Five observations from the Hawks’ 105-86 loss to the Magic Saturday.
1. Dennis Schroder did not start the game as he was a late scratch from the lineup. The starting point guard was late to the team bus to the arena Saturday. The tardiness came one day after he was suspended one game for failure to return in time from the All-Star break.
“We continue to hold our entire roster, all of our players, accountable,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Our culture is important to us. Respect for your teammates is important to us. That’s our job and that’s our organization’s job is to continue to build on our culture.”
Schroder declined to comment on the benching.
Schroder did play. He entered the game with 4:57 left in the first quarter. He started the second half. Schroder finished with 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
“It hurt us last night not to have him,” Paul Millsap said. “It hurt us tonight not to start with him. Those decisions are left up to the organization. We have to accept what it is. Dennis is sorry. I think he wants to be on the court. It’s something we have to get over. These two games we have to put behind us.”
2. The Hawks are in a bad way. They have lost three straight by a combined 53 points. They are 10-10 over the past 20 games. They are 23-24 since a 9-2 start to the season.
“We don’t want to be a .500 team,” Budenholzer said. “You have to go out on the court and execute on both ends of the court. At the end of the day if it’s 20 games and we are .500 we have to be honest with ourselves and find ways to improve whether it be small things or big things.”
3. Schroder did speak of the team’s recent play. He sees a lack of togetherness.
“First off, we have to get together with the team,” Schroder said. “We are not there. Everybody has to be together. We have to play together as a team. We are going to see.”
And by not together he means?
“We have to be close,” he said. “Everybody dive for each other. Everybody do the little things of what it takes to be successful. Get on the floor when the ball is on the ground. Play defense first. If we do that, we’ll be in good shape.”
4. There has to be a level of concern. The Hawks lost two straight to sub-.500 teams. They want to be playing well down the stretch and into the playoffs. It’s not happening.
“We have to get it together,” Howard said. “It ain’t on the coaches. It’s on us. The coaches are not out there playing. There not making decisions for us. So, it’s on us.”
The Hawks have added several new pieces and Millsap cautioned it will take time to come together.
Millsap was asked for the reason for his optimism.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Millsap said. “We are trying to do the right things. We just have to be patient with it. We have to build up to it. I think we can turn it around.
“I trust the system that we have. I know if we do it right, and I’m a witness to it, if we do it right we’ll have success. It’s just about trusting the system.”
5. As for the game, the Hawks lost with a bad end to the second quarter and poor third quarter. They led by nine points in the second quarter when Howard was called for a loose ball foul, this third, with 4:23 left. The Magic ended the period on a 16-5 run and turned the nine-point deficit into a three-point halftime lead. Howard would pick up his fourth foul with 3:51 left in the half.
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Howard said. “They called a foul.”
The Magic continued the momentum and put the game away in the third quarter by outscoring the Hawks 31-19.
“I thought the loose ball foul just under the five minute mark was tough,” Budenholzer said. “We were up nine. He gets the rebound and goes back up and we are up 11. Then they just beat us to a couple rebounds and another foul and they drive it and he gets his fourth. Them getting to the free-throw line was a big part of that 16-5 run.”
The Magic started the run with two three-point plays by Nikola Vucevic. The ended the run with Elfrid Payton making a free throw after being fouled with .1 seconds remaining.