Five observations from the Hawks’ 109-107 loss to the Suns Wednesday.
1. The Hawks got in early foul trouble at the point guard position. Dennis Schroder picked up two first-quarter fouls. He was replaced by Malcolm Delaney who then picked up three first-quarter fouls. The issue forced the Hawks to play without a true point guard for the final 1:15 of the period. Schroder started the second quarter and finished the game with only three fouls. However, the early issue disrupted the Hawks.
“It kind of threw off our rotations a lot,” Hawk coach Mike Budenholzer said.
It wasn’t just the point guards. The Hawks sent the Suns to the free-throw line 13 times in the first quarter alone.
“We started off real slow and kept fouling,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “As a team, we can’t do that. We can’t put them on the line with five, six minutes to go in the first quarter. We put our team in a big hole to get out of.”
For the game, the Suns were 19 of 25 from the line and the Hawks were 8 of 10.
2. Schroder had the best game with a career-high 31 points and nine assists. He scored 14 fourth-quarter points as the Hawks rallied from a 10-point deficit. Schroder played a season-high 36 minutes, two more than the previous high he set the game before against the Warriors. Schroder also dished out nine assists and had a plus-minus rating of plus-15. He did have five turnovers, with only two in the second half.
“I just took the open shots,” Schroder said. “I tried to get my teammates open first and get them going and then tried to look for my own shot. Today, I hit my shots. Everybody screened well for me.”
3. Budenholzer went with Hardaway down the stretch over Kyle Korver. Hardaway played 26 minutes, including 9:58 of the fourth quarter. He finished with 21 points on 9 of 17 shooting, which included two highlight worthy dunks.
“He was playing well, offensively, defensively,” Budenholzer said. “He gives us another ball handler. A guy who is attacking the basket a little bit. I thought it was one of his better overall games, including defensively. I thought he competed there.”
Korver played just 16 minutes, including 6:28 of the second half and none of the fourth quarter.
“Just being aggressive out there,” Hardaway said. “The game is a lot easier when you are being aggressive. It was a nice night but it would have been even better had we won.”
4. The Hawks were done in by two stretches of play. The Suns ended the first quarter on a 21-7 run over the final 5:11. It gave them a 36-27 lead after the first period. The Suns would continue to build and led by 14 points, 47-33, with 5:17 left in the first half. The Hawks eventually erased the deficit, the first time they have done so after trailing by double digits this season. The Suns went on an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to turn a one-point deficit into a 10-point lead, 94-84, with 5:23 left. The Hawks came close to erasing another double-digit deficit but only got as close as one point.
5. Budenholzer and several Hawks players insisted after the game that they are close. Wednesday’s loss turned on several key Suns offensive rebounds down the stretch. There were early turnovers – 15 in the first half – and fouls. All things that are correctable, they insist.
“Definitely we can correct them,” Hardaway said.
The Hawks have lost four straight after starting their five-game road trip with a win. They have also lost seven of eight games. After starting the season 9-2, they now stand at 10-9. They believe they are better than a .500 team.
“You never feel good when you have a tough road trip and you’ve lost a few in a row,” Budenholzer said. “But I think we are looking forward to going home. This is a pretty mature group and they will be ready on Friday.”