Coming off of an impressive win over the Dallas Mavericks in the season opener on Thursday night, the Atlanta Hawks were looking to notch another win in Cleveland on Saturday evening. The expectations for the Cavaliers aren’t very high this year, but they deploy a mostly young team that consistently plays hard and has to be taken seriously in any contest.
The Hawks got off to a fine a start, but early foul trouble on the part of John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic threw the Hawks rotation into unplanned territory which seemed to impact their offensive rhythm for most of the game. A late Hawks push wasn’t enough and Atlanta fell to a record of 1-1 by way of 101-95 loss.
The Hawks managed just 95 points as they shot 38.4% from the floor and 29.4% from the three-point line. They were able to limit Cleveland’s production in the fast break (four points) by limiting turnovers (just nine) and prioritizing transition defense, but they simply couldn’t get enough shots to fall.
The third quarter was especially frustrating for the visitors as Atlanta was just 3-for-13 on shots in the paint. They went on to loss the period my a margin 14 points. Which put them in the whole with the reserve unit on the floor to begin the fourth quarter.
Cleveland limited the production and effectiveness of Trae Young just enough to push some offensive burden to the Hawks secondary creators. In the first half, the Cavaliers used a mixture of Collin Sexton and Isaac Okoro to match up with Young, with mixed success. But after the half, Cleveland deployed a 3-2 zone with rookie seven footer Evan Mobley manning the top as to keep Young from being able to get in the middle of the offensive half court.
It took Atlanta some time to solve the zone and by the time they found a solution they were facing an uphill fight during the final 12 minutes of play.
Young converted a pair of free throws with 1:16 left to play but Atlanta was unable to score the rest of the way and ultimately lost by a margin of six points.
Leading all scorers, Young had 24 points to go along with seven assists. He would have amassed more dimes had the Hawks shot the ball better. He contributed to the shooting woes, however, making just 8-of-22 field goal attempts and converting just one of six attempts from the arc.
Playing mostly with the second unit but closing the game in place of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Cam Reddish had another productive offensive game. He managed 19 points on 16 shooting possessions. His roughest miss came at the most unfortunate time on what ended up being Atlanta’s final offensive possession. After collecting a long rebound he missed an attempted quick baseline jumper wildly. Still, his start to the 2021-2022 season has been encouraging even if consistency is still needed.
Clint Capela played a little more than 27 minutes as he continues to be on a minutes restriction. He had 10 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks.
De’Andre Hunter put together 12 points albeit on 16 shooting possessions. But his defensive play continues to be impressive, especially on the ball.
For the winners, veteran point guard Ricky Rubio took over in the fourth quarter on his way to 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds. He was a game best +16 on the box score.
Mobley had a massive impact on the game with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots.
Collin Sexton had 12 points and five assists. From the Cleveland bench Kevin Love had 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists. The veteran stabilized the play of his squad down the stretch.
The Cavaliers seemed to get a bit of favorability in the officiating department, and Hawks head coach Nate McMillan shared, in post game comments, that he felt his team allowed that to become a distraction.
Nate McMillan said that the Cavs dictated the tempo of the game. pic.twitter.com/3IKva86Dcq
— Bally Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnBally) October 24, 2021
“I thought it was the third quarter, he said. “We got distracted by the officiating and we lost focus. In that (third) quarter they mixed in a zone, and I thought they caught us at a point where we got distracted. And we just weren’t able to play out of that.”
“The second half, I thought the execution defensively, we weren’t getting stops,” he continued. “They got the momentum, and they pretty much kept that momentum for the rest of the game.”
Let’s take a look at some of the action.
Starting three 7-footers allows the Cavaliers to bring a lot of defensive length to the paint:
Hunter has his shot blocked by Lauri Markkanen but Collins is able to managed a put back.
Capela returns the favor with a block on Markkanen:
When Cleveland was able to generate easy points at the rim it was typically the result of insufficient resistance at the point of attack:
Isaac Okoro is able to get by Kevin Huerter. Capela helps on the drive but there is no one on the weak side able to help down on Allen, who gets the dunk.
Collins and Hunter miscommunicate on this defensive possession as Love and Markkanen are working a screen game:
It leads to a wide open three-point attempt for Love.
The one stretch in the game where Sexton found some rhythm was when he was defended by Reddish:
At the moment, Reddish seems to be a bit more disruptive defensively when defending off ball.
Huerter continues to do his best work creating his own shot dribbling into the midrange:
As the second quarter commenced Cleveland kept working to overload the strong side of the offensive half court:
The result being no defensive help on the weak side after the Hawks center, Gorgui Dieng in this case, steps up to help on the dribble penetration. This one leads to an easy score for Mobley.
Another miscommunication would lead to a Cavaliers dunk:
Capela steps up again to help at the rim but gets no help from Bogdanovic on his man. Hunter wasn’t moving down to zone up the weak side perimeter either. Jut a fundamental break down.
Here Hunter is at the power forward position and gets put into the pick and roll with Reddish:
The result is a straight up breakdown. It’s hard to tell what coverage they were trying to execute.
Here is a look at the 3-2 zone the Cavaliers deployed coming out of halftime:
Young is able to get the ball into the middle here but he can’t generate a high quality shot.
Atlanta struggles to get ball and player movement against the zone:
The Hawks second unit is trying to not lose contact. One of the more enjoyable plays in the game takes place here as Delon Wright uses a hang dribble to sell the DHO which allows him to turn the corner and get to the rim:
One of the plays that made the fourth quarter uphill climb that much harder:
The Hawks are unable to corral a long rebound and it results in an open three-point attempt for Okoro.
Then is starts to appear inevitable that Atlanta’s normally reliable shot makers are going to get shots to fall down the stretch:
And that’s how most of the rest of the game went.
The Hawks fall to 1-1 in the early schedule.
The Hawks will play at home on Monday evening as they host another team for which expectations are low at the beginning of the season. The Detroit Pistons will make their way to Atlanta for the match up, The game is schedule to tip off at 7:30 PM ET.