Charlotte Hornets guard Marco Belinelli (21) works against Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

How the Hawks failed in attempt to take over top spot in division

Five observations from the Hawks’ 107-99 loss to the Hornets Saturday night:

1. The Hawks game plan was in large part to limit the Hornets’ Kemba Walker. On one hand, the point guard had 19 points and 10 assists with the point total below his 23 point per game average. On the other hand, it opened up opportunities for other Hornets players – and they took advantage. Notably, Marvin Williams and Marco Belinelli. The pair each had 19 points with some key fourth-quarter baskets.

“The whole game plan was to try to contain Kemba and those other guys got free,” Paul Millsap said. “Give them credit they ran their offense and hit some tough shots.”

The Hornets held a 43-30 advantage in bench points. Kent Bazemore (17) and Kyle Korver (7) accounted for 24 points of the Hawks’ production.

There was also a sense of frustration in the postgame locker room from the Hawks on the movement allowed the Hornets in setting screens.

2. The Hawks offense has been better of late, scoring more than 120 points in the past two games. However, a 20-point second quarter was an issue against the Hornets. The Hawks were outscored 31-20 in the second period to trail by double-digits. They are now 1-11 in games where they trail by 10 or more points with the lone win the 20-point comeback against the Bucks.

“They obviously had a great second quarter,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We didn’t play well.”

The Hornets shot 58 percent from the field in the period. Although the Hawks would take a pair of narrow fourth-quarter leads, they were hurt by the poor 12 minutes.

“We got stagnant in the offense,” Millsap said. “We didn’t move the basket like we have the past few games. Against a team like that, that plays pretty good defense, it’s imperative that you move the basketball and move bodies. We didn’t do that in the second quarter and we paid for it.”

3. Dwight Howard and Cody Zeller got tangled up – again. In the meeting earlier this season in Charlotte, Howard received a Flagrant Foul 2 and ejection for an elbow to Zeller’s head. The two got tangled up underneath the basket in the fourth quarter Saturday.

Initially, Howard was called for a technical foul. After an official review, Zeller was also given a technical.

Here was the issue for the Hawks. The incident occurred after Tim Hardaway Jr. had made a free throw that gave the Hawks an 87-86 lead with 7:41 remaining. It was the cap on a 13-6 run and the Hawks lead for the first time since the final seconds of the first quarter.

The momentum was gone.

“We would have liked to have kept on going,” Korver said. “We had some momentum. That happens in a game.”

4. The Hawks were hurt from 3-point range one more time. The Hornets shots 44 percent (12 of 27) from long range. They were 4 of 8 in the fourth quarter with Belinelli making all three of his attempts.

Opponents have totaled 10 or more 3-pointers in 10 straight games against the Hawks.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford credited the fourth-quarter 3-pointers with the victory.

5. Dennis Schroder and Howard went to the practice court following the game. The on-court relationship between the point guard and center has been a work in progress much of the early season. The two apparently felt there were issues that needed to be worked on following the latest loss. Schroder had six assists in the game but none were on baskets by Howard.

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