Hawks lose steam in second half of exhibition loss to Grizzlies

Memphis has been a tough matchup for the Hawks as of late, and although they kept pace in the first half, the game devolved in the second half of their 128-106 loss Thursday in Memphis.

The Hawks will have another preseason game vs. Memphis at 8 p.m. Saturday, and their regular season will begin Wednesday in Chicago.

Some takeaways from the loss:

1. In the first half, the Grizzlies shot 11-for-28 (39.3%) from 3-point range to take a 68-66 lead, despite the Hawks’ 19 assists on 22 field goals (shooting 22-for-47 from the field, or 46.8%). Overall, the Grizzlies shot 38% from 3 compared to the Hawks’ 28.9%, as Atlanta struggled to get going from distance. The Hawks were held to 40 points in the second half and looked out-of-sync on offense as they incorporate nine new players on the roster. “We were really random, offensively,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “I just told the guys it’s preseason, and that’s the good part. And it’s a new group, and one of the things you have to learn with a new group is how you handle adversity. I thought we failed on that one today in terms of our response to first half, second half, I didn’t think they did anything differently, they were just the first team to decide they were going to be committed, defensively, in the second half.”

2. Last season, the Hawks’ losses to the Grizzlies March 2 and 7 were two of their ugliest of the season. They were bullied by the 6-foot-11 center Jonas Valanciunas, out-rebounded 60-43 in a 127-88 loss the first meeting and 58-46 in a 118-101 loss five days later. Although the physicality of Clint Capela helped the Hawks hold their own for a little longer this time, the game quickly devolved in the third quarter when Capela went to the bench (Capela added 13 points and nine rebounds). The Hawks gave up 31 points in the third while shooting 6-for-23 (26.1%) from the field as the game got out of hand. Valanciunas finished with a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the Grizzlies grabbed 58 boards to the Hawks’ 46. “His presence is really, when you take Clint out, I thought Clint did a good job on him early, but when you take him out, he’s going to present some problems there,” Pierce said of Valanciunas. “He’s a classic big, he’s a big body, he’s a strong, physical guy and he’s going to really clog up the paint. But I think, more than anything, his screen-setting for a guy like (Ja) Morant puts a lot pressure on the defense.” Morant had a double-double of 18 points and 13 assists.

3. De’Andre Hunter has been a bright spot for the Hawks this preseason, and that continued as he shot 5-for-8 from 3-point range and 8-for-15 from the field to lead team with 22 points. Hunter’s confidence has grown, he said, after all the work he put in during the team’s nine-month layoff: “I worked all summer, all quarantine, whatever, worked on my shot, worked on my moves and things like that. So it’s just when I get in the game, it’s second nature, just shoot it, and whether I miss or make it, I’m going to shoot it again, and I’m confident that it’ll go in.” Also, Trae Young added 15 points and six assists, Cam Reddish added 12 points, five rebounds and three steals and John Collins added 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

4. Rajon Rondo made his first appearance for the Hawks after missing the first two preseason games with right knee soreness. He checked in in the second quarter and added five assists in his first five minutes. Overall, he had seven assists and hit one 3-pointer to add three points in a little less than 19 minutes of play.

5. The Hawks shot 100% from the free-throw line in the first half (15-for-15). They struggled in the second half, but overall shot 19-for-22 (86.4%). So far, they’re mostly having success getting to the line – entering Thursday’s game, with the small sample size of two preseason games, the Hawks ranked second in the league in free throws made per game (28.5) and free throw attempts per game (37.5) and No. 8 in percentage (76%).

Stat of the game

17 (what the Hawks were held to in the third quarter, as their offense faded)

Star of the game

Memphis forward Dillon Brooks, who led the game with 24 points, shooting 10-for-15 from the field and 4-for-8 from 3-point range

Quotable

“I think they’re just a tough team, a hard-nosed team. Aggressive, scrappy. I think, if you don’t match that, it’s pretty much over. So I feel like we started out pretty well. ... Third quarter was weak. We’ve got to just keep that intensity up the entire game and try to get a win.” — Reddish on why the Grizzlies have been a tough matchup for the Hawks

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