Hawks fall back under .500 after haywire first quarter, loss to Pelicans

Although the Hawks (35-36) fought back, they had dug themselves in too deep a hole to climb out of in their 117-112 loss to the Pelicans (30-41) Sunday night at State Farm Arena.

Next up, the Hawks will play the Knicks on Tuesday in New York.

Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. It seemed like the Hawks were sleepwalking through the first quarter, committing nine turnovers (four in 32 seconds, two from Trae Young and two from Kevin Huerter) and shooting 33.3% from the field, trailing 35-18. Atlanta averages 11.9 turnovers per game, the fewest in the league, so to say that first quarter was bizarre is an understatement. The Hawks committed 16 turnovers overall, leading to 17 Pelicans points.

“I thought they had their hands up,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said of what the Pelicans did to cause chaos in the first quarter. “I think a couple of those turnovers, we just threw to them. It wasn’t so much what they were doing, we were just turning the ball over. A couple times they had length on Trae when they were guarding him, and then you’ve got big (Jonas Valanciunas) who was trapping at times, and a couple of those were just really unforced.”

.2. Danilo Gallinari led the Hawks with a season-high 27 points, to go with five rebounds and three assists, and was one of the few positives from this game. A unit of Delon Wright, Lou Williams, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Gallinari and Onyeka Okongwu clawed the Hawks back into this one in the second quarter, which they ended up winning 32-25, and then again to start the fourth quarter, which they won 36-26, though it wasn’t enough to pull off a comeback.

“You’ve got three quarters to get it back, and I thought we just didn’t react to that, come out aggressive,” McMillan said of how the Hawks started. “I thought that second unit did give us a little bit of momentum when they came in, but we’ve just got to get dirty and make some plays earlier in that game.”

3. Entering the fourth quarter trailing by 15, shots started falling for the Hawks, who slowly chipped away at their deficit to tie things up at 110 with 1:34 to play after a 3-pointer by Young and an assist from Young to Clint Capela (14 points, 10 rebounds) at the rim. But the Hawks gave up two consecutive buckets to the Pelicans (one to Valanciunas and one to former Georgia Tech guard Jose Alvarado) and were suddenly down four in the final minute. Young made two free throws but fouled Alvarado, who made all three of his free throws as the Pelicans pulled away. Seven-footer Valanciunas scored 10 of his team-high 26 points in the fourth quarter.

4. Young (left quad contusion) was available to play after missing Friday’s win vs. the Grizzlies, leaving John Collins (right ring finger sprain/right foot strain) as the only Hawks player on the injury report (Gallinari started in Collins’ absence). Young finished with 21 points and 10 assists, but it was an off shooting night for him (5-for-14 FG). He finished with a team-high seven turnovers, with five of those coming in the first quarter.

“I did a bad job turning the ball over in the first quarter; they got off to a big lead, 35-18,” Young said. “We didn’t score, I didn’t give us a chance to really score in the first quarter, and we fought hard to get ourselves back in the game, but it was just too much to overcome.”

5. The Pelicans have been playing better, now 7-5 since the All-Star break, but this was still a solid opportunity for the Hawks to climb above .500 for the first time since Dec. 6, when they were 13-12. New Orleans was without the injured Devonte’ Graham, Brandon Ingram, Kira Lewis Jr., Larry Nance Jr. and Zion Williamson. Instead, Atlanta fell below .500, a place it’s grown all too familiar with this season.

Pelicans 117, Hawks 112

Stat of the game: 18 (the number of offensive rebounds the Pelicans tallied to the Hawks’ seven, outrebounding the Hawks 60-45 overall)

Star of the game: Valanciunas (led the Pelicans in scoring with 26 points, adding 12 rebounds and four assists)

Quotable: “I don’t know. If I had the answer, we would have fixed it already. I think that mentally, we’ve got to be tougher. All of us ... I think the ups and downs are more mental than anything else.” (Gallinari on why the Hawks’ intensity wavers from game to game)