Five observations from the Hawks 104-100 exhibition loss to the Pistons Saturday night at Philips Arena:
1. The Hawks had poor defensive quarters that proved costly in games last season. It is happening again this preseason. In the latest example, the Hawks were outscored 35-23 in the fourth quarter against the Pistons to drop to 2-3 on the exhibition season. The Pistons used a 24-5 run in the final period to turn a 13-point advantage into a six-point deficit.
“For us to give up 35 points in the fourth quarter is obviously something we don’t want to do,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’ve done it a few times in the preseason. Finishing games in our league is very important and something we need to improve on, all of us. … We’ll be able to learn a lot looking at our defense in the fourth quarter.”
Is it a lack of defense or offense? The answer seems to be both. The Pistons shot 61 percent (11 of 18) in the fourth quarter as Brandon Jennings scored 11 points. The Hawks shot 33 percent (8 of 24). The long-range shooting was particularly at issue. After shooting 9 of 19 from 3-point range through the first three quarters, the Hawks were 2 of 8 in the fourth.
“We need to work on our execution,” Al Horford said. “But most importantly, defensively we allowed 35 points. That’s way too many points. Give Detroit credit but we need to do better on the defensive end.”
2. It will take Horford to work his way back into the offensive flow – especially with Jeff Teague. Horford played 21 minutes, including four in the fourth quarter. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.
There is some rust.
“They would both would probably tell us it’s going to take a little time,” Budenholzer said of the work between Horford and Teague. “It’s hard to say exactly where they are. The thing we’ll be looking for and they’ll be looking for is when they become consistent, have that rhythm and they know what each other is doing. Right now we’ll have a good play and then we’ll have a play where you can tell they are a little bit rusty. They will get more consistent and comfortable. That is part of what the preseason is (for).”
3. Shelvin Mack has won the back-up point guard job. Mack played 18 minutes behind Teague and had 12 points, including four 3-pointers. Dennis Schroder played just one minute.
“I’m just going out there and playing hard every night,” Mack said. “I think I leave it all on the court and coach will make the right decision.”
4. With the Hawks locker room nearly empty, assistant coach Darvin Ham walked through and exchanged a few words with Paul Millsap. The Hawks all-star forward finished with five points on 1 of 11 shooting. His miserable night included missing four straight free throws in the final 30 seconds with the game on the line. Ham tore his Achilles tendon several months ago and has not been able to work with the Hawks’ big men in practice as he is in a walking boot.
“We’re going to get back to work Monday,” Ham promised.
Millsap shook off the game as being “out of rhythm, out of sync” and not because of the Pistons’ considerable size advantage.
5. Teague will again be the engine that drives the Hawks. He had a team-high 16 points and 10 assists in the loss. As he goes, so go the Hawks.
“He is playing a ton of pick-and-rolls out there and getting screened and hit,” Budenholzer said. “They had some scores but we need Jeff to continue to play like that defensively. Offensively, his attack and decision was good.”
* Bonus observation: The Pistons are going to be much improved with Stan Van Gundy as head coach. They may well be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.