Threes were a-falling at State Farm Arena on Monday night.
Danilo Gallinari led the Hawks in scoring with 28 points while Bogdan Bogdanovic added 25 points.
For the Blazers (on the second night of a back-to-back), Damian Lillard scored 33 points while his running mate CJ McCollum added 20 points.
The Hawks and Blazers put on an enjoyable display last night, highlighted by the shooting of the two sides as both went back-and-forth during multiple stretches beyond the arc. In total, 82 three-pointers were taken, with both teams shooting over 40% from distance (41% for the Blazers, 48.8% for Atlanta).
The Hawks received two huge contributions from behind the arc in the form of Bogdanovic and Gallinari — each hitting seven three-pointers but did so in a respective half (Bogdanovic hitting his seven in the first half, Gallinari hitting six of his seven in the second half).
Per @EliasSports, tonight’s game marked the first time in Hawks history (and 16th occurrence in NBA history) that a team had two players make at least seven three’s in a game (Bogdanovic & Gallinari 7 apiece).
— Hawks PR (@HawksPR) May 4, 2021
Let’s take a look at what allowed Bogdanovic and Gallinari to go off, as it was the key to the Hawks’ victory, starting with Bogdanovic.
With the Blazers’ attention very much on Young, the Hawks point guard was forced to take the ball out of his own hands and go somewhere else. The Hawks’ ball movement from his passes, the secondary passes, were often snap last night and Bogdanovic was a beneficiary.
To get started, however, Bogdanovic comes off of a great off-ball screen across the lane by Tony Snell and relocates to the top of the three-point line and Young has the simple task of finding the open Bogdanovic for three:
Coming off of the screen — and with Jusuf Nurkic in front of him forming a wall — Young delivers a great left-handed pass to the weakside corner to John Collins, whose extra pass to Bogdanovic leads to another three-pointer:
On the right wing, Kevin Huerter uses the Solomon Hill screen, forcing Lillard to consider helping for just a second in case Huerter pulls up, allowing Huerter to find Bogdanovic right next to him in the corner for his third three-pointer:
Again, Young is faced by the wall of Nurkic (who slides his feet well, to be fair to him) and Young floats a ball to Bogdanovic in the corner, open as a result of Young and Collins putting pressure on the rim after the pick-and-roll, and Bogdanovic hits the corner three:
Next, Lou Williams finds Gallinari at the top of the three-point line and his pump past Lillard concerns the Portland defense. Gallinari initially seems as though he’s going to take a shot himself but finds Bogdanovic open once again for his fifth three-pointer:
Young, again, draws the Blazers defense as he comes back to his left after using Clint Capela’s presence to go right, then left, briefly attracting Norman Powell. Young swiftly finds Bogdanovic, who only needs the slightest of margins to let it fly, hitting his sixth three of the half:
With the clock ticking down to end the first half, Young gets downhill, collapsing the Blazers’ defense before finding an open Bogdanovic for his seventh three to end the first half:
The most threes for Bogdanovic in a half this season (seven) capped off 36 point second quarter for the Hawks, who ended the half on a great note despite leaking points at times, struggling to keep the Blazers in front of them.
While Bogdanovic was on fire in the first half (scoring 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting and 7-of-9 from three), he was unable to replicate his hot shooting in the second half. Thankfully for the Hawks, there was another who could…
Gallinari hit one three and scored seven points in the first half and was having a fairly low-key game as the first half ended. That changed in a hurry once he got going in the second half, scoring 21 points in the second half on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 from three.
Gallinari didn’t hit his first three of the half until the latter stages of the third quarter, where Young is shown pressure off of the pick-and-roll before passing the ball to Huerter, whose extra pass to Gallinari leads to a three in the corner:
It didn’t take long for Gallinari to get a crack at his second three of the half, the pass from Young finding Gallinari, whose defender — Robert Covington — gets caught out and Gallinari gets a great look at an uncontested three which he converts:
Again, Young is shown the double off of the screen and has to give it up. He finds Gallinari just in front of him and Gallinari drains a shot right over Covington:
Those third quarter threes were big because it was around that time of the game where the Hawks began to re-establish their double-digit lead heading towards the fourth quarter, as the Blazers had cut into the Hawks’ initial lead in the third quarter.
