How the Hawks’ bad luck led to another of rapidly mounting losses

Injured Atlanta Hawks forwards Paul Millsap (left) and Thabo Sefolosha watch from the bench as the Hawks fall 107-92 to the Brooklyn Nets in a NBA basketball game on Sunday, March 26, 2017, in Atlanta. It is the Hawks seventh consecutive loss and the fifth consecutive game Paul Millsap has missed. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Five observations from the Hawks’ 107-92 loss to the Nets Sunday. It was the Hawks’ seventh straight loss.

1. There is an old saying: If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. That's the Hawks these days.

Already mired in a losing streak and without two starters, the Hawks lost a third starter when Thabo Sefolosha was a late scratch with a right groin injury.

“He wasn’t feeling where he could definitely go,” Budenholzer said of Sefolosha. “He tried to warm up, came down and got treatment this morning. He wasn’t able to go. We are down three starters but everybody has to be ready to contribute and play. We just have to play better than we did today.”

Sefolosha missed nine games earlier this season with a left groin injury. There was no immediate indication as to whether Sefolosha will miss an extended period of time. The Hawks were already without Paul Millsap for a fifth straight game and Kent Bazemore for a fourth straight game. There were some nice suits on the Hawks bench Sunday.

“Try to win,” Dwight Howard said of the issues facing the Hawks. “There are five guys on the floor and guys who come off the bench. You try to win games. It doesn’t matter who is out there. … You can’t think about it. Plain and simple. If you put your mind on “Oh man, we can’t lose again’ you are already thinking the wrong way.”

2. The Hawks (37-36) continue to say they must play 48 minutes as the losses continue to mount. For all practical purposes, they played 39:18 seconds against the Nets. The Hawks were outscored 33-7 during an 8:42 stretch between the first and second quarters. By the end of the run, the Hawks trailed by 22 points. They never got closer than five points the rest of the game.

“That’s kind of the game,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We talk about a 48 minute game. Certainly with the position we are in now to have a stretch where it’s (33-7), that’s going to be hard to come back from.”

The Hawks used a run to close the second quarter and went into halftime trailing 55-48. They made the first basket of the third quarter to close within five points. Never closer.

“Sometimes when things don’t go your way, stuff like this happens,” Jose Calderon said. “You dribble the ball of your foot and go the other way and have some bad turnovers. You can’t make shots. We have to work even harder. I know we have the perfect excuse that we are short-handed but we have to be better. … We can’t go down 20 and come back. Every NBA team is good enough to play with that (lead). It’s almost impossible.”

3. With Sefolosha out, rookie Taurean Prince got his first NBA start. The young wing finished with 17 points, six rebounds, three steals, one assist and one blocked shot. The 17 points matched his career-high. He did make a rookie mistake or two but Budenholzer game him a good grade overall.

“There were a lot good things that Taurean did,” Budenholzer said. “It’s tough. He played 38:27. There were a few plays I just wish, him individually and us collectively, I wish he would get a couple more rebounds, a couple more things here and there. But generally, Taurean was great for his first start. He’s coming in the right direction.”

Prince said he was unfazed by the late assignment. He wants to be a starter in the NBA and this was an opportunity to be seized.

4. The Hawks got back in the game to some degree with a small lineup that featured Dennis Schroder and Calderon in the backcourt. That mean Ersan Ilyasova played center and Prince played power forward. It worked as the Hawks closed the second quarter on a 27-12 run with that group on the floor for much of the time.

“I like that,” Schroder said. “Even with Jeff (Teague) when I was the backup for him. When we were on the court at the same time, I liked it. When we get rebounds, we can run up the court and try to get transition points with everybody running.”

5. The Hawks have been positive during the losing streak considering the troubles that have befell the team of late. Schroder says the lessons learned now, without key players, will be a benefit come playoff time.

The Hawks are still likely to make the playoffs but they are in jeopardy of dropping as far as the eighth and final spot.

“Three starters down,” Schroder said. “We’ve just got to stay together. When we stay together and everybody is on the same page and when the three starters come back we are going to be even stronger. When the playoffs start and we are still in it, we can beat every team in the East. We’ve proved it already and I can’t wait for it.”

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