Talking to his players in the huddle at the end of practice, L.D. summed up the Hawks’ performance against the Grizzlies for his players: “We didn’t play play great. We didn’t play good. We were about average.”
The turnovers weren’t surprising because it was the first exhibition game and the Hawks were focused on running the new motion offense. They forced some passes because they haven’t mastered the reads and timing required to take advantage when defenders overplay the passing lanes.
Less acceptable to L.D. were all those baskets the Grizzlies scored in transition as they came back from 23 points down in the third quarter.
“My challenge to them is going to be on the defensive end and making sure we don’t give up easy transition baskets,” he said. “How we do that is make the commitment to getting back and getting our defense set. We didn’t do that in the third quarter.”
Don’t want to overstate things here. It was the first exhibition game for a team trying to develop a new offensive identity. L.D. sent out lineup combinations that will never be seen again once the games count in the standings. The Hawks played pretty well in the first half even with rotation guys Jamal and Mo out and guys deep on the bench playing significant minutes.
Still, giving up a 17-0 run and 42 points in that third quarter has to be disconcerting no matter the circumstances.
“We played pretty well in the first half, then we got [sloppy] in the third quarter,” Smoove said. “That’s where we lost the game. We are a veteran ballclub. We can’t allow a team to come in here and come back from 20 points no matter who is out there.”
Again, I’m not trying to get too caught up in the first exhibition game. But this is the time for evaluation and correction for the Hawks, and that third quarter reminded me of all those times they blew second-half leads on the road last season.
The familiar elements were there: their offensive execution and shot selection deteriorates, their turnovers lead to easy points for the opposition and then their effort and spirits sag as everything goes wrong.
“I saw it,” L.D. said. “That’s just something we are going to have to learn to work through. It’s not going to happen overnight. The unfortunate thing is you get in those type situations and you develop bad habits. You read body language [and] you see things aren’t done at a pace that is going to put pressure on the defense.
“That is something I am going to have to stay on top of them about, learning how to work through adverse situations. The tendency is to kind of drop your head and your energy level goes down. It has been identified, clearly.”
L.D.’s video session was all about that third quarter. He showed players how they weren’t sprinting to cut off fastbreaks or, when they did get back, they weren’t protecting the basket on the ball side to prevent easy shots and give the defense a chance to regroup.
Al wasn’t buying the idea that poor offense led to bad defense.
“I think it had more to do with effort,” he said. “For some reason, our guys were ball-watching too much. We have to start getting back. There is no excuse for giving up layups and dunks. The first half we did pretty good [but] the second half it was like we stopped playing.”
Josh said he will be out for a week or so due to a cut on his right hand. He has his fingers taped together and a wrap around the stitches.
He said he sliced the hand on the rim but didn’t realize it until a couple possessions later.
“It’s still a little tender,” he said. “It will be OK.”
Jamal (back), Mo (knee), Josh Powell (groin), Twin (leg), Etan Thomas (Achilles’), and Pape Sy (back) also sat out practice today.
Jamal said he’s not sure he will make the trip for the games at Detroit Monday and Washington Tuesday.
Al said he’s still limited by the left ankle injury he suffered early in camp.
“We figure we will take it slow since the ankle is still sore,” he said. “So I figured just play hard the first half and shut it down in the second.”