The Hawks entered the fourth quarter leading by seven points, after Carmelo Anthony’s last second three-pointer to end the third quarter trimmed the lead from 10 entering the final period in what was a bit of a back-breaking three to give up.
Gallinari, however, was not finished.
While the Hawks quickly ran their lead back to 11 points, Gallinari’s latest three began to put the true separation the Hawks craved, coming off of the Onyeka Okongwu screen before Gallinari hits the deep three-pointer to put the Hawks up 14:
Heading down the floor (still up 14), Gallinari slips the drag screen into an opening, one which Nurkic cannot recover to in time and Gallinari hits another three, the Hawks lead now in blowout territory at 17:
Gallinari was part of Atlanta’s second unit to start the fourth quarter. The Hawks’ second unit has let them down pretty hard at various time this season (injuries somewhat contributing here at times) but that group, to begin the fourth quarter, helped put this game in a position where a minute or two from the starters to carry forward their work basically ended the game. That second unit not only kept their margin of advantage but extended it, and deserve a lot of credit for putting the Hawks in a position to finish this game.
To cap off Gallinari’s second half, on the Capela screen, Gallinari gets a switch on-ball with Nurkic before dribbling to his left and draining a shot over Nurkic for the three-pointer:
A ludicrous make by Gallinari here but a fitting way to cap off his second half, the lead now too much for the Blazers to handle.
The Blazers waved the white flag pretty early, with over five minutes to go and while their end of bench unit ran an 11-0 run on the Hawks’ starters, the Hawks eventually sealed the 123-114 victory.
Gallinari’s 28 points on the game were part of the Hawks’ 45 points off of the bench.
Postgame, Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan highlighted the importance of both the first and second unit and establishing a rhythm with the Hawks’ ever-changing second unit.
“It’s very important,” said McMillan of Gallinari’s night off of the bench. “You got to have a first and second unit, and he’s a big part of how we play in that second unit. His ability to score, that combination of players we haven’t seen a lot with Lou and Kevin and Gallo. We’re trying to get a rhythm with that group. Solo is in that lineup now with Big O and it was good to see him knock down some shots. That second unit really gave us a lift in the second half and allowed us to break the game open.”
With Gallinari’s hot hand and Collins’ foul trouble, Collins played just 18 minutes and did not return to the game once he picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. I wouldn’t read too much into this from last night: just a combination of Collins’ foul trouble and more so Gallinari’s hot-hand.
Collins’ absence would’ve been one of the reasons the Hawks struggled on defense last night. The Blazers shot 45% from the field and 40% from three in what was an offensive clinic at times. Initially, however, the Hawks had issues keeping the Blazers in front of them in the first half as the Blazers scores off of a number of drives and a number of ‘and-1’s’ in the process as the Hawks (including Collins) racked up a number of fouls in the first half.
However, it was in the fourth quarter when things finally began to slow down for the Blazers, the fatigue of a back-to-back perhaps hitting them as it was the only quarter of the game where the Blazers failed to score 30 or more points in a quarter (scoring 19 in the final frame).
“I thought our defense picked up in the second half,” said McMillan of his side’s defense. “We did a better job in the second half. We knew they played last night, we wanted to try keep the pressure on them as much as possible for 48 minutes. The third quarter was a shootout but the fourth quarter we started to get some stops and we were able to break the game open. This is a very tough team to defend, they have weapons in that first and second unit. I don’t know of a backcourt that as deadly as this backcourt. Steph Curry and Klay are probably two other guards that are more challenging to defend. With Lillard and McCollum being out there, Carmelo, Powell, they just have weapons all over the floor. I thought our guys did a good job of trying to make them work, trying to stay in front of them. We mixed up some traps to try get the ball out of those guys’ hands and just try to mix up our defense, not allow them get comfortable running their sets.”
One player who have been infinitely useful on the defensive end in this spot against Portland’s guards would’ve been Kris Dunn, whose on-ball defense certainly would’ve been helpful in a number of different spots.
Dunn, however, was a DNP-CD, and postgame McMillan eluded that, with the Hawks as healthy as they are right now, there simply wasn’t room to deploy him.
“It’s just a numbers game,” said McMillan of Dunn’s exclusion last night. “We have guys who are now healthy, our guards are healthy now and it’s just a numbers game. I’m going to go with Lou and Kevin in the backcourt and Solo and Tony are the guys playing the wing position with Gallo. It’s just a number’s game. He’s fine.”
This is an extremely difficult time to work in a new rotation piece coming off of a 15 month injury and the Hawks don’t have the time to allow Dunn to find his feet offensively — it’s just too much of a struggle. Defensively, there’s little question as to what Dunn can offer but the offensive drop-off is huge.
Dunn has a player option for his second season should he exercise it, so while he probably won’t feature a ton from this point forward, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Hawks have given up on him totally…
With Bogdanovic and Gallinari going off as they did behind the arc, it was a more under the radar game from Trae Young, though he did still finish with 21 points and 11 assists.
Young, I thought, did a good job of getting the ball out of his own hands when the situation called for it (though, he did have some poor turnovers in the first half) and the Hawks, as mentioned earlier, did a great job kicking the ball around and finding the hot-hand, dishing out 32 assists on the night, including 20 in the first half.
Young’s finds to Bogdanovic counted for a number of these assists, and Bogdanovic had a fascinating answer when asked about Young postgame that is worth sharing.
“What I learned in Europe when you play with the good players, you have to talk with them, you have to talk to each other,” said Bogdanovic of getting on the same page with Young. “We all have our egos, our game and we know we are really good players so you have to put it to the side and help each other. I learned in Europe in the teams I played and the players I played with, it’s a process. I was talking about that chemistry, it starts with that too and it’s every single other person in the locker-room. We know he’s a franchise player here. No one has a problem with it but he has to handle it the right way. He’s handling it pretty well. You can see that. It’s amazing how mature he thinks, he knows all the stuff, he’s smart. Sometimes we get into a fight but it’s a good fight, verbal fight, because we want to win. I don’t care what everyone says but I feel like he wants to win too. Everyone wants to win. That’s what we care about. Of course, we don’t like losing that’s where the fight starts. If you don’t fight and we’re losing, something is wrong (laughs).”
A fascinating insight here given by Bogdanovic, who said more than he certainly was required to in this spot (which is always appreciated). Bogdanovic is correct when he says Young is ‘handling it well’ because one of the biggest knocks on Young in his rookie and sophomore seasons is that he didn’t always trust his teammates and tried to do it all on his own at times. Sure, he could score 40-plus but sometimes this was literally because no one else would get a look-in at times.
This year however, the Hawks brought in players to help ease the offensive load and returning Hawks (like Collins, De’Andre Hunter and Kevin Huerter) have continued their development and score baskets on their own too, and Young has had to learn to let go somewhat. He’s shown more and more trust in his teammates to make shots.
Young is averaging four less points this season but on three less shots per game and is averaging more assists (just, 9.4 to 9.3) and fewer turnovers (4.2 compared to 4.8 last season) in 34 minutes per game (down from 35 last season). Some of these are marginal but they do speak to Young’s growth and maturity. He still has work to do — an errant logo three-point attempt last night basically spearheaded a Portland run in the third quarter — but deserves a lot of credit for what he has done so far, as he is leading this Hawks team to a playoff berth with home court advantage still in play.
The Hawks (36-30) are back in action on Wednesday night when they’ll take on the Phoenix Suns (46-18), who will enter Wednesday’s contest on the second night of a back-to-back, in action tonight in Cleveland.
A big test for the Hawks.
Until next time…