarter was Prince, who played 6:14. Thabo Sefolosha and Dennis Schroder played the entire quarter, Ersan Ilyasova played all but 30 seconds and Hardaway played all but 1:33. Dwight Howard played 7:52.
“That run was pretty big,” Budenholzer said. “The second half we were looking for a combination of guys to get back in it. We came out with a pretty good effort and spirit. Then they went on another run coming out of that timeout. Just searching for groups in the second half.”
4. The Hornets’ 3-point shooting was a concern for the Hawks coming into the game. The Hawks did a lot of switching on pick-and-rolls to limit the outside game. It worked in some cases as players like Marvin Williams was 0 of 4. It didn’t work in other cases. Kemba Walker was 4 of 8 and Frank Kaminsky was 3 of 6.
The Hornets took advantage of finding mismatches out of the switches by moving the ball. That’s what ultimately hurt the Hawks. The Hornets got 43 bench points, including 14 from Kaminsky and 12 from Jeremy Lamb.
“They made their run and we couldn’t respond,” Ilyasova said. “Not just offensively but defensively. They got way too many easy baskets. We were struggling with the pick-and-roll defenses. They have a stretch-5 and it’s a tough situation with our rotations. Everybody shoots 3’s. We have to figure it out and stick together.”
5. The Hawks are still in the midst of a favorable schedule. They have a tough road game at the Wizards Wednesday in a nationally televised games. However, that is followed by at the Bucks on Friday, home against the Nets on Sunday, home against the Suns on Tuesday and at the 76ers on Wednesday.
If they Hawks are going to get back on a winning track, those are teams to do it against. Take nothing for granted the way the Hawks are playing. However, each of those teams are below .500. Then again, the Hornets were nine games under .500.
“Like I told you last game, if we don’t pick it up we lose,” Howard said. “It’s plain and simple.”