Despite a strong defensive stand in the final 36 minutes of Friday’s home game against the Boston Celtics, the Hawks extended their losing streak to 10 games.
Going along with a dangerous trend, the Hawks’ bench produced better than the starters in Friday’s 114-96 loss just as they did Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors. For the second straight game, Jeremy Lin led the Hawks in points (19) off the bench while starters like Taurean Prince, who had two early fouls, shot 0-of-7 and made two free throws in 18 minutes. Trae Young also struggled, going 2-of-7 for five points.
Kent Bazemore also did not make a shot Friday, but was ruled out during halftime after suffering a left ankle sprain in the second quarter. Bazemore left the game limping after tweaking his ankle and initially was expected to return after the ankle was re-taped. He shot around with the Hawks before the second half, but decided the ankle didn’t feel strong enough to play on.
John Collins was the only starter who put up numbers on offense in his fourth game back from an ankle injury. After leading the Hawks with 11 points, 5-of-6 with four rebounds, at halftime and impressing with a big alley-oop off an assist by Young, he finished Friday’s loss playing 30 minutes, shooting 7-of-8 for 16 points and totaling seven rebounds.
Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said it’s a little alarming to see the Hawks’ starting struggling as much as they are, but he will continue to look for players that are playing with energy.
“Still seeking and searching, trying to find a group that we can get started in terms of our energy, our effort, playing together,” Pierce said. “I thought (DeAndre’ Bembry) and Jeremy, they’ve been on a tear the last couple of games, just consistent energy on both sides of the floor.”
Bembry finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Led by Lin and 17 points by center Alex Len, the Hawks’ bench totaled 66 points. The bench made its most obvious impact to counteract the team’s lack of offensive success when the subs went on a 16-2 run with the Hawks down 29 points in the third quarter. Despite the run, the Hawks still struggled to make shots go in on offense in the third quarter, shooting 5-of-18 from the field, 2-of-8 beyond the arc.
The Hawks (3-16) were never able to catch up offensively after a disastrous first quarter where they allowed 45 points and the Celtics to shoot 64 percent, 8-of-12 beyond the arc.
Due to the Hawks’ improved defense as the game progressed, the Celtics (10-9) finished the game shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 32.5 percent beyond the arc.
In the second quarter, the Hawks stepped up defensively, holding the Celtics to 4-of-18 from the field and 2-of-9 from the 3-point line for 16 points. The bad news was the Hawks had only 22 points in the quarter, shooting 10-of-24 from the field and 1-of-11 on 3-point shots and trailed by 16 at the half.
DeAndre' Bembry gave the Hawks some life in the second quarter. He shot 3-of-5 for six points and had three rebounds and two blocks.
Boston’s Kyrie Irving, who shot 4-of-6 from the field and 3-of-4 beyond the arc for 11 points in the first quarter, was held to two free throws in the second quarter and finished the game with 13 points despite averaging 22.4 prior.
At the half, the Hawks and Celtics shot almost identical numbers from the field (.455 and .465 respectively). The only difference was the Celtics’ success beyond the arc. Boston was 10-of-21 from the 3-point line in the first half while the Hawks were 2-of-18. The Hawks also struggled at the free throw line, hitting 3-of-8 in the first half.
Having Collins, Dewayne Dedmon and Len all active after Lin was sidelined with back tightness Wednesday, the Hawks did succeed in the paint offensively and defensively. The Hawks scored 54 points in the paint compared to the Celtics’ 42. The Hawks struggled from the 3-point line, finishing the game 6-of-35.
Pierce, who spoke with the team for an extended period of time after the game, said the Hawks will not practice Saturday, but have a low-impact workout ahead of Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets. He said Vince Carter also wanted a few minutes to speak to the team.
His message to the team in the nearly 30 minutes between the final buzzer and postgame press conference he said was to prepare the team for Saturday and discuss where the Hawks are as a team.
“We’re trying to figure it out,” Pierce said. “We’re trying to educate some young guys on how to compete and how to stay together. It’s a tough time. We’ve lost a bunch in a row and obviously there’s frustration that sets in and just trying to figure out how to overcome that.”
The Hawks and Hornets tip off Sunday at 6 p.m. at State Farm Arena.