The night may not have been as difficult for the Hawks had they not run cold early in the third quarter. The Nets outscored them 27-17 then eventually built up a 92-85 lead with 8:41 remaining in the game.
But the Hawks went on a 17-7 run, capped off by a shot from long range from Bogdan Bogdanovic that pulled the game within 102-99, with three minutes remaining.
The Hawks had several opportunities to go ahead in the final minutes but just couldn’t get over the hump.
The Hawks’ John Collins hit a driving layup that kept the game within one possession after a Nic Claxton alley-oop dunk. Then Hawks guard Aaron Holiday tied the game at 104 with a 3-pointer with just under two minutes left in the game.
But Kevin Durant would seemingly seal the game for the Nets with a pair of mid-range jumpers.
Then the Hawks just couldn’t convert their shots. Murray would miss a chance to tie the game at 108 when his driving layup hung on the rim for .4 seconds before rolling off. Then he split a pair of free throws that left the Hawks trailing 108-107.
The final nail in the coffin came when the Hawks did not use either of their two timeouts after the Nets missed a three with 9.2 seconds left. Instead they tried to catch the Nets off guard in transition with a 3-pointer but Murray’s attempt hit the back of the rim.
“I had two timeouts, I could have called a timeout,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “But that was a miss and you want to catch them in transition and see if you can, it’s a one-point game, see if you can get down before their defense gets set. In situations like that I’ve allowed our guys to go, so that (opponents) can’t get their defensive team out on the floor and it didn’t work out for us.”
2. The Hawks’ missed opportunities did not occur only in the final minutes of the night.
They held a seven-point lead heading into the locker room at halftime and despite the offense running cold they nursed it for much of the third. With the offense running stagnant, the Hawks kept attacking the basket and drew contact through their efforts.
But the Hawks could not cash in on all of their free-throw attempts, missing three, which would later hurt them.
The Hawks managed to nurse a three-point lead with 2:25 remaining in the third quarter. Then the Nets’ Royce O’Neal hit a 3-pointer that tied the game at 79 and the Nets took off from there.
The Hawks ended up missing five of their 22 free-throw attempts, which could have helped them seal the game.
“We played better defensively tonight,” said Onyeka Okongwu, who scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds. “KD (Kevin Durant), Kyrie (Irving), two of the best in the league. But we thought we were a couple shots away, couple free throws away from a play tonight. So now it’s a tough loss, but we’ll bounce back Friday (when they play the Lakers).”
3. Despite the Hawks missing Young, they had a solid night from their back court. Murray led the way by navigating the team through the matchup, scoring a team-high 24 points, pulling down nine rebounds and handing out eight assists.
McMillan also leaned heavily on Murray to try and get the Hawks through their push to regain control of the game. Two months ago, McMillan said that he learned that Murray liked to have the ball in his hands in pressure-filled moments.
So, the Hawks’ coach trusted Murray to get back down court down one point.
“I think [Nate] did the right thing,” Murray said. “I feel like a bunch of coaches would do that in that situation. We got the rebound, five seconds left, you gotta go. I missed the shot, it happens, who cares, onto the next game.”
4. With Clint Capela still sidelined by injury, the Hawks have turned to the talents of Okongwu to try and deliver them some solid rim protection. Okongwu helped hold the Nets to 50 points in the paint after the Hawks gave up 60 points to the Pacers on Tuesday.
On top of that, Okongwu helped the Hawks net nine second-chance points. Seven of his 13 rebounds came on the offensive glass and his play through contact got him to the line nine times. Unfortunately, Okongwu missed three of those opportunities.
But with Capela still day-to-day, the Hawks will continue to need big nights from Okongwu.
“Just the thing for me, stay consistent with my play,” he said. “Sometimes I can go a little up and down. So I was wanting to stay consistent. It’s a long season and I’m just trying to you know, really work on that.”
5. Led by some confident play from Jalen Johnson, the Hawks had a strong night from their second unit. It allowed them to build a cushion in the second quarter and head to the locker room at halftime with a lead.
The Hawks also chose to have Bogdanovic come off the bench to make sure the second unit had a reliable scorer.
Bogdanovic and Johnson combined for 28 of the bench’s 30 points as the second unit outscored the Nets 30-20.
Stat to know
2 -- AJ Griffin swiped two steals in the game, marking his 20th game (of 31 he’s played) with at least one steal. Per Elias Sports, Griffin is the first Hawks rookie to record at least one steal in 20 of his first 31 games since Stacey Augmon and Paul Graham in 1991.
“I saw the fight in our guys defensively.” -- Nate McMillan on the team’s final push.
The Hawks host the Lakers on Friday night.