Hawks let big lead slip away in loss to Blazers

Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela, center, shoots between Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, left, and guard CJ McCollum, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela, center, shoots between Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, left, and guard CJ McCollum, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer

Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer

The Hawks had a strong first half but let their lead slip away in the second half, as the Trail Blazers came back from a 16-point deficit to win, 112-106, Saturday night in Portland.

Next up, the Hawks return home to host the Timberwolves Monday, and will wear their City Edition jerseys to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on MLK Day.

Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. With the Blazers missing Jusuf Nurkic to a fractured right wrist and Zach Collins to a stress fracture in his left ankle, the Hawks had a size advantage, and Portland struggled to stop Clint Capela, especially in the first half. He had 19 points in the first half and finished with a double-double of 25 points (11-16 field goals) and 15 rebounds. Capela went 5-for-6 in the first quarter, and helped the Hawks get off to a 38-34 lead. His career-high is 31 points. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce liked what he saw from Capela: “The ability to get behind the defense, play behind the defense, create opportunities around the basket… I thought he was active around the rim and I thought he was running in transition to get some easy opportunities to get behind the defense.”

2. The Hawks started out strong but struggled to score in the second half (tallying 66 points in the first half and 40 points in the second). They went 1-for-15 from 3-point range in the second half and shot 29.3% from the field. After Atlanta led by as much as 16 in the second quarter, Portland went on a run to narrow the deficit to 66-59 at halftime, and the Blazers kept coming in the third quarter. They took the lead early in the fourth and built it up to eight at the 3:54 mark, which proved too much for the Hawks to overcome. A costly turnover by Kevin Huerter in the final seconds sealed the loss. “I thought they pulled the gym in a little bit more on some of the pick-and-rolls,” Pierce said of the Blazers giving up 36 points in the paint in the first half, but limiting the Hawks to 14 in the second. “We missed a lot of 3′s. (6)-for-30 from 3, so I’d pull the gym in as well.”

3. After tying his career low with four points in a lackluster loss to Utah Friday, held to 1-for-11 from the field, Trae Young looked a little more in-sync Saturday and led the team in scoring, though he still struggled shooting from the field. He finished with 26 points, going 11-for-12 from the line and 7-for-23 from the field (1-for-9 from 3), and had 11 assists for a double-double. Young hit a key floater when the Hawks faced a four-point deficit with a little more than seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter, and had another to pull them within two, 108-106, with 18.5 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Young was called for an offensive foul, which hurt the Hawks’ chances at a comeback. “We were right in the game,” Young said. “A couple turnovers late I think just really hurt us. I put a lot of that on me.”

4. Damian Lillard (26.9 points per game) and CJ McCollum (27.6) make for one of the most potent backcourts in the NBA, with a combined 54.5 points per game. Coming into the game, the Hawks knew that duo would score, but limiting Lillard and McCollum to difficult shots would put themselves in a good position. Lillard finished with 36 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, and the Hawks had a tough time containing him. McCollum suffered a left foot sprain in the first half and didn’t play the second half (he had 16 points in the first half).

5. Cam Reddish missed this game with a left knee contusion, so the Hawks were down one of their best defenders (Huerter started in his absence). It wasn’t anything serious, per Pierce, just soreness that Reddish didn’t have time to fully recover from, given they were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Injuries continue to nag this team, with Bogdan Bogdanovic (avulsion fracture, right knee), Kris Dunn (right ankle surgery) and Danilo Gallinari (right ankle sprain) out, though the availability of Rajon Rondo and rookie Onyeka Okongwu has provided a little depth they desperately needed.

Stat of the game

6-for-30 (or 20%, what the Hawks shot from 3 as they struggled to shoot from distance)

Star of the game

Lillard (led the Blazers in scoring)

Quotable

“If you don’t know that it’s hard to contain Dame by now, I mean, everybody in the world knows it’s tough to contain Dame. You’re not gonna stop him. You only try to make it tough on him. He’s going to do what he does.” (Young on Lillard)

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