Hawks lackluster in loss to Thunder: ‘We were a step slow’

Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela (15) and guard Trae Young (11) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) battle for the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck)
Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela (15) and guard Trae Young (11) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) battle for the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck)

Credit: Garett Fisbeck

Credit: Garett Fisbeck

The Hawks (14-19) fell behind in the second quarter and could never make up ground in their 118-109 loss to the Thunder (14-19) in Oklahoma City Friday.

Next up, the Hawks play in Miami Sunday and Tuesday.

Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. Facing an Oklahoma City team that’s in rebuilding mode and was missing Al Horford, the Hawks trailed by eight at halftime after a rough second quarter and fell behind 16 in the third quarter as they struggled to get stops. Thanks to a layup by John Collins and 3-pointer by Trae Young, the Hawks were able to pull within six points at the 2:51 mark in the fourth. Though the Hawks outscored the Thunder in the final period, 29-22, they were in too deep a hole to climb out of it, at that point. “It was mainly because we’re fighting all the way back,” Young said of why the Hawks weren’t able to pull ahead late. “We had to fight so hard to get back, and then we’re just trying to play catch-up at that point. We’re trapping and getting out of place on defense and they’re just getting open shots because we’re trying to get back in the game, obviously. It helped us but they figured it out and got a couple key baskets that helped them pull away at the end.”

2. This was a lackluster, poor defensive performance for the Hawks, who need to put away as many winnable games as possible but were scrambling from the second quarter until the end. The Thunder shot 52.3% from the field and made 16 3′s (38.1%, or 16-42). “Our physicality, our ability to just put somebody on the floor, to be physical, to make them feel us, we were beat off the dribble,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We didn’t bring help. ... We were a step slow and it’s unacceptable. I think we have a team that looks fatigued and is playing fatigued and we can’t afford to do that. We’ve got to finish strong.”

3. Collins led the Hawks with 25 points (11-19 field goals, 2-6 from 3, 1-2 free throws), adding eight rebounds. With a size advantage, the Hawks won the rebounding battle, 60-48. Clint Capela added 17 points (8-11 FG, 1-4 FT) and 21 rebounds, the second time this season he reached the 20-rebound mark.

4. In his 172nd NBA game, Young (22 years, 160 days) became the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to reach 1,500 assists (behind LeBron James, Stephon Marbury and Russell Westbrook) and the sixth-fastest to do so (behind Oscar Robertson, Mark Jackson, Tim Hardaway, Damon Stoudamire and Kevin Johnson).

5. Young, who is still hunting for his first win in his home state of Oklahoma, finished with 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds. He played fewer minutes (31) than he usually does, having tweaked his foot in the first quarter and pulled his groin later in the game. His injury also explains him not getting to the free-throw line at all, which is one of his specialties. After the game, Young said he would be starting treatment soon, and that he was going to try and heal up and get ready for the next game.

Stat of the game

31-21 (the assist discrepancy, in favor of the Thunder)

Star of the game

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (led Oklahoma City in scoring with 24 points, adding three 3′s)

Quotable

“I think the more we’re in this situation the more guys are realizing how hard it is to win in the NBA. You have a great game the other night, it doesn’t carry over unless you bring the same type of effort.” (Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce on following up Wednesday’s big win in Boston with a letdown)

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