The Warriors lost six consecutive road games before the Hawks hosted them at State Farm Arena on Monday. Those road woes gave a glimmer of hope for an upset.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, from the moment Steph Curry stepped on the court for his circus-like warmups, it didn’t feel like a Warriors road game.
Golden State cruised to a 128-111 win in Atlanta. The Hawks didn’t have a solution for Curry, Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant – when they’re clicking, no one does - and absorbed their 13th loss in 15 games.
The Hawks accrued a deficit off nine first-quarter turnovers. They grew more careful as the game went on, but the quick hole produced a mountain too steep to climb.
“I thought we played well, then you take the turnovers into the equation and you figure you’re going to have a long night,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said.
Point guard Trae Young had an erratic throw and ill-timed entry pass that eroded any potential early offense. Young finished with seven turnovers, most since Nov. 1 versus Sacramento, though he didn’t give up the ball in the second half.
Curry hit a couple threes to build a 12-4 lead and force Pierce into his first timeout. He outscored the Hawks by himself in the first quarter, 18-17, and the Warriors doubled Atlanta’s total.
“He’s the only person who’s every been unanimous MVP,” Young said. “He’s a good player. It’s hard to stop someone like that. He’s going to score. He’s going to find ways to make plays. You just have to try to make it difficult if you can.”
The Hawks never held a lead and lost by double digits for the third consecutive game. Curry (30 points), Durant (28 points) and Thompson (27 points) were too much for a franchise still developing its own All-Star talent.
“When you give that team such a big lead at any time in the game, it’s hard to come back on them,” Young said. “They’re so quick and so efficient. It’s hard to come back on that team when you get down 17.”
Young, coming off NBA rookie of the month honors, faced Curry for the first time after the former MVP missed the meeting in Oakland. The two are often compared due to Young’s propensity for taking rangy shots, but nights like Monday illustrate the 20-year-old has a long way to go.
Normally a smooth passer, Young made several dangerous throws and got run around on defense. He pressed on offense, tossing up a few highly contested jumpers before settling down in the second half. He scored 20 points on 8 for 20 shooting.
His best effort perhaps came in drawing fouls, where he helped bring Curry to three before intermission.
“Come on now, a lot of people paid good money to see him play tonight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr yelled to referees after Curry’s third foul.
That’s an accurate declaration: The crowd was draped in blue and gold, an expected circumstance when Golden State hits the road. It resulted in the Hawks’ second sellout this season.
The warm welcoming invoked 90s Bulls comparisons from Kerr, who recalled his Bulls and Hawks setting the NBA attendance record (62,046) at the Georgia Dome in March 1998.
“They get that everywhere,” Young said. “I don’t pay much attention to that. When you win championships, when we eventually win championships here in Atlanta, it’s going to be the same thing on the road for us.”
John Collins, playing power forward and center, was a bright spot. The Wake Forest product put up 24 points with 11 boards on 11 of 14 shooting. He took advantage of Golden State’s lack of size down low.
Since missing the first 16 games, Collins’ progress has been encouraging. He’s averaging over 18 and 7 over his past three with three double-doubles in nine games.
“Probably the best word is ‘activity,’” Pierce said. “Activity around the basket offensively. He can get on the basketball and make plays that aren’t really there just based on his talent. ... Teams have to scheme when he’s on the court because of what he presents at the rim.”
Hawks point guard Jeremy Lin returned to the court after missing a pair of games with a left ankle sprain. He was immediately tasked with Curry, who scored a quick seven points before Pierce halted play with a 21-11 deficit with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
Lin, who’d played well prior to his injury, scoring over 18 points a game, scored 14 points in 23 minutes off the bench. He also racked up three fouls and was minus 17 on the floor, second worst on the team (Kent Bazemore, minus 23).
After making back-to-back threes, Taurean Prince got tied up with Shaun Livingston and injured his left ankle. He was helped off the court and left the game. The team announced it as a sprain and Prince was on crutches.
“That should’ve been a flagrant and didn’t get called,” a frustrated Pierce said of the play. “We have a rolled ankle and it’s pretty swollen.”
The Hawks are finished with the Warriors for the 2018-19 season. But they’ll continue rebuilding the franchise in Golden State’s image through a rebuild orchestrated by former Warriors executive Travis Schlenk and Pierce, who was briefly with the organization during Curry’s rookie season.
“(The Hawks have) implemented a great system,” Thompson said. “Obviously they have Trae Young. ... Give the guy some time, he’s only 20. They play at a much higher pace than in the past and shoot a lot of threes. You see Travis trying to draft guys who can play both ways.”
The Hawks host a desperate Wizards team Wednesday before Denver visits on Saturday. They’re 3-8 at State Farm Arena, tying them for fewest home wins in the Eastern Conference.