Preseason games are notoriously sloppy, and the Hawks’ 133-109 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday at State Farm Arena was no exception. The Pelicans scored 46 points in the second quarter and never trailed in the second half.
Below are some takeaways from the loss. The Hawks will host the Orlando Magic at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
1. Turnovers were a big problem for the Hawks, with the team registering 29 total (Trae Young was responsible for eight of those, to go with nine points and 11 assists). This was an issue for the team last season, averaging 18-plus per game in October, November and December and 19.1 in January before getting they got it more under control, averaging 15.8 per game in February, 14.1 in March and 12.8 in April. Overall, the Hawks averaged a league-worst 17 turnovers a game last year. In practice, coach Lloyd Pierce called this out as an issue the Hawks were struggling with, and Monday’s game, although it’s an exhibition game in which players need to learn and play through mistakes, reiterated that.
2. Rookies De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish (playing against his former Duke teammate Zion Williamson, who had 16 points and seven rebounds), showed plenty of potential. Hunter drained two 3’s and finished with 10 points, two assists and a steal, living up to his reputation as a stingy defender. Reddish, who underwent core muscle surgery over the summer and was only recently cleared to play, had a shaky first sequence off the bench, registering an immediate turnover with a shot blocked less than a minute later. But he settled in quickly, going 3-for-4 from 3-point range, finishing with 11 points, one assist, two rebounds and zero additional turnovers.
3. Developing chemistry is a process, with the Hawks looking out of sync at times Monday, whether it was missed passes or confusion on defense. Pierce mentioned timing was an issue, with players not all on the same page yet -- that’s to be expected in a preseason opener, particularly after as much roster turnover as the Hawks had. Here’s DeAndre’ Bembry (who led the team in scoring with 16 points) on team chemistry: “I think it’s growing. We’ve obviously been with each other all summer, trying to learn, but it’s different when you’re actually out here playing with a whole different team and you don’t know what they’re doing. I think it was good for us coming out here and just taking the loss and being able to learn from it.” With Kevin Huerter (left knee) ruled out and Alex Len still working his way back from injury (although he had a solid game with 14 points and three rebounds in 15 minutes), the Hawks had a starting lineup of Young, Bembry, Hunter, John Collins and Damian Jones.
4. Young may have struggled with turnovers, but he’s still serving up highlights. In the second quarter, the point guard nutmegged Pelicans guard JJ Redick and finished with a layup, with the snippet making the rounds on social media:
5. The Hawks announced an attendance of 15,441 (although that’s technically “tickets distributed” as opposed to bodies in seats). Williamson’s presence no doubt contributed to that figure, but still, the stands were relatively full until the fourth quarter came around, which isn’t shabby considering the Hawks are coming off a 29-53 season.
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