Starters falter as Hawks drop season-opener

102715 ATLANTA: -- Hawks Paul Millsap walks off the court falling 106-94 to the Pistons in their first regular season basketball game "home opener" on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Atlanta.  Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
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102715 ATLANTA: -- Hawks Paul Millsap walks off the court falling 106-94 to the Pistons in their first regular season basketball game "home opener" on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
102715 ATLANTA: -- Hawks Paul Millsap walks off the court falling 106-94 to the Pistons in their first regular season basketball game "home opener" on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Atlanta.  Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Hawks Paul Millsap walks off the court falling 106-94 to the Pistons in their first regular season basketball game on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

It’s a long season, the Hawks coach and players will have you know.

“Do you remember the first game last season?” Kyle Korver asked a reporter following the Hawks’ 106-94 season-opening loss to the Pistons Tuesday night. After a moment’s hesitation to ponder, Korver answered his own query. “See,” he said simply.

For the record, the Hawks lost their opener last season in a 109-102 defeat at the Raptors. The two losses were quite similar. Against the Raptors, the Hawks were outscored 26-19 in the third quarter, trailed by as many as 19 points and rallied in the fourth quarter but came up short. The Hawks started with a 5-5 record but went on to post 60 regular-season wins and claim the No. 1 seed in East preceding their playoff run to the conference finals. Against the Pistons, the Hawks were outscored 34-23 in the third quarter, trailed by as many as 19 points and rallied in the fourth quarter to come up short. Where the Hawks go from here remains to be seen.

The loss to the Pistons fell squarely on the shoulders of the Hawks’ starters. Consider:

  • The Pistons’ starters were a plus-103. The Hawks’ starters were a minus-76. Jeff Teague was minus-23, Paul Millsap was minus-22, Kent Bazemore was minus-17, Korver was minus-9 and Horford was minus-5.
  • The Pistons’ bench was a minus-43. The Hawks’ bench was a plus-16.
  • The Pistons starters accounted for 83 percent of their offense. The Hawks starters accounted for 63 percent of their offense.
  • The Pistons outrebounded the Hawks 59-40. Hawks starters got only 17 of their total rebounds and the bench got five of the seven offensive rebounds. Horford didn’t get his first rebound, he finished with four, until the fourth quarter.
  • All five Pistons starters scored in double figures. Bazemore, newly installed in the Hawks starting lineup, went scoreless in missing three shots.

“We have to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to set the tone,” Millsap said. “Whether that is putting a body on somebody on the glass, whether that’s moving the basketball. We have to be leaders. Other guys have to follow us.”

The Hawks next travel to play the Knicks Thursday. Most players expected to have a lengthy film session Wednesday to go over the season-opening shortcomings. Instead, the team announced a treatment and recovery day, with no media availability, before departing for New York.

“We just need to be better,” Horford said of the starters. “We came out kind of flat. We just have to do things harder and better.”

One thing is for sure as the Hawks start the new campaign, they won’t sneak up on anybody this year. While the league may not have not given the Hawks credit last season, they don’t have that luxury after a 60-win regular season.

“They came out and punched us in the mouth,” Bazemore said. “It’s a lot different than last year. A lot of teams slept on us starting out. Now, we’ve established ourselves with the year we had last year. We get a lot of teams’ A games. We have to answer the call and come out a little more aggressive and fight back.”

Hawks players said following the loss they believe it will take a little time to get in a rhythm and bring the new additions fully on board. So, there is work to be done.

“I’m not going to point to one thing,” Millsap of the game against the Pistons. “We screwed up a lot of things. (Perimeter defense) is something we have to get better at. Rebounding is something we have to get better at. Offense is something we have to get better at. There is a lot of time. Take it one day at a time and try to get better at all those aspects.”


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