In loss to Spurs, Hawks show the good and the bad

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Hawks are in no position to allow themselves to get comfortable.

After scoring a season-high 83 points in the first half of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Spurs, the Hawks dropped a season-low 35 points in the second half. The Hawks began the second half slow on both ends of the floor and the Spurs pounced and capitalized on it for a 126-118 victory.

“I feel like the first half we we played well, and got comfortable,” Hawks guard Dejounte Murray said after the game. “And one thing about the Spurs is they’re going to play hard for 48 minutes, share the ball, and we gave them confidence and you can see they got a win that they well deserved.”

But it’s not that the Hawks don’t know how to play with a lead. They’re 21-8 when they have a lead of 15 points or more at any point in the game.

The Hawks, though, can sometimes get comfortable with the teams with worse records. Seventy-one games into the season, the Hawks are 35-36 and just dropped yet another matchup to a team that sits at the bottom of its conference. Through those 71 games, the Hawks are 15-15 against teams that have records above .500 and 20-21 to teams with records below.

The Hawks have struggled to create some rhythm once they return to a .500 record and have not been more than two games above the mark since Dec. 2.

“Since I’ve been here, it’s been our problem that I feel like every time we have to lead, most of the time we let the other team get back in the game,” Hawks center Clint Capela said at practice Monday. “We are not showing maturity enough to be focused on our play, on us and not on the game. And I mean, even us as players we talked a little bit last night in locker room, I said that, like, ‘we need to be focused on our approach and not the game. It’s not because we’re up 20 that we can relax. It’s about us and where we want to go not about the game itself.’”

In Sunday’s loss to the Spurs, the Hawks scored just 35 points in the second half. The Spurs came out of their locker room at half time with more urgency and physicality and the Hawks struggled to match it.

The Hawks are often at their best when they let their defense dictate their offense. When opponents pick apart their defense, the Hawks begin to scramble on both ends of the floor.

At practice Monday, the Hawks discussed their need for discipline for the full 48 minutes. It’s not a new discussion. But the Hawks have just 11 games remaining in the regular season and new Hawks coach Quin Snyder acknowledged that the urgency could speed up the process of setting good habits. It can also trump that process.

The Hawks have shown that they’re able to execute those good habits, but Snyder said there are times where human nature kicks in.

“We just have to continue to understand that and to rise above it, and keep moving the goalposts on ourselves to get more and more of those possessions,” Snyder said. “When I see us move the ball at a timeout and pinging around, get a good book that brings us together. When I see us do something that is not as connected, we still have to be able to defend through ourselves.

“And I think our focus defensively, if we can, we can reduce it to some things that I think will give us the most return, that’s important. And that’s something I obviously can help with. And then our guys have to continue to make those things, the most important thing.”

The Hawks have the chance to sweep the Pistons, who they have beaten three times this season, on Tuesday. The Pistons have the worst record in the Eastern Conference (16-56) and have been without some of their key rotational players for several games now. The Spurs (19-52) moved a game ahead of the Rockets for the worst record in the Western Conference with their win over the Hawks.