Five observations from the Hawks’ 115-105 loss to the Clipper Monday night.
1. The Clippers played without stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. It didn’t matter. Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford picked up the pace for the visitors.
“When a team is without their stars, they are going to move the basketball and play the right way,” Paul Millsap said. “They did that. We may have taken it a bit for granted.”
You can say that again.
Rivers finished with a game-high 27 points on 10 of 21 shooting, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range. He scored 10 first-quarter points. The Clippers took the lead with 7:03 left in the first quarter they would never surrender. Fittingly, the go-ahead points came on a Rivers’ 3-pointer.
2. Before the game, Clippers coach Doc Rivers was asked about a slumping Crawford. The coach said he expected the multiple Sixth Man Award winner would be fine. He just needed to see a few shots fall. Later in the interview, Crawford walked by the assembled media. Rivers jokingly said he was tired of answering questions about Crawford. The guard stopped, put his arms around two media members and said ‘Let’s change the narrative tonight.’
Did he ever.
Crawford finished with 19 points but only made one 3-pointer. His points were clutch, including eight straight in the fourth quarter after the Hawks got as close as six points, 101-95. When Crawford was done on four offensive possessions, the Clippers lead was eight points.
3. Despite the hard comeback from a 24-point deficit, the Hawks lost the game in the first half. Coach Mike Budenholzer didn’t need much prompting to know the exact shooting percentage through two quarters.
“I think they played good defense,” Budenholzer said. “Anytime you shoot 32 percent from the field your opponent usually has something to do with it. But it felt like one of those nights where we couldn’t get a shot to go down. When we got a good look … it seemed like a lot of them were short. Like any night, when you get good looks you have to hit a decent percentage of them. In the first half, it just wasn’t happening.”
The Hawks shot an anemic 28 percent in the second quarter.
“That was the tell-all difference in the game,” Kent Bazemore said of the first half. “They came out and threw the first punch. We were right there knocking on the door. … They kept their cool, made big shots and got a big win on the road.”
4. The Hawks may have been weary playing their third game in four nights. Players in the postgame locker room felt they never got in rhythm from the start.
“We got some good looks but it’s tough to get in a rhythm when you are not doing things with pace,” Millsap said. “The pace could have been pushed a little more. We could have moved the basketball a little more. We could have screened for each other a little more. We could have played with more pace. Then we would have found a good rhythm. We waited too late to do it.”
Credit the DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers’ lone-standing of the Big Three. He had seven points and 12 rebounds. His presence inside was an issue for the Hawks. He blocked three shots.
“Having DeAndre Jordan down there obviously change the dynamic of our offense a little bit with Dennis (Schroder) getting to the rim,” Bazemore said. “Other than that, we had some shots that we normally hit that just didn’t fall.”
5. The Hawks closed on the strength of their starters. Bazemore (19:45), Millsap (18:39), Schroder (17:35), Dwight Howard (17:05) and Thabo Sefolosha played most of the second half. In fact, Schroder, Howard and Sefolosha played the entire third quarter when the Hawks started a 24-8 run.
“It didn’t happen in the first seven, eight minutes,” Budenholzer said of the strategy. “Then we got two or three or four stops in a row. We got a couple buckets. It was 14. It was 12. We went on a little run in that stretch and I stuck with that group just because they made that run.”
The Hawks got a season-low 13 points from the bench.
The Hawks lost Millsap for several minutes in the fourth quarter after he fell and landed on his elbow. He said he needed a “few stitches” to close “pretty good” cut.