Can missing Paul Millsap possibly mean that much?
The Hawks played without their All-Star power forward and were drubbed from the start by the Trail Blazers in a 113-97 loss Saturday at Philips Arena. Millsap was a late scratch after experiencing tightness in his left knee during his pregame warm-up.
The Trail Blazers led by as many as 23 points in the torrid-shooting opening quarter. They started the game on a 23-5 run as the Hawks were clearly caught off-guard. The Hawks trailed by double digits less than four minutes into the game. The deficit reached 20 points with three minutes remaining in the period.
The Hawks (37-32) have lost three consecutive. They had a five-game win streak over the Blazers snapped in a big way.
Ersan Ilyasova started in place of Millsap and led the Hawks with 23 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 22 points, and Dwight Howard had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Howard became the first Hawks player to have 800 rebounds in a season since Dikembe Mutombo in 1999-2000.
The Trail Blazers (31-37) have won two consecutive and avenged an overtime loss at home to the Hawks earlier this season.
Damian Lillard led five Trail Blazers, including all five starters, in double-figures scoring. He finished with a game-high 27 points. His backcourt mate C.J. McCollum scored 22 points.
The Trail Blazers made 11 of their first 12 shots as the Hawks struggled to make only two of their first 13 shots. In the opening quarter, the Trail Blazers shot 76.2 percent, and the Hawks shot 16 percent. The Trail Blazers took a 40-18 advantage after the first quarter. Lillard scored 13 points including nine of his team’s first 11 points.
The Hawks opened the second quarter with 14-4 run and closed to within 12 points, at 44-32. However, the Trail Blazers answered with a 13-4 run to regain a comfortable lead and took a 63-46 lead into halftime.
Slowing Lillard has been a priority of the Hawks. The point guard has been held to less than 20 points in five of his eight career games against the Hawks. Lillard entered the game with a 26.5 points per game average. He had 13 points minutes into the game, including a four-point play.
“Obviously we put a ton of time and effort and energy in preparing for him,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Lillard before the game. “He’s a focal point. Now McCollum has emerged as that secondary scorer and ballhandler. We’ve always said that our bigs, this year included, and their ability to play pick-and-roll defense really has helped us be a solid defensive team. He is obviously in a ton of pick-and-rolls.”
The Hawks got as close as 12 points in the third quarter and trailed 85-73 headed into the fourth quarter. They got as close as 11 points early in the fourth quarter, but that was it. No closer.