Paul Millsap used a scale of 1-10 to express his frustration.
“A 10,” he said following the Hawks’ 114-109 loss to the Lakers Tuesday night. The lost was the second straight for the Hawks, who fell to 5-5. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Lakers, who improved to 2-9. The Hawks were again dreadful defensively to start the game. They were outscored 31-20 in the first quarter and trailed 67-52 at the half as they trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks with a game-high 29 points. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 28 points, as he eclipsed the 32,000-point mark for his career.
Here are five observations from the game:
1. Did Swaggy P really make that much difference? The Lakers had guard Nick Young available the first time this season from a torn ligament in his right thumb. He came off the bench to score 17 points, including two 3-pointers. Young hitting big shots was a symptom of the Hawks poor defense early on. The Lakers shot 61.4 percent in the first half (27 of 44), a season-high allowed in any half this year by the Hawks. The Lakers closed the first quarter on an 18-5 to break open the game and force the Hawks into a hole from which they could never recover.
This was a one-win Lakers team entered the game next to last in the NBA in field goal and 3-point field goal percentage allowed and last in the league in points allowed.
“We dug ourselves too big a hole tonight, giving up 67 points in the first half and playing from behind the entire game is difficult,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
2. The Hawks poor play early is especially troubling coming off Saturday’s lopsided loss at the Cavaliers. The Hawks trailed by more than 30 points before the second quarter was over in that game. After some time to reflect, study film and practice, the Hawks came out flat again. That is not a good sign.
“Honestly, I thought we were going to be fine,” Al Horford said. “I thought we had a good practice. The guys were focused. We have to get back to work, look at the film. We have some work to do. We are not where we need to be yet.”
3. Am I in Los Angeles? I believe I drove to Philips Arena tonight but it felt a lot like the Staples Center. Kobe Bryant usually draws a crowd on the road but this one was chanting ‘M-V-P, M-V-P” every time he stepped to the free-throw line. When Bryant hit the opening basket of the game, Philips Arena erupted. As he, and his teammates, made big shots down the stretch, there was a considerable amount of cheering for the visitors.
4. The Hawks are not getting any breaks from the officials. For the third time this season, the Hawks were whistled for a questionable fourth-quarter foul call. Poor Kyle Korver, all three have been called against him.
On Tuesday, Korver was called for a foul on a Young 3-point attempt with 44.8 seconds left with the Hawks trailing 108-104. The Hawks played good defense and forced the Lakers into a long-range shot that missed. The Hawks could have had the ball down by four. Young ended up missing two of the freebies but he gave the Lakers a five-point edge. The point was the difference in the Hawks needing a 3-pointer to tie the game seconds later.
Both Budenholzer and Korver essentially declined comment following the game. However, many in the locker room were clearly frustrated by the call. Add that to the list with calls against the Spurs and Hornets this season.
5. After all the Hawks’ troubles, they still had a chance. They went on a 13-0 run to start the third quarter to pull within two points. They cut a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to two points, 111-109, with 8.3 seconds left on a Korver 3-pointer. After Ronnie Price made one of two free throws, the Hawks set up for a potential game-tying shot with 7.7 seconds left. Pero Antic inbounded the ball to Jeff Teague, who was quickly double-team. Teague got the ball back to Antic, who had a wide-open look at a 3-pointer. It was too strong.
“I missed basically an easy shot,” Antic said. “Usually I make the shots. I will keep shooting until I make them.”