Hawks struggle to execute in loss to Cavaliers

The Hawks’ (1-1) comeback attempt fell short in a rough 101-95 loss to the Cavaliers (1-2) in Cleveland on Saturday.

Next up, the Hawks will return home to face the Pistons on Monday.

Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. Although the Hawks were coming off an opening-night pummeling of Dallas, they couldn’t stay focused or keep the energy level high Saturday. The Cavaliers were on the second night of a back-to-back, having lost to the Hornets on Friday, and on even shorter rest with a 6 p.m. tip Saturday. Plus, they were missing Darius Garland (left ankle sprain). That’s going to be the biggest challenge for this Hawks team this season, center Clint Capela thinks — a trip to the Eastern Conference finals last year showed they can compete at a high level, but now they have to do it night in and night out, no matter how big or small the stage.

“The year after, the biggest challenge is those kind of games,” Capela said. “You’ve got to go right back to it. Every team’s going to be waiting on you. It’s not as exciting as the second-round playoffs to play, but you still have to bring it every night, especially this year. So I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge for us, to re-create that, to be like OK, now we’ve proved that we can do it, so now, regular season, we’ve got to bring it.”

2. After leading by as much as 13 in the first half, the Hawks spiraled downward in the second half. With about five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, a layup by Capela made it a three-point game, and two free throws by Trae Young at the 1:16 mark to made the score 99-95, but Young had a turnover in the final minute, and De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish both missed a shot. There wasn’t any execution down the stretch, when the Hawks needed it most: “You’ve got to execute,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “You’ve got to get stops. I think we’re down four or five at that time, so it’s a two-possession game. … Got to execute.”

3. McMillan also mentioned the Hawks became distracted by the officiating in this game, and that caused some loss of focus. At halftime, the Hawks were 2-for-4 from the line, and they finished 9-for-15 to Cleveland’s 20-27. Trae Young received a technical foul in the third quarter and went 7-7 from the line. After the game, he shared his thoughts on the officiating, which has a new emphasis on cracking down on non-basketball moves this season: “I think the refs are trying to learn as much as we are with these calls and stuff. It’s frustrating whenever it’s on one end and it’s not on the other, but I think we’re all learning and we’re all trying to get better, and when a ref’s mean-mugging me and trying to look at me straight in the eye, I’m going to look at him back. I didn’t say nothing to him. He just gave me a tech. He was just looking at me. I asked him why is it personal, and he gave me a tech. So I don’t know. I’ll probably get that money back. Out of all my techs I’ve gotten, that’s probably one I’ll get back.”

4. In the first quarter, Young made the 500th 3-pointer of his career, which tied him with Dominique Wilkins for the sixth-most in franchise history. He’s the fourth-fastest in NBA history (206 games, behind Damian Lillard, 199, Luka Doncic, 187 and Duncan Robinson, 152) to reach that milestone and the sixth-youngest (23 years and 34 days, behind Jayson Tatum, 23 years and 13 days, Jamal Murray, 22 years and 347 days, D’Angelo Russell, 22 years and 346 days, Devin Booker, 22 years and 127 days and Doncic, 22 years and 55 days).

5. After being banged up for much of the preseason, the Hawks have pretty much everyone healthy except Danilo Gallinari, which takes some shooting away from the second unit. Gallinari has missed the Hawks’ first two games with left shoulder soreness.

Stat of the game: 20-27 (what the Cavaliers shot from the line, and how many trips they took, compared with the Hawks’ 9-15)

Star of the game: Ricky Rubio (led the Cavaliers with 23 points and eight assists)

Quotable: “That we have work to do. We’re not where we were last year anymore. We’re 1-1 now. On to the next one.” (Capela on what the Hawks can take away from this game)

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