Five observations from the Hawks’ 109-94 loss to the Lakers Sunday night.
1. The Hawks held a players-only meeting to discuss the recent stretch of poor play, which now stands at five losses in six games. While the Hawks have the top-rated defense in the NBA, the offense has been the issue. After the first 11 games of the season, the Hawks averaged more than 107 points per game. They have failed to score more than 96 points in any of the past six games.
One Hawks player said the meeting: “It was just reassuring everybody that we’ve got each other’s back. Nobody is pointing fingers at each other. It’s just a matter of us figuring it out together.”
The meeting appeared to work early as the Hawks had 11 assists on 13 field goals in the first quarter. They would have just 14 assists the rest of the game. The Lakers started to switch on screens and it affected the Hawks’ ball movement.
“We played a very good first quarter,” Thabo Sefolosha said. “They made a run and we kind of panicked after that.”
2. They hold a grudge in L.A. Dwight Howard was booed by the Staples Center crowd – a place he used to call home – during player introductions. The reception continued every time he touched the ball. It did not appear to faze Howard in the early going. He scored the Hawks first three baskets. He ended the first quarter with 13 points with six field goals, including three dunks. Howard finished with 19 points.
When asked about the reception after the game, Howard said only that he didn’t hear it. He was pressed that it would be difficult not to hear such noise.
“I closed by ears,” Howard said.
3. Lou Williams apparently still holds a grudge. The South Gwinnett High product played two seasons with the Hawks. His final year, the first under the Mike Budenholzer, saw the veteran guard not play at all in a long stretch of games. He was traded to the Raptors following the season and eventually ended up with the Lakers. He hurts the Hawks nearly every time his faces his hometown team now. He scored 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter in the Lakers win in Atlanta in November. He scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter Sunday.
“Once he gets going, he’s a really tough player,” said Kyle Korver, a teammate of Williams on two different teams. “He’s been like that for a long time.”
4. The Hawks had another troublesome second quarter. After scoring just 11 points in the second period of Friday’s loss to the Jazz, the Hawks had just 16 points in the quarter against the Lakers. The Hawks led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter. That advantage was wiped out in the second quarter. The Lakers outscored the Hawks 35-16 in the period and led by as many as 11 points. The Hawks were 7 of 20 (35 percent) from the field and that included Kent Bazemore’s 28-footer with 1.4 seconds left.
“After a good first quarter, I think we weren’t able to sustain it,” Budenholzer said. “Offensively, our ball movement and our people movement needs to be better from the start of the game to the end of the game.”
5. The Hawks bench has been a strength most of the season. It was the Lakers bench – even as they were without two starters – that did the most damage. The Lakers reserves finished with 65 points, 34 rebounds, 13 assists and a combined plus-107. The Hawks bench finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. Ten of the Hawks’ bench points came in the fourth quarter with the outcome decided.