Hawks fall back to No. 10 spot in East with loss to Hornets

Atlanta Hawks guard Lou Williams (6) defends against Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Hawks guard Lou Williams (6) defends against Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

Credit: AP

Faltering in the final few minutes, the Hawks (34-35) lost to the Hornets, 116-106, Wednesday in Charlotte.

Next up, the Hawks will host the Grizzlies Friday.

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Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. This marked the Hawks’ final regular-season matchup with the Hornets, with those teams jockeying for play-in tournament positioning for a while now. Atlanta falls to No. 10 in the Eastern Conference standings, a half game behind Charlotte (35-35) at No. 9, and dips back below .500, a clip it had finally gotten back to for the first time since mid-December with Monday’s win vs. the Trail Blazers.

The loss also snapped a three-game win streak. The Hawks have 13 regular-season games left, but have a comfortable hold on the final play-in tournament spot for now, 4-1/2 games ahead of the No. 11 Wizards, who lost to the Nuggets Wednesday.

2. The Hawks led 67-62 at halftime despite rough shooting starts from Trae Young (0-for-5 field goals) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (0-for-6), with neither able to find a shooting rhythm in this loss (Young briefly went back to the locker room and suffered a left knee contusion/left quad contusion in the third quarter, but was able to keep playing). Young finished with nine points, going 3-for-12 from the field, 0-for-6 from 3-point range and 3-for-3 from the line, finishing with just nine points but tallied a game-high 15 assists, plus three rebounds and three steals. Bogdanovic had 12 points, though he went 5-for-16 from the field and 2-for-8 from 3-point range, adding four rebounds and two assists.

Atlanta still got some good production from De’Andre Hunter (21 points, three rebounds, two assists, 4-for-7 from 3-point range), Kevin Huerter (16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals) and Onyeka Okongwu (14 points, five rebounds, two blocks), but Young and Bogdanovic struggling had an impact.

“They did it really more than any team has done it probably this year,” Young said on facing double-teams as the Hornets tried to keep the ball out of his hands. “They were on it from the beginning. It’s kind of frustrating obviously, you want to play. I want to play basketball, but if they’re doubling me, I have to make the right plays, get it out or just try to make a play for somebody else. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but it’s a part of playing this game at a high level and being one of the best players.”

3. After taking contact from Kelly Oubre, although Young was able to play through his left knee contusion/left quad contusion, he said postgame he’s experiencing soreness.

“I had to go back and get it worked out and stuff and it’s still kind of sore,” Young said. “So trying to get some treatment tomorrow and see how it goes.”

4. Entering the fourth quarter tied 85-85 and still tied 97-97 with 4:44 to play, the Hornets controlled the final few minutes as P.J. Washington heated up (13 of his 16 points came in the last five minutes). After a 3-pointer by Terry Rozier (18 points, three rebounds, two assists, three steals), Young had a turnover out of a timeout, and Kevin Huerter had a turnover after a dunk by Washington made it an 11-point game at the 1:29 mark. Those proved costly, with Charlotte the second-best team in the NBA in capitalizing off turnovers (averaging 19.2 points off turnovers). The Hornets ended up winning the fourth quarter, 31-21.

“I think turnovers, execution and missed shots,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said on what made the difference down the stretch. “You’ve got to take care of the ball. This team, we knew you fuel their play by turning the basketball over. ... The other thing is when you have open looks, you’ve got to take those shots. I thought we passed up a couple shots tonight because we didn’t have a rhythm or didn’t feel it. You’ve got to take those shots and we weren’t able to make those shots.”

5. Elsewhere in the frontcourt, already without John Collins (right ring finger sprain/right foot strain), Hawks backup power forward Danilo Gallinari was unable to play in the second half after suffering a right biceps contusion in the first half. That left them quite thin at that position, with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot sliding into the rotation. Gallinari entered the game as probable with right Achilles soreness, tallying five points, three assists and two rebounds in 14 minutes before departing.

Hornets 116, Hawks 106

Stat of the game: 25 (the Hawks committed 13 turnovers, leading to 25 points for the Hornets)

Star of the game: Washington (got hot in the fourth quarter, lifting Charlotte to a win)

Quotable: “It’s just a tough year this year in the East, and we’ve just got to find a way to get into the playoffs and make some noise there.” (Young on if he’s surprised the Hawks are in 10th place at this point in the season)