In a poor defensive performance, the Hawks (12-12) lost to the Hornets (14-11) 130-127 on Sunday at State Farm Arena.
Next up, on the second half of a back-to-back, the Hawks will play the Timberwolves on Monday in Minnesota.
Below are some takeaways from the loss:
1. Although injuries have left the Hawks shorthanded, particularly on defense, they faced a depleted Hornets team, with LaMelo Ball (leading scorer at 20 points per game and playmaker at 8.3 assists per game), Terry Rozier (third-leading scorer at 17.7 ppg), Mason Plumlee (6.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in 26.2 minutes) and Jalen McDaniels (5.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15 minutes) all out in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Considering all the firepower the Hornets were missing, the Hawks’ defense struggling to contain them is a bad sign. Giving up a 10-0 run just as they had battled back to take an 89-87 lead, the Hawks entered the fourth quarter trailing, 99-92.
“Games like this, they shine a spotlight on what we need to do the right way,” said John Collins (31 points, 12 rebounds, four assists). “They didn’t have a couple of their better guys, playmaking LaMelo, high-volume scorer in Terry and all that good stuff, so we’ve just got to do a better job, as I said, mentality-wise of coming out ready to play, not taking anybody lightly. I don’t think we try to do that, but I think we execute that way, and I think we need to take things seriously.”
2. The Hawks battled back to build a five-point lead with 6:11 to play in the fourth quarter, and actually outscored the Hornets, 35-31, in the final period. But they couldn’t get stops all night, namely down the stretch, with Charlotte able to respond whenever the Hawks seemed headed in the right direction. The Hornets entered as the highest-scoring team in the league (115.5), with the best 3-point percentage (38.3%), making the fourth-most 3′s per game (14.3). Miles Bridges led the Hornets with 32 points, with Kelly Oubre adding 28 points. The Hornets shot 53.5% from the field and 45.9% from 3-point range, to the Hawks’ 51.6% from the field and 45.9% from 3-point range. Even shorthanded, the Hornets’ style of play presents a challenge, as they usually play five guys who can handle the ball, shoot and play fast, spacing out the defense.
“We know what we need to do out there,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “They were better tonight. We don’t need a wake-up call. This is a good team. They were missing a couple players, so were we. And defensively, we just didn’t play well enough tonight to get this win. We gave up 130 points. That’s way more than we normally give up. One of those nights where they were hot, and we just never got the stops we needed.”
3. In addition to a vicious dunk over Caleb Martin, Collins led the Hawks with 31 points, which is a season-high. The Hawks entered Sunday’s loss with the No. 3 offensive rating (112.1) in the league and for the most part, scoring hasn’t been the problem. Five players finished in double-digits: Kevin Huerter (28 points, three assists, two rebounds), Trae Young (25 points, 15 assists), Danilo Gallinari (17 points, four rebounds, three assists) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (12 points, four rebounds, two assists), in addition to Collins.
4. Late in the first quarter, Solomon Hill took an awkward fall and gingerly walked back to the locker room, with some assistance. He was ruled out with a right hamstring injury. Hill had been helping to fill in with De’Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Cam Reddish out, so that took away another option for the Hawks, who started Luwawu-Cabarrot for the third consecutive game.
5. Even in a loss, Huerter continues to show his value for the Hawks, particularly as injuries add up. Huerter’s 28 points matched a season-high, and his seven 3′s were a season-high. He led the Hawks with 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Stat of the game: 13 (the amount of points Bridges scored in the fourth quarter alone to help seal the Hornets’ win)
Star of the game: Bridges (led the Hornets with 32 points, shooting 11-15 from the field and 4-6 from 3-point range)s
Quotable: “We were pretty bad, plain and simple. Wasn’t good enough. One hundred and thirty points, you’re not going to win many games giving up that.” (Huerter on what stood out to him about the Hawks’ defense)