Hawks Play Best Game of Summer, Lose Thriller in OT

Thursday, July 18, 2013
By Jaryd Wilson

A few thoughts after tonight’s 70-69 overtime loss to the Blazers:

– It may not have been the result the Hawks wanted, but this was by far Atlanta’s best game so far this week.  The defense, which had been a major concern after two games allowing 90+ points, was there from start to finish.  The Hawks forced 23 turnovers, held the Blazers to 35 percent shooting and gave up just 70 points in 42 minutes.

Dennis Schröder played his most complete game of the summer, scoring 16 points, handing out five assists, and, for the most part, staying in front of top 10 draft pick CJ McCollum.  Schröder’s defense, which was spotty Friday against L.A., has come a long way.  He’s being more physical and forcing the opposing point guards to give the ball up.

– It was a tough shooting night for the Hawks (32.9%), and perhaps no one struggled more than John Jenkins.  A lot of his shots came off the pass, which is what you want to see.  He just didn’t knock them down.  His best look may have been the potential game-winner at the end of regulations after Schröder split the defense and found him wide open in the corner.  If the Hawks shoot better, Schröder probably has double digit assists.

– Atlanta continued to excel from the free throw line.  After getting there just 30 times in the first two games, the Hawks have been there 56 times in the past two, making 47 of them.  A big relief for me, who still has nightmares from last season.

Mike Scott followed up a 27-point performance with 16 points and nine rebounds.  He made 5-6 free throws, giving him 18 makes in his past 19 attempts from the stripe.  Scott is clearly becoming more comfortable taking the ball to the rim.  Most of his points were in the paint, though he showed off his range a few times.

Mike Muscala contributed 29 minutes off the bench, scoring nine points and pulling down a team-high 12 rebounds.  So far, he’s been more aggressive on both ends of the floor than fellow rookie big man Lucas Nogueira.  As Nogueira gets comfortable with the American style of play, I’m sure that will change.  Experience is so valuable for both guys right now.

If Atlanta plays defense like they did tonight, they’ll be fine.  The lingering problem this summer has been the shooting.  Rust, weird schedules, tired legs, different gyms and bad luck could all play a part in that, but it’s not the worst problem to have.  In Summer League games, I’d rather see the guys executing the offense, being in the right positions and giving effort.  If the shots aren’t falling, they will next game.  Tonight, the Hawks got cold, and Portland capitalized with a late run.  It happens.  The team is allowed to be disappointed with the result, but they shouldn’t be disappointed with their effort.  It was the best game they’ve played this week, and it was against a team full of guys who will definitely see playing time this season.

The final game of the summer is Friday at 6 p.m. against the Kings on NBA TV.

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