Peachtree Hoops: Hawks ride second unit, free throws to win over Warriors


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NBA: Golden State Warriors at Atlanta Hawks
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Three straight wins for the Hawks.

The Atlanta Hawks (26-24) now sit fourth in the Eastern Conference standings after a win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday evening. The win marked the third straight victory for Atlanta. The Hawks were largely powered by their second unit in this one, especially by the play of Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams. Atlanta had 55 bench points in the game compared to just 19 points by the Warriors’ bench.

Despite again missing starters John Collins and De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta still looked like a solid, complete group in the 117-111 victory.

“The strength is in our numbers, as we are saying,” said interim head coach Nate McMillan following the win. “And tonight our bench came through for us, both Lou and Gallinari.”

“That’s the playing time and chemistry that we had going on playing back in LA,” said Gallinari of his connection with Williams. “I know what Lou likes. He knows what I like. When we are on the court we just have to look at each other and we know where we are going. It’s very easy to play with him, and, of course, he’s an amazing player. He’s always been and especially in clutch situations he’s one of the best.”

Williams had 12 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, helping propel the Hawks to a win. Gallinari had 20 of his 25 points in the second half. Williams and Gallinari combined for 24 of Atlanta’s 38 fourth-quarter points.

“Both of those guys can score,” McMillan added on the pairing. “They are big moment players, they trust each other. To have those guys playing in that second unit, they’ve played together (before)...they have a feel for each other and they have a little bit of chemistry together. I think that’s just going to get better as they play more minutes together. And we look at what they’re doing and come up with a system for that second unit. That certainly helps that they’ve played some time together.”

“We have a couple of guys down and we have guys stepping up making the right choices on the court, staying efficient,” said Clint Capela after the game, who had another monstrous performance of 24 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks. “This is how you build a great team, whenever guys come in they know what they have to do on the court to really help us win the game. This is what is happening right now.”

It was a sloppy game on both sides in some ways, as the Hawks gave up 42 points in the paint to Golden State in the first half. They did however adjust and hold the Warriors to just 20 points in the paint in the second half. Atlanta only trailed by two at the break despite being beaten inside, largely due to the fact that Golden State shot just 3-of-16 from three in the first two quarters. Steph Curry had 19 points at half and the Warriors led 59-57 heading into the third quarter.

The Hawks led by as many as eight in the first half, but struggled to get stops in the second quarter and wound up trailing at the break.

“I thought we all were a little sluggish in that first half, but we seemed like we got our second wind and started to play better defense,” said McMillan following the win. ”Offensively we started to get a rhythm and was able to knock down some shots.”

It was a quiet night for Trae Young, who had just one assist in the first two quarters. He would leave the game and not return in the fourth quarter with 3:14 remaining after falling hard to the ground on a collision heading towards the basket. He finished with 13 points and three assists in 28 minutes.

“He’s going to have nights where it may not be falling for him or he really doesn’t have that rhythm,” said McMillan of Young after the win. “Coming off of not playing the other night... it’s always tough your first game back off of a long road trip.”

“This is what we are going to be faced with going down the stretch,” McMillan said of the decision to roll a bit longer with the second unit in the fourth quarter.

“There are going to be nights where guys have to sacrifice minutes because maybe another guy is in a rhythm. Tonight, it was Lou,” McMillan noted. “Lou got us going in the second half, in the fourth quarter. And I think the biggest thing is Trae was over there supporting it. And cheering that on. That’s what we have to be about.”

Another huge factor in the Hawks’ ability to function offensively was their ability to get to the free throw line as a team. They attempted 45 free throws (making 35) collectively, with only eight of those attempts coming from Young. Gallinari, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, converted 13-of-15 free throws. Overall, the Atlanta bench attempted 27 free throws.

“That’s the plan every night,” said McMillan of the Hawks’ getting to the line with such frequency. “We want to advance the ball, attack the basket. If we don’t have anything early, as far as attacking the basket, then we want to get organized and execute our offense,” McMillan added on the team’s aggressive mindset. “We always want to keep the pressure on the defense and attack the basket. We want to be the aggressors, and that showed tonight with us getting to the free throw line 45 times.”

One area where the Hawks (unsurprisingly) didn’t have many answers tonight was their effort to slow down Curry. Curry had 37 points on 12-of-23 from the floor, but Atlanta did hold him to 3-of-12 from the three-point line and just two assists.

“He did pretty much whatever he wanted in that first half,” said McMillan of Curry. “Then we changed our match ups (at halftime). We put Trae on him, and then we switched and put Tony on him when we made a substitution.”

McMillan also shed light on what he viewed as being different after halftime.

“Every guy (for Golden State) was having a night, so we ended up switching the match up at half time, getting more aggressive,” said McMillan. “We wanted our bigs to be up, to make him work to catch, we wanted to be up on the pick-and-rolls. And to stop fouling him,” McMillan added. “He’s excellent at drawing that foul on the pick-and-roll. I thought we did a better job of just making him work and staying in front of him, and showing him a crowd.”

Curry attempted just 2 of his 12 free throws in the fourth quarter, and was held to seven points on 2-of-6 from the floor (1-of-5 from three-point-range) in the final period.

Other notable performances included 10 points and five assists from Bogdan Bogdanovic as well as 10 points and four assists from Kevin Huerter. For Golden State, Draymond Green had 11 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds while Kelly Oubre Jr. had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

The Hawks host the Pelicans on Tuesday, who they play for the second time in three games after a win in New Orleans Friday evening. Both teams deployed something of ‘b-squad’ in that contest, however, so Tuesday’s matchup may be an entirely different game. At this stage, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram have still not returned from injury for New Orleans, and Young did take a hard fall on Sunday after missing Friday’s game.

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