Hawks look to put complete game together, snap losing streak

In the 2010-11 season, Evan Turner, a rookie at the time, was on the 76ers team that was 3-13 early in the season and went on to finish 41-41 and make the playoffs.

They ended up losing to the Heat (featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) in the first round, but still, the turnaround was remarkable.

It’s tales like those that help Trae Young persevere despite the Hawks’ grim state of affairs, having lost seven games in a row and 13 of their past 15 after winning their first two games.

“You hear stories from players that have been in the positions that we’re in right now, and you hear how they turn it around, you hear what they did to turn it around, so it’s positive things like that that keep us going,” Young said.

The Hawks (4-13) achieving that kind of turnaround may be unlikely, but they’ll get a boost whenever Kevin Huerter returns from injury (he’s been ruled out for their coming trip, but was cleared for modified on-court work Tuesday) and when John Collins returns from his 25-game suspension (which he’s eligible to do Dec. 23 in Cleveland).

But until then, they’re trying to figure out how to stop this slide.

The Hawks have faced a brutal schedule so far, ending their West Coast trip with back-to-back blowout losses to the Clippers and Lakers. But after struggling with slow starts for a stretch, they've held the lead at halftime in three of their past four losses, only to let it slip away in the second half. (They led briefly in Detroit, but collapsed after giving up a 20-0 run in the first quarter, with a team meeting called after the game).

It’s not like their schedule lets up much, playing in Milwaukee (14-3) on Wednesday, in Indianapolis (10-6) on Friday and in Houston (11-6) on Saturday, so regardless of the caliber of opponent, playing a full 48 minutes (and capitalizing when they have the lead) is a priority for the Hawks moving forward.

“I think the next 10 games are even harder for us right now because we’re not playing 48 minutes of basketball,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “And we’re trying to figure out and learn how to do that, and so it makes the next opponent even tougher because you don’t want to play tight, but there is a sense of urgency you have to play with.”

Against Milwaukee on Nov. 20, the Hawks led at halftime 61-58, were outscored 38-22 in the third quarter and lost 135-127. Against Toronto on Saturday, the Hawks led 61-52 at the half and lost 119-116 and against Minnesota on Monday, they led 64-54 at the half and lost 125-113.

In the loss to the Timberwolves, the Hawks relinquished their lead by way of three turnovers in the final three minutes of the third quarter, with the Wolves going on an 8-3 run to carry a 93-90 lead into the fourth, which they then built on.

“I think sometimes we think we can win the game before the game is over, early in the fourth quarter, late in the third quarter,” Pierce said in his postgame news conference.

When leading, the Hawks have given “breathing room” for a comeback, as Young puts it, and teams have take advantage (whether it’s poor shot selection leading to scoring droughts against Detroit, defensive misfires in the fourth quarter against Minnesota, etc.)

“We’ve done a better job of starting out better, I think it’s just playing a full 48 minutes,” Young said. “We’ve played really good in spurts, in halves, but we’ve never, or I’m not going to say never, but we just haven’t had a full, complete game recently. It’s shown. There’s been signs where we’ve been up, and we’ve been up big, and then we’ll just turn it around.”

Young is frustrated with the Hawks’ product right now — but the season is still young, and there’s still time for the team to make improvements.

“Just want to get back to winning,” Young said. “It’s a bad feeling losing like this. … It’s a tough schedule to begin the season. Not the way we wanted to start it, but we’re not even a quarter way in, so it’s not something that we can just jump to conclusions about.”