Hawks’ defense crumbles in loss to Knicks

Knicks rookie RJ Barrett blocks the shot of Atlanta's Kevin Huerter during Tuesday's Hawks-Knicks game. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

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Knicks rookie RJ Barrett blocks the shot of Atlanta's Kevin Huerter during Tuesday's Hawks-Knicks game. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

The Hawks’ defense sputtered against the league’s worst offense in a 143-120 loss to the Knicks Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Below are some takeaways from the loss.

1. This felt like a new low for the Hawks (6-22), who have now lost five in a row. Yes, they’ll get a boost when John Collins comes back Dec. 23, but his return alone won’t fix all the problems that surfaced when getting blown out by one of the worst teams in the league. Entering Tuesday, the Knicks, Hawks and Cavaliers were all tied for the worst record in the Eastern Conference, but Cleveland had the night off, so it was left to New York (7-21) and Atlanta to decide who would drop to the bottom of the standings.

After the game, Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce called out his team’s competitive spirit and effort in the loss: “We come here and we didn’t hit first. We played on our heels and we let a lot of things affect our effort. That’s the biggest thing I keep talking about, competitive spirit, trying to find that effort, and we don’t have it right now. That’s all going to come back to me. I’ll never put it on any of our guys, it’s going to come back to me and we’ve got to find it.”

2. The Knicks entered the game averaging 101.2 points per contest, dead last in the league. But they easily scored 77 in a single half, going on a 21-0 run when the Hawks’ offense went stagnant from the 2:23 mark in the first quarter until the 9:50 mark of the second quarter. Two days after the Hawks’ defense contained the Lakers (the top team in the West) relatively well, it was nowhere to be found against the Knicks.

The Knicks moved the ball well and shot 55.8% from the field to the Hawks’ 45.9%.

“They had that spirit tonight and that’s why the shots, they were shooting with confidence, they were empowering one another,” Pierce said. “We step up, we’re trying to hit and blitz and big fella (Mitchell) Robinson is getting lobs and they’re looking to throw it to him. They’re empowering each other. That’s the spirit we’re talking about, that’s the spirit we’re missing. That’s the spirit we need.”

3. This marked Trae Young’s third 40-point game of the season, as he led the Hawks with 42 points (16-29 FG, 7-for-13 from 3-point range), eight assists and four rebounds. De’Andre Hunter added 19 points, Vince Carter added 15 and Jabari Parker added 10.

Young led the Hawks in scoring, but outside of that scoring drought in the first half, the Hawks’ offense wasn't really the problem — it was their inability to get stops that let the game get out of hand.

4. Defensive rebounding continues to be an issue for the Hawks, with the Knicks grabbing 42 defensive rebounds (and 13 offensive) to the Hawks’ 27 defensive rebounds (and nine offensive). It seemed like this would be a rebounding mismatch, as entering Tuesday the Knicks led the league in offensive rebounding (12.2) and the Hawks were the third worst defensive rebounding team (32.1). The Knicks had 17 second-chance points.

5. After exiting Sunday's loss to the Lakers in the fourth quarter with a left shoulder contusion, Kevin Huerter was back in the starting lineup with no minute restrictions, and he was a bright spot in the loss. At first, the injury seemed like it could be a tricky one, since it was the same shoulder Huerter injured in Denver, which kept him out for 11 games. But Huerter bounced back quickly this time, missing no time and finishing with 14 points, five assists, three rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot.

By the Numbers

30 (the amount of assists the Knicks tallied, to the Hawks’ 20)

Quotable

“That’s the main thing, effort and energy, especially on the defensive end. Giving up 140 points, we’re not going to beat anybody in the league.” (Young on what the Hawks were missing in the loss)