- Danny Knobler For the AJC
Midway through the first quarter Saturday, the Hawks were in a predictable hole. After losing two starters to injuries in a three-day span, a team that had just four wins all season found itself trailing again.
But something different happened this time. The team with the reworked lineup got a boost from the bench, a deficit turned into a lead and the Hawks were able to hold onto it. They came away with a 114-102 win over the Brooklyn Nets that would have been satisfying for any team.
For a Hawks team that is now 5-17, it felt huge.
“We’re fighting for everything,” said Luke Babbitt, whose 20 points were a season high. “Having that lead in the second half was important. We’ve just been working for every little thing. It’s been a grind.”
Babbitt came off the bench midway through the opening quarter along with DeAndre’ Bembry and Isaiah Taylor, and in an afternoon game both teams had seemed to start without much energy, the Hawks found theirs. They got some stops and made some shots, and they took a lead they would hold onto the rest of the way.
“I think a couple of guys off the bench had great activity, great energy,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “DeAndre’s length and athleticism, he was really locked in and engaged. I thought Isaiah’s energy and activity, too. We went to the bench a little earlier in the first quarter than normal. Those guys responded. I think the starters kind of picked up that energy and picked up that flow.”
Budenholzer had to change his starting lineup again, because of injuries to both center Dewayne Dedmon and forward John Collins. He gave Miles Plumlee his first start of the season, and he also elected to start Ersan Ilyasova.
Ilyasova had a game-high 11 rebounds, while Plumlee had seven boards and three blocked shots. But the Hawks still needed the boost from the bench, and Babbitt, Bembry and Taylor gave it to them. Babbitt helped by making 7-of-9 shots, including four 3-pointers, while Bembry and Taylor both scored in double figures and contributed big on defense.
“I come in and try to play hard and make good plays defensively,” Bembry said. “Just winning a game, period, is big, especially with what we’re going through. Everybody pitched in. We’re the team we’ve been. We just won a game.”
They haven’t won many, and with the injuries this week, Saturday’s would have been an easy one to lose. The Hawks didn’t lose it, not even after the Nets made a run to close within two points early in the fourth quarter. Instead the Hawks responded, and the result was a rare win